How to Move Up from Reality TV to Real TV

Reader Kelly writes:

I love your blog, just wanted to say that.  Thanks for writing it.

Awwww.  Well, that’s it for today!

…Oh, wait, no. She also had a question:

I have been working more and more in production, specifically most recently in reality.  How do I get into being a P.A. in features or in network television.  What sites are good too look at besides craigslist, entertainmentcareers, and the UTA list.

This is a problem I suffered through for (too many) years.

Both the UTA Joblist and are geared more towards being an assistant than actual production work.  (By the way, many people bag on the UTA list, but my first two jobs in the industry came from it, so I won’t complain.) and the various film, television, and porn-related pages of Craig’s List are great places to find low (or deferred) paying gigs on non-union projects.  The thing to remember is, other than maybe the director and producers, nobody is working on those shows for the love of filmmaking.

“But Anonymous, if they’re not making money, and they don’t like doing it, then why are they there?”


Take the show I was on at the beginning of this year (during the strike).  Our 1st AD was actually a 2nd AD on a network TV series.  All of our camera operators regularly paid the bills as camera assistants on movies.  Same with our DP– he’s usually a gaffer.

The point is, on most of these low-budget productions, the crew around you works on bigger budgets the rest of the year.  Make friends with them.  Get their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  When this show ends, and it’s time to find some more work, call them up.  Ask the production designer if she needs an art PA, or ask the AC if he needs a camera utility.

And lastly, there’s the Coordinators’ 411 Google group.  Obviously, it’s a place for coordinators to help each other out.  People post messages asking about the best place rent office furniture, or what copy service to use, or if anybody knows a good PA.

You have to be a production coordinator to join, but you don’t have to be a coordinator to enjoy the benefits.  I have a few friends who are on the mailing list, and they forward me any “Need a GREAT PA for network show!” messages.  (How come no one ever needs a mediocre PA?)

I strongly suggest you make friends with a coordinator, and ask her to send you job postings. I’ve only heard about it in the last year or so, but I’ve gotten a dozen interviews, including my last two network TV jobs, from this site.

Hope that helps.

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22 Responses

  1. What is the best state to live when entering the film industry as a PA?
    My goal is to get enough days in order to join the union to become AD and work my way up.

    Thank you so much for your help.

  2. Here’s a stupid question. What’s the best way to get in contact with 2nd ADs on television show?

    1. If you want to get in touch with the 2nd AD you can always do extra work to get on the set and then find an appropriate (very key) time to approach them and ask if you can submit a resume. This should go without saying but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t get this – if you are going to use this method to make connections, do a good job as an extra.

      I never had any luck getting on a scripted show with this method but I do know some people who have so it’s hit or miss but at least you are getting paid for your networking efforts. Unless you hit a scripted show before they crew up or somebody f’s up or quits, there is rarely an opening.
      Good luck

      1. If you don’t know the 2nd AD, but have found their contact info, email or phone, would it be a bad idea to cold contact them?

        1. Yes. Never cold contact someone who doesn’t know you. It’s considered unprofessional. Now if you know someone that knows that AD, just ask them to give you a recommendation but never cold call someone who doesn’t know you in this business, it comes off as creepy, desperate and most importantly unprofessional.

  3. Awesome links! I completely forgot about Mandy’s and just requested membership with Coordinators’ 411. Thanks for this post!

  4. Another way to break in is contacting 2nd A.D.s. They’re usually the ones hiring set P.A.s. And don’t worry that a show might already be in production and staffed. They’re going to have heavy days and need day players. An impressive day player on one job is likely to be part of the staff on the next show.

    1. If you don’t know the 2nd AD, but have found their contact info, email or phone, would it be a bad idea to cold contact them?

  5. Oh man! That’s the site I’ve been looking for, someone mentioned it to me a while ago and I forgot the name and have been searching for it ever since.

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