Lucie writes in:
I’ve been doing freelance PA work in the Bay Area for about 7 months now, and have fallen head over heels for the industry. However, I don’t get called enough to make a consistent income to help pay the bills at the moment. Do you have advice on how to make work in the television/film industry more consistent or have advice on types of part time jobs that are flexible hours yet in the industry? I can’t leave the Bay Area for another 3-5 years.
Unfortunately, the only way to work consistently is to go to where there is consistent work.
Most major cities have a few local television stations, but they produce almost exclusively news. The local PBS affiliate probably creates more original programming, which largely falls in the documentary category.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working in news or documentaries. These are noble pursuits, and many people find them fulfilling, though not terribly profitable.
If you want to work in scripted television or feature films, you need to go to where those are filmed. Los Angeles and New York are the two biggest film centers (followed by Vancouver, apparently), but there’s plenty of work in New Orleans, Atlanta, even Detroit and Chicago.
If you are, for whatever reason, stuck where you are, I recommend applying to the local TV stations, first. The CBS or ABC imprimatur will carry a lot of weight, even if it’s just an affiliate station.
Production is so demanding, it’s almost impossible to hold another job at the same time. We work 60 hours a week. Even a part-time job will drive you crazy. Even worse, you won’t know what your shooting schedule is, so it’ll be impossible to schedule your other job.
Another option is to just take a “survival job.” Any kind of work that pays your bills, puts a roof over your head and food on your table. Then, spend the weekends working on your own projects, or your friends. If you don’t have filmmaking friends, that’s what Craigslist is for. Volunteer for anything and everything, just to get the credits.
Those credits will eventually open doors when you do arrive in Hollywood.