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Use Your Boredom

Kelly asks:

I was in film school and started this internship at a film production company here in Hollywood. I learned a lot, but just as I was ready to leave they hired me for 6 months to run their office while they went on location for their next production.

So now I’m alone in the office. I’m actively marketing one film and nurturing some projects in development for the company, but mostly my day is about opening the mail and paying some bills here and there. It’s a 40 hour a week job, but I’m sick of just sitting here.

And while it’s great to have a job in the industry, it’s not exactly helping me pay off my student loans. I’ve gotten some writing done on my own projects, but I’m going to have to pick up a waitress job in the evenings soon. Do you have any recommendations of way to make extra money in the industry without being available Monday through Friday during the day?

Living in any city, whether it’s Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, or wherever, is expensive. It’s going to be very difficult to afford it living on an assistant’s or PA’s salary. This is, unfortunately, what “paying your dues” means.

Student loan debt is no joke, but it’s also not the end of the world if you have some on your credit report. I would not advise picking up a second job for that.

In fact, if you can’t afford your rent on your current salary, I would suggest moving, or getting a roommate. Having trouble paying your cable bill? Cut it entirely.

Saving money is a much better option than working two jobs; you’ll burn out quickly. You’ll start to resent the position you do have in the industry.

And let’s face it, Kelly is doing quite well by most standards. She went from being an intern to a salaried assistant. She has some real responsibilities. In another six months, she’ll be in a position to either renegotiate her salary or look for a better job at another company.

And, with the boss away, it’s a golden opportunity to get paid while writing (which is almost as good as getting paid for writing).

Listen, life sucks right now. You’re broke, you don’t know where your career is going, you probably have a terrible love life.1 But that’s what this time is for. You’ll earn your battle scars, and once you become a successful writer or producer or development exec, you’ll appreciate it all the more because you earned it.

“Keep doing what you’re doing” is probably not the advice Kelly wants to hear, but that’s why I’m here. If you could give that advice to yourself, you wouldn’t bother writing me.

Speaking of advice,2 the guests on Crew Call give plenty of great advice. If you want that to continue, please contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Everyone in this industry does.
  2. You knew it was coming.
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6 Responses

  1. There’s nothing more arrogant than PA’s who have ambitions to ‘move up’ – as if by their due diligence that opportunity will just appear for them one day. Be happy you are employed full time, do everything you’re supposed to do and enjoy youth while you can. Not everyone is going to be a hotshot director or studio head. Like football players, many will flake out after a couple of years and find something that else that makes life tolerable.

    1. So people should be content PAing for the rest of their lives? If you have no ambition to move elsewhere, you’ll get stuck in one position. That goes for any job. Being a PA is a stepping stone, and you should definitely aim for something higher while doing your best work. Get out of here.

      1. She said she was hired to run the office for six months, which is plainly not over, yet. That’s hardly “for the rest her life.” Patience is a virtue.

  2. Advice for Kelly from a dude who knows fifty-seven words for “dirt-fucking-poor”:

    All of TAPA’s advice here is good, and here’s one more little bit: Focus on the big ways to lower costs. Cutting cable can help, cutting back on the Starbucks can free up some petty cash for things you’d probably *rather* do, but my experience has been that the quickest path to reducing financial stress is to find ways to cut the big costs. Renting an apartment by yourself? Find a house with several roommates. Already in a house with several roommates? Hunt for a single room for rent in someone else’s place. Got a car payment? Sell the car and buy the most reliable thing you can find with the cash you get from that (as long as you or someone you know can look at it and be sure it’s not going to end up costing you more in repairs over time…).

    Also, a bunch of cell phone providers have recently created lower-cost plans. Maybe head over to the nearest place you can talk to a rep in person and tell ’em “Hey, so I want my bill to be $50 instead of $100, what can I do?”

    Also-Also, depending on where you got your student loans, you might be able to get lower payments through consolidation (kind of a pain) or by simply calling and asking. There are a handful of income-based repayment plans on the books for both private and government loans. (The government, contrary to expectations, can be a lot easier to deal with in this regard.)

    If you’re still climbing the ladder, it might also help to get your loan payments lower and just consider it a bill you have to pay for a while—rather than something to hurry up and finish. The interest rates are quite low, so it might be worth slowing down the pay-off rate until you’re in a better financial position.

    And listen to EM. That cat’s got the right idea.

  3. I wonder how long Kelly has been working in the industry. One thing I’ve had to get better at is patience in the long-term. I had goals set for the first few years of my career, but with time I’ve learned that things go better if I don’t stress about how fast everything happens. There so much luck and unknown factors to our progress, that sometimes you’re given an opportunity you didn’t expect for another few years; sometimes you work hard at something for that same length and get nowhere.

    As far as paying off debt, I almost never expect it to happen so that when I am making that kind of money, it’ll be a surprise.

  4. Ah, totally missing the plot here. Having been PA in this industry for 3+ years, the past 2 of which have been mostly relegated to Office P.A. work – which I don’t mind – and here’s why….

    A place I call “The Golden Pastures of Nothing”.

    Aside from daily emergencies and meltdowns, I try to smoke through all my regular tasks as quickly as possible. You’re immediate bosses can only give you so much to do. When all your pointless duties are done, you can just chill and wait for the next thing to happen. This wonderful period of nothingness is the aformentioned ‘golden pasture’. A glorious stretch of time where you can munch of crafty, have coffee, surf the web, catch up on your own personal stuff online, etc. And you’re getting paid! Haha!

    Office production assistant must always remember: air conditioning and indoor plumbing are on your side. Kick back and enjoy. I’m not saying be lazy but no POC or APOC can stay on top of you all the time. Get your stuff done fast and enjoy your workday on your terms. It’s the only way to bear the horrible time demands and meager pay of the job. When pushed into that inconvenient corner, make the job work for you.

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