Consistent Work

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.

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4 Comments

  1. I live and work in the bay area as well. It is possible to work consistently but it takes time and even then there will be a cycle of “feast and famine.” My first year without any research I took some freebie jobs from craigslist. Of course, these led nowhere. My second year I bit the bullet and registered on a subscription production job website – staffmeup.com. I worked maybe a week out of each month, and 90% of it was reality tv productions. These allowed me to do the networking that led to bigger productions. Commercials are the bread and butter for most of the local crew – there is ALWAYS something shooting. Until you have a solid group of ADs and coordinators that consistently hit you up for work, there are a few more ways of getting your name out there:

    Reel Directory (http://www.reeldirectory.com) is the local NorCal directory of production personnel and suppliers. Even if you don’t pay the fee to get yourself listed, it’s a valuable resource.

    Like Ashley said, get your name on the PA lists many of the rental companies keep on hand. The 2 major production supply companies (pop up tents, walkies, tables, chairs) are Brickley (http://brickley.com/) and Ranahan (http://ranahan.com/). Grip & Electric rental houses will also maintain PA lists. There are at least a dozen but the major players are DTC (http://www.dtcgrip.com/) and Little Giant (http://littlegiantlighting.com/).

    All that being said, there still lies the question of a flexible part-time job to fill in the gaps between production work. Speaking for myself, I simply did not have one. I figured if I was going to succeed doing production work, I would throw myself into it 100%. But back then, Uber wasn’t a thing.

  2. Lucie,

    My show just shot a few days in SF a few weeks ago and our usual PAs weren’t available so we ended up asking the local grip house if they had anyone they knew. Maybe look into taking a survival job with a grip or lighting house so you’re aware of what productions come through town?

  3. I’m in a similar situation in Phoenix. I’m keeping pretty busy but I’m looking at being a substitute teacher to fill the gaps. You can decide almost at the last minute to pick up a teaching gig when you aren’t working in TV.

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