Helen writes in:
I’ve been looking for my second job in the industry as a production assistant and ended up sending my resume out to a low/no pay web series I saw listed on Craigslist. I received a timely reply:
“Thanks for your resume. I sure could use soneone with your skill set, not to mention anybody lucky enough to have a cool handle such as “[redacted]” I need to find room for! Lol.
But seriously, I need a good camera assitant and that seems to be right in your wheelhouse.
We have a production meeting Wednesday at 11:30 am at [redacted].
Let me know if you can make it.”
I was thrown off by a few things in his email. He seemed very responsive to my experience, but my resume only has one film credit listed on it (I was a camera PA on a big budget sitcom pilot). He was very casual by making a comment on my name and added a “Lol.” at the end. Thirdly, he misspelled “assistant” and didn’t explicitly specify if this would be a production assistant job. Lastly, he invited me to a “weekly production meeting” which is something I’ve never heard of someone working as a PA or any form of assistant working. Are these concerns justified? How should I respond?
Some of those are perfectly normal, and some are definite red flags.1
If they’re not paying their PAs, they can’t afford to be choosy. The fact that you have any experience at all is probably a plus for them.
Emails in Hollywood tend to be very casual. I personally wouldn’t use “Lol,” but I definitely see it every day.
The spelling error? Well, people are fallible, and “assistant” isn’t the easiest word in the world to type. “Soneone” is less forgivable.
Judging by the email, it sounds like he wants you to be a camera assistant: “But seriously, I need a good camera assitant and that seems to be right in your wheelhouse.”
Again, since this low budget, they can’t be choosy about experience at the lower levels. Filming in HD can be forgiving in terms of focus, and low-budget producers tend to think they can get away without a legitimately experienced AC.2
As for inviting you to the production meeting? This is a thing I’ve seen on a lot of no-budget productions. They know they’re not paying you, so they’re trying to compensate you with experience you might not otherwise get; specifically, you’ll get to hear some high-level discussions that PAs are usually excluded from.
All in all, if you have a ton of experience, and/or you have a series lined up next season, you should skip this production. If you’re fresh out of film school and need all the experience, take the job.