Okay, so this blog has been struggling to find a voice… but I think I may have found one. Instead of writing about any random thing that crosses my path, I’ve decided to dedicate this space to the work it takes to produce content for TV, movies… or yes, even the internet.
Lately I’ve been following a few sites that dedicate themselves to showing others the “in’s and out’s” of various industries. Nick Campbell is a 30-something Motion Graphics expert who’s got a great site called GREYSCALEGORILLA and spends his time creating tutorials and live chats with young students who’d like to make a living doing what he does. Andrew Kramer is a Special Effects and Graphics expert that works behind-the-scenes at VIDEO CO-PILOT doing the same thing. So as someone who’s had moderate success working in production, creating animation, and even selling online projects… I figured I’d offer up whatever I could to help those who’re interested in a career in show business.
On top of that, I actually have access to many individuals who are successful way beyond myself, and I actually still have a fully-functional talk show set (pictured) in my garage that’s begging to be used. With any luck, I’ll soon post some interviews with Directors, Writers, A.D.’s, Voice Actors, and anyone else I can coax to sit down for an hour or so. So if anyone has questions, comments, or ideas, they’re welcome in the comments below, and I promise to respond to anyone brave enough to submit them.
Now for the advice. On this initial outing, I figure I’ll keep it close to my own experience, and hope that the lessons can be applied to as many as possible. However, the answers to the question, “How did you break into this business?” are as varying as can be. But one thing is usually in common: persistence.
So as someone who grew up wanting to work in movies and television, I found that I had virtually no one to look to when it came time to make that dream into a reality. So here’s some of the best advice I could think of.
#1. MOVE TO A PLACE WHERE ENTERTAINMENT IS MADE - I grew up in Springfield, Oregon… not exactly the Mecca for TV or Movie Production. So when I graduated from the University of Oregon, my friend and I packed up our U-Haul and drove down to Hollywood (or Encino to be exact) to “make it”. The sad fact is, there’s very few places in the world where Productions start… so find them, and get yourself there.
#2. FINDING THAT FIRST GIG – How did I do it? Roughly 18-hours after arriving in Los Angeles, I walked into various temporary agencies in the city and asked if they had any Entertainment Jobs – and then only signed up with the ones who did. Within weeks, I worked at the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, Warner Brothers, and eventually caught on at a small studio in Hollywood where MadTV was being produced. My first entertainment job? A Production Assistant with MadTV. Coincidence? Not at all. You see, I actually told everyone who would listen that I wanted to get into production… and finally someone listened. So be vocal. You’d be surprised how many people know someone who works in the industry, so let people know what you’re looking to do, and someone just might give you that contact that gets you your first job.
#3. HOW TO ACT IN THAT FIRST INTERVIEW – After a year at MadTV, I became the Production Coordinator for the show and ironically was now interviewing potential Production Assistants less that a year after I was hired. So what did I look for? In a word: Eagerness. Being a Production Assistant (or “P.A.”) is a hard, thankless job that eats up a ton of waking hours. So for those who aren’t interested in making a career out of working in the industry, they don’t last long. Also, don’t be afraid to tell the interviewer what your dream job would be. Wanting to be a writer, director, or producer means that you’re willing to show up on time and learn… and often it can get you closer to those who are doing the work you’d like to someday.
#4. WORK YOUR BUTT OFF - To many that spend a day on a set, there seems to be not a lot going on. Cameramen set down their cameras while lighting is being adjusted. Actors go to their dressing rooms. In short: people relax between the hard work. As a P.A., try to find stuff to do during these moments. On MadTV, Production Assistants were responsible for delivering scripts, picking up lunches, and running things to and from set. But often, it seemed like a lot of sitting around.
I made a name for myself by doing stupid stuff like straightening up the Production Kitchen, or asking the Production Coordinator if he had anything “extra” that needed doing. More times than not, this meant copying forms that the Coordinator would eventually do himself, but it was always appreciated. If enough people see you putting in the extra effort, it’ll be rewarded. My reward? I jumped from being a P.A. to being a Director’s Assistant after just about a month on the job. This gave me access to several seasoned Directors on a week-by-week basis… and after some time getting to know them, some invaluable advice.
#5. MAKE STUFF – In today’s world, there’s tools available to any young writer or director that can help them start making content. This, more often than not, can be the “in” they need to get that first job at the next level. Remember… ANY experience is REAL experience. Even if you help out on a project that goes horribly wrong, there’s lessons to be learned for next time.
So that’s it for now. Again, comment below if you have any questions… or ask me on Twitter @rarch070.