So You Work at a Studio, But You Want to Work on a Show

Ira1 writes in:

I am currently interning at one of the bigger studios in the industry right now. I was curious, is there anyone who works here (in the offices) that I would be able to network with in hopes of getting connected with a PA job? There seems to be more chances of networking with post-production people and not as much for the on set production side of things.

First of all, congrats on the internship. Even though you’re working free, studio internship programs can be very competitive.

As I’ve explained before, every show is its own entity. When you work on an ABC series or a Fox movie, you’re not really working for ABC or Fox. You’re working for that show, until it wraps or gets cancelled. Few people have contact with the studio or network directly.

That being said, post is one of those departments that have contact with the studio regularly.2 On most shows, the post department3 has a close relationship with the production office. Production is, of course, integral to the functioning of nearly every other department.

Every studio has a physical production department, too. They deal with the producers and line producers, who then oversea the UPMs, ADs, and production coordinators. In other words, the people who hire PAs. They’re the ones you’ll want to talk to.

If you want to get on set, it becomes a game of Six Degrees of Separation.

*I have no idea if this story is true.
True story.*

Of course, with each step makes your connection all the more tenuous. Suppose the AD needs to hire a day player PA. Is he going to hire someone who knows an executive at network post who knows the post coordinator who knows the production coordinator who knows the AD? Or is she going to hire one of the regular PA’s buddies?

You should also look at it as a long game. Right now, you’re at a studio. Your next step is to get on a show, in any capacity. If that means you get a post PA gig because you’ve been friendly with the co-producer,4 so be it.

From there, start making friends with the ADs and 2nds and 2nd 2nds every time you go to set to pick up a hard drive. You probably won’t be a set PA this season, but maybe next season, or on another show down the road.

One more thing: don’t be afraid to tell people what you want to do. Especially as an intern. People love to help out (assuming you’re a good intern), and finding you work is a common way of showing gratitude.

You tell them you want to be a set PA, the next time they hear from the grapevine that some show is looking for a set PA, your name will be the one that pops into their heads.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. My grandfather’s name!
  2. The others are accounting, production, the writers, and casting, for some reason.
  3. You can’t call it the “post office.”
  4. Fun fact: the head of the post production department is almost always a co-producer, not to be confused with the myriad writing co-producers your show may have.
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2 Responses

  1. You’re better off working at the studio! There is more job stability there. Production ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    But if you really want to work in production, ask for a set visit. Then use that to network with ADs, PA’s, etc…

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