Is It Too Late to Start?

John writes in with a few questions:

Should I find out who the production coordinator is before I start sending out cover letters?

I graduated film school but have no paying job experience or internships. I’m twenty-four, am I too old to start taking Craigslist listings and no-pay jobs to just get contacts? Where to go from here?

Also, you wrote on your “Joblist” to not call any production to follow up about submitting a resume. Is that standard procedure for job hunting?

I’ve probably covered all of these at different times, but it’s worth answering these again.

You should always do your best to address whoever you’re writing by name. Sometimes the name is listed on the job posting; sometimes you can figure it out through context clues and IMDb. But that’s not always trustworthy, so be careful.

If you can’t find the name for whatever reason, a simple, friendly salutation will do.

24 is not too old. At least, it wasn’t for me; that was how old I was the first time I set foot on a non-film school set. You might be a year or two older than some of the PAs, and may even be the same age as a department head or two (depending on how low-budget we’re talking).

Everyone’s career advances at a different pace. Try not to compare yourself to others around you. That way leads to madness.

In this Industry, it is not standard to follow up after simply submitting a resume. After an interview, or after just meeting someone in the real world for the first time, by all means, follow up. A kind note is never remiss. A hand-written one will make you stand out.

But if you’re one of a hundred resumes? They ain’t got time for multiple emails per person. Best case scenario is that they ignore the second email. Worst case is that you annoy them, and they cut you from the list.

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4 Responses

  1. I googled about the age thing… I laughed when I read 24. I’m 43 and have decided that I am going to work towards being a PA. I certainly hope that my life experience will assist me in some way. What thoughts do you all have about LA? I mean is living there the only way to really get into the industry? I live in Tampa. I lived in LA in early 90’s and I know how ungodly expensive it was then. And also, what about my age- is it an impediment? Thanks for any answers.

  2. Also, listen to the previous poster. He has a lot of good advice. I just started at 25 & 3/4 years old. One year later, I key PA, photo PA, media manage, truck PA, and I could’ve been a coordinator or G&E a while ago but have no desire for those positions. I would 2nd AC too if I liked that, but also have no desire. The most important thing the last posher said is you better start now because you don’t want to be 30 doing it. Also, it’s great you’re 24 instead of 17 starting out because people will have so much more respect for you. It’s hard for me to take anyone under 22 seriously on set unless they grew up in the business. I work with some PAs who are in their 40s. The 2nd most important advice I can give is this: figure out what you want to do fast, but make a nature decision. Work fr a good 6mo to a year as a PA and talk to people in every department. Ask to camera PA or help G&E on non-union are ask if you can help a bit even on union jobs. If you show interest, people will most certainly teach you things. See what you wanna do and scope out not only the day-to-day tasks, but more importantly, the lifestyle. I don’t want to lift lights and stands when I’m 50 so I won’t grip, but to many people it’s the greatest thing and wouldn’t have changed a thing. Also grips are bad-asses!. You don’t know til you try. Do well and good luck.
    Email seemseem {AT} gmail {DOT} com if you have any questions or are in New York and want a day on set.

  3. You are no way too old. Take a few low paying gigs. Kick ass on them. Meet people. Get into commercials even if you hate them. That’s where the money and connect are. Get in with a good circle. In a year or less if you are good you can be a 2nd AC, Key PA, coordinator, Art/Prop PA or Art/Prop coordinator, or DGA trainee if you’re really good. Then you are basically doubling your income. Work as many union jobs as you can but also take bigger steps in non-union. You’ll do fine if you’re not an idiot.

  4. John;

    I’d just turned 27 when I landed my first unpaid PA gig on a low budget feature. Five years later, I was working steadily as a Best Boy, then after six years as a BB, started working as a gaffer. Twelve years later the earth tilted and I went back to juicing — but that’s a story for another time.

    Very few (if any) TAPA readers are interested in a career in the below-the-line crafts, so I offer my own timeline simply to demonstrate that you don’t have to be 21 to get a decent start in this business. Those extra three years of life experience under your belt might even be a plus — a little more maturity can go a long way.

    Besides, you can’t climb in a time machine and go back to age 21 anyway, so what choice do you have? Very few newbies who lack industry connections get to start out working paid jobs — most of us had to work for free for a while just to get going. So stop worrying about being 24 (Jesus, what I’d give to be 24 again…) and get your butt in gear. Take an unpaid gig if that’s all you can find, then work your ass off, pay attention, and make as many contacts as possible as you learn the ropes.

    It’ll take time — Rome wasn’t built in a day — but thousands of people have done it before you, so you can do it too. Just get to it, because the only thing worse than being a 24 year old PA working unpaid gigs is being a 30 year old PA working for free… and every day you waste worrying and over-thinking this is a day you could have been making real progress.

    Good luck.

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