When To Move On

S. writes in:

I started out as an intern last year on [redacted tabloid show]. Before my internship was over, I was offered a freelance Set PA position. The season ended in May, and I stayed on in the summer to work in the office. A few weeks ago, the EP asked me into her office and basically told me that I will be a Booker PA next season and could possibly be an Associate Producer by the end of the season if I perform well.

My problem is… not really a problem, but I would like to be in a bigger market. I mean, of course, I want the AP position, but I don’t want to get stuck in a 2 year contract, and I also don’t want to be stuck doing this type of television. But I also understand that leaving is basically starting over and its definitely going to be harder to work my way up in a larger market. I really would like to work on something scripted and I don’t know if being and AP here, would allow me that opportunity in the future.

This is the reality television trap. People get promoted very quickly, and their pay rate, while oftentimes less than their scripted TV counterparts, goes up faster.

You really have to decide if this is a job, or an adventure.

If you really (want to) care about your job, you need to seriously think about whether you’ll be happy working in reality for the rest of your career. Because once you become a producer, that’s pretty much where you’ll be.

Some people are perfectly happy with reality shows. Hell, millions of people watch them every week. If you like that, more power to you.

But that’s not you. You want to get into scripted, and wants to work in a major market, like Los Angeles or New York. With a year of PAing under his belt, now’s the time to move. You’re young, you have no responsibilities or anything tying you down. Just go.

Sitting around and thinking about it isn’t going to get you closer to your goals. Doing something will. Go to one of those major markets, meet people, show them your resume to prove your experience, and back it up with skills on the set.

There’s no guarantee you’ll make it, but if you don’t try, I guarantee you won’t make it.

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3 Comments

  1. I worked in Reality on and off for over a year. Then I had a really candid discussion with the director of this MTV dating show I was on. He had overheard me at lunch talking with other PAs about our ambitions and knew I dreamed of working on the big hollywood sets. He took me aside and basically told me to get out while I could. He understood reality is often the fallback for freelance PAs who need to keep paying rent in between other projects, but he cautioned that submitting a resume with nothing but reality credits for a set PA position would in all likelihood get me laughed out the door. But he didn’t act like the reality show was something super special that I should feel blessed to work on; he knew it was crap. But he started out in features and found sitting on sets waiting hours to film a 10 second sequence with actors repeating the same lines over and over again boring. In his words, the faster pace of reality TV suited him better – at first behind the camera, now behind a monitor in an air conditioned Sprinter – where he can watch real people interact and develop in real time.

  2. A note on APs….I don’t have much experience in reality TV, but the title “Associate Producer”, on the scripted shows I’ve been on, is a bit of a joke really. The show I am currently on, the APs are actually personal assistants and do less than just about anyone on the show…and any responsibility they are given they pawn off on production (much to the dismay of the ADs and POC).

    • It’s true that it’s not much, but it’s the kind of position where you end up leapfrogging over the production coordinator and other such rungs on the ladder. I’ve seen them graduate to full producers, and I’m like, “Weren’t you a PA last week?”

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