Monday, July 22, 2013

Mediating your inner noob

Studying film in college was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have no regrets. However, reality sets in after graduation and now that I'm looking for work in the film biz, nobody gives a shit what I studied. The real question is: can I do the job? Sure, having the background of working on student films, knowing the in-depth history of the industry, and doing critical analysis of hundreds of films down to the shot are all worthwhile in themselves, but frankly, it's all completely irrelevant to becoming a set P.A.

I'm used to small student crews where everybody does everything. Hey, can you move that light over here? Somebody help me with this makeup and then set out the lunch. Now I've entered the land of don't you fucking dare touch that c-stand and I ain't paid to do your job. Okay, not everybody's that much of a dick, but it still takes a little getting used to.

This past weekend I attended a crash course in being a production assistant at P.A. Bootcamp. If you've never heard of it, it's basically a two-day seminar that prepares you for your first day on the job so you know what and what not to do as a P.A. on a professional crew. If you have heard of it before, it might have something to do with the controversy surrounding whether it's worth the money and the time, as apposed to just learning everything on your first day of work. I certainly am not going to feed the fire. I can understand both sides of the argument and I am only presenting my own personal experience.

Now, taking into account that I studied film for four years, worked (one could say played) on my fair share of student film sets, and had a short runner gig for the Golf Channel, I still felt nervous about working on a pro crew as a noobie P.A. Why? Because, simply put, I didn't want to fuck up on my first day and be conspicuously absent from the next call sheet i.e. fired. If the AD finds out I don't know what I'm doing, they're going to hire somebody who does. The last thing an assistant director needs is to take time out of their own day to train me. I know you can already smell an argument here, especially something like if you're too stupid to learn how to P.A., you should probably stick to flippin' burgers.

Nobody's saying the set lingo or radio etiquette is rocket science, I'm just the type of person who wants to know what I'm in for given the chance. See, not only did I learn everything I needed to know about how to be a successful P.A. before day one, I gained confidence in myself to step into a job I'd never done and not stick out like a sore thumb. I won't go into it much more than that. All I'm saying is that my time and money were well spent and I met some wonderful people. Sometimes you just have to ignore what other people say and experience something first hand to understand it.

I certainly gained a better understanding of how the business end of production works, namely who to call to ask for work. Before I was calling front desks and didn't even really have a term for what I wanted to do besides "entry level position." Office minion? Sure. Slave on nobudget shoot? Sure. Now I've retrofitted my resume and my attitude. I'm calling every show in the LA area that's in production and looking to be a dayplayer set P.A.

Granted, the 2nd AD or whoever happens to be doing the hiring is already calling the P.A.s they've worked with for years and their friends of friends all before they get to my dinky resume at the bottom of the pile -- and oh yeah, a fat majority of features are now produced out-of-state for tax incentives, but hey, baby steps.

I've got my surveillance mic, my little utility pouch, some comfy shoes, and at least a few days of training... I really just need to dive in at this point. Question is: Now that my savings are running out, how long will I have the phone glued to my ear calling for work before something magically appears? Before Mommy and Daddy refuse to pay next months rent? No clue. Dayplaying seems totally impractical, and yet I know it can be done. What the fuck am I doing?

I just want to make movies...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A thick skin is a must. Go fuck yourself. You're hired!

I've been in LA for an entire week now! Everything is a bit overwhelming. Memorizing new street names, figuring out where to get food and do laundry. Took me a few days just to get some basics down, but I made it! I said I would come here and I did :)

I just wrapped up my internship at Spec Scout. Got a solid three months of doing script coverage, which I hope will benefit me in my search for a job.

Speaking of jobs... Looking for one is a full time job in itself. I mean, yeah, no more college translates into more downtime than I'm used to, but I basically live on the internet now when I'm not exploring the city. I've been using that downtime to scour job listings, fine-tune my resume, and RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.

It kind of sucks that a lot of the assistant jobs I'm applying to want at least a year's worth of desk experience, but seriously, how hard can it be? Candidates must know how to work a phone and a computer and be able to schedule somebody else's life. Whoa. Must be detail-oriented, resourceful, and have excellent organizational skills. Gimme a break... This shouldn't be that difficult. 

I know a few of my readers are also film students, so I thought I might at least share some of the online resources I've been using so far.

The Anonymous Production Assistant (God bless 'em) posts the UTA Joblist every time it's released, about every week or so. It lists a variety of current jobs from  internships to executive positions.

Mandy is a huge database of jobs in the entertainment industry, as is the aptly named I've been frequenting them both pretty often.

LA 411 is a beast of a site that will become useful when I begin my cold walk-ins. It lists all kinds of production companies and also specific people who are available for work in whatever position you can think of. Later this week I'll be combing the site for agencies, offices, and production companies so I can go to them in person. I think showing my face might have a little more resonance than a mere email response to an online job post, but we'll see. LA 411 also has a jobs board beta, which is run by Media Match.

Now, I'm still up in the air when it comes to Media Match because it's one of those sites like Linkedin where you have to use their service whether you like it or not. Basically, instead of just uploading my resume in PDF format, I have to fill out a profile with all my information and they construct a pseudo-resume for me and send it with my application and the rest of my profile to whoever I'm applying to. Granted, I found at least 9 or 10 jobs there just today, and they keep emailing me more  whenever a new relavent job is posted, but I had to pay about $10 for a month of their service before I was even allowed to apply for any of the positions. Worth it? I'm skeptical to say the least. 

Oh yeah, and there's also Craigslist... Ol' faithful. Hey, don't knock it. It's served me well in the past and got me an internship, I'm just covering all my bases here.

Aside from scouring the internet and physically going to places, nothing beats networking with a friend or that one guy you used to know from freshman year. Not always the easiest route if you're like me and don't have a rad posse of LA filmies to get your back. So, I'll take this opportunity to give a shout out to anyone who has any leads. Hey you! Got a job for me? 

*chirp chirp, chirp chirp*

If I'm missing something, please let me know.

Adult talk aside, I hit up the Old Pasadena Film Festival last weekend and it was awesome! I caught Annie Hall and Chicago FO FREE, one projected on a huge building in a shopping center and the other on a weird inflatable screen in a park. Free movies all month long can't be beat, especially when they're good ones. I could get used to this...

Ben, how come you haven't complained about how shitty the traffic is and the ridiculous heat? Okay, yes, it's been hot. But this traffic thing is actually fun. I don't even get mad, it's like everyone wants to race and it's just entertaining for me to observe how insane people drive and then imagine what kind of despicable human is sitting in that car in front of me that just cut me off to get ten feet ahead for no reason. I start making up stories for their lives and then before I know it I'm where I need to be. Go figure.

One thing that is starting to worry me, is that my writing seems to have slowed down a little bit. I'm at the point where I'm just taking notes here and there when ideas pop up, but I should really be making more outlines and developing the notes into bigger works. Part of me thinks HEY this is crazy, you just moved to a new city and need to get settled, but the other smarter more productive part of me thinks HEY don't ever slow down, get started on that second script, bitch! Who do you think I should listen to?