Alexandria writes in:
I’m a 17 year old aspiring filmmaker/screenwriter. I’m consistently making my own shorts, writing scripts, entering into festivals, etc. However, I really need to learn a little more about the business side of film, and working on shoots where I’m not the director, and that have a larger budget than a broke teen would have. I want to stop being sheltered.
I’m considering being a PA, but I’m having trouble in applying. I’m willing to work for no money, but due to my lack of experience, is it even a consideration local production companies or TV places would hire a willing volunteer?
Moreover, I’m having a hard time convincing my parents I need to do this. They feel it would be better of my time to work on my stuff, instead of busting my ass for someone who doesn’t care about me. I understand the latter part, but it’s not about that: it’s gaining experience to work with people. This goes above their heads. What’s a way I can explain this to them?
Thank you for your help. (And for the awesome blog!)
If you want to someday be a director, making your own shorts is definitely useful experience. So, first of all, don’t stop making shorts.
Beyond that, there’s basically two paths to becoming a professional director. One is working your way up from the bottom, starting out as an intern, moving through PA, then climbing the ladder in one department or another.
The other option is to pay for the movie yourself. Movies cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. A large number of directors get their start because they come from wealthy families. Are your parents rich? Are they willing to fund your first feature?
If not, you’re going to have to be an intern. The great news is, you’re 17, and you have plenty of time. And lacking experience is no problem; people expect interns to have no experience. Technically, you’re there to learn, not to work; although, in practice, you will work, too.
The unfortunate thing is that you’re under 18. I don’t know what the laws are regarding interns and minors, but I’m sure they’re rather restrictive.
That being said, the local PBS station will almost certainly be willing to take you on, especially if you can arrange something with your guidance counselor to get school credit.
If you plan on going to college, they’re much more likely to have internship programs set up. If you don’t already live in Los Angeles or New York, I would focus on going to schools in those areas. Especially state schools, if you’re from those states. UCLA is much cheaper than USC, if you’re a Californian.
The disadvantage of college is, you can’t be a PA and a student at the same time. PAing is a 60-hour-a-week job. College takes… significantly less time.1 But still, the two schedules are incompatible. In fact, production is incompatible with pretty much anything else.
There are only so many hours in a week, and you can’t do everything you want to do. These are the kinds of choices you have to make as an adult. It’s not fun.
- Especially if you’re a film student; I went to, like, three hours of class a week.↩