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Asking for Details About the Job

I received an email with the subject line, “I deserve to know the details right?” I’ll be upfront with you: the word “deserve” is a giant red flag, at least when you’re referring to yourself.

It makes me think, “Ugh, this person is going to be a pain.” Even if you’re technically correct, and you do deserve something, the use of the word belies a certain attitude of entitlement.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about the reader who wrote in. Maybe it was just a poor word choice; maybe English isn’t her first language, and she’s unaware of the implications.

But first impressions matter.1 If I’m a coordinator with 100 resumes sitting in my inbox, any rubric that helps me whittle that number down is welcome.

Tl;dr: be careful with your word choices in subject lines, if you want someone to read your email.

Speaking of, here’s the actual email–

I got a call a few nights back for a show. They wanted me to work at 6am. When they called/texted they gave me no details about the show.

So, I asked. How long with I be working, How far is the location, Am I gonna get paid, Do you need me more than 1 day cause I have a commitment a day or two from now.

They never called me back. What did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong? I am entitled2 to have DETAILS about the show I am going to work on right?

Right off the bat, if this caller doesn’t know you, it sounds like a pretty unprofessional show. They should at least talk to you on the phone before offering you a gig.

Some of these questions are perfectly legitimate; some of them are poorly phrased (again, be careful with your words); some are things you should never ask.

First things first– if someone offers you a job, you say yes.

Saying yes is generally a good idea.
Also say yes in this circumstance.

Then you ask for details. If you’re not happy with, say, the rate, then you can change your mind. If you start asking questions, don’t worry, somebody else started with a yes, and that person gets the job.

At that point, you can begin asking. Again, phrasing matters– don’t ask if you’re going to get paid; that leaves “no” as an option. Ask instead, “What’s the rate?” That implies there is a rate.

Then ask for the address to the location. Don’t ask how far away it is. First of all, they don’t know where you live; how the hell should they know how far it is for you? Secondly, “How far away is it?” just puts it in a negative light. You’ll get the same information by typing the address into Google maps.

Never, ever ask how long you’re going to be on set, because no one knows. It could be 8 hours, it could be 12. It could even be 16, if your director is an asshole. By asking how long the day will be, this is the image you create–

Ugh, HOW long will we be here?

It’s perfectly okay to ask, “How many days is the shoot?” But leave off the “I have other plans” addendum. Once again, it comes across negatively, like you’re more concerned with your personal life than your job. And once again…

I say this way too often in my real life.
You were thinking it, too.

Ultimately, in answer to this reader’s question, it’s not the information she sought that was the problem. It was the way (I imagine) she asked the questions.

For all I know, she’s great to have on set. She could be a hard worker, reliable, personable, all that good stuff. But the email is all I (and the coordinator or AD) have to go on. Whether you’re texting or emailing or talking on the phone, the subtext of everything you say should be, “I will do an amazing job, and I’ll have fun doing it.”

Okay, one more gif–

You should be a WATCHER. GET IT?
The entire series is on Netflix. You should go and watch it now.

In other news, the second season of Crew Call is coming. Don’t forget to check out our Kickstarter page!

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Not to me; I’m just writing a blog.
  2. There’s that word.
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7 Responses

  1. I’ve got a question about saying “yes” and then finding out location. I live outside SF and agreed to a gig that I found out is 35 minutes further out than San Francisco. Is it okay to say no now that I found out the actual location? It’s simply too far, I’d need to leave at least 2 hours beforehand to get there early, run errands for them along the way.

    1. If they said they’re shooting in one location, then later informed you it’s a different location, that’s on them. Don’t feel bad about quitting. Hell, they probably were misleading on purpose.

  2. Most of the advice you’ve provided is sound, but I have a bone to pick with your advice regarding time on set:

    “Never, ever ask how long you’re going to be on set, because no one knows.”

    Somebody knows because that Somebody is scheduling the show.

    While you’re right in the statement that you should not ask How Long YOU will be on set (especially as a PA) the AD/PM/PC should be able to say “this will be a 12-hour day.” If they have to qualify that statement with “but we might go over”, that’s fine, as long as everyone has the understanding that going over is a privilege, not a right. If they can’t at least ballpark it, that’s a huge red flag; it means they have no idea of the schedule and/or what they’re supposed to be doing.

    You should always try to figure how many hours you are expected to work (and your rate depends on this too, by the way). I usually ask what the rough schedule is and how many hours the day will be, with the understanding that the schedule is liable to change.

    1. It’s true that someone knows, but they really hate giving out that information. I have seen ADs mark times on the callsheet, but that’s super rare. More often, I’ve seen the AD hand-write the length of time it’ll take to shoot each scene, and give that one copy to the UPM and no one else.

      The general length of the day will probably be conveyed to department heads, but not to PAs, and certainly not to a PA who hasn’t even been hired yet.

      I don’t think it hurts to say, “I assume a twelve hour day?” because that shows you’re not a green PA expecting to get out in eight hours. But beyond that, I generally say take your chances.

  3. APA, you offer a lot of good advice on this blog, but your breakdown here of not “what” she asked but “how” she asked it is textbook. Great analysis and great advice.

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