When you move to LA to pursue a writing or production career, everyone tells you to start as a PA. Although there are hundreds of projects shooting in the city each day, it’s not as easy to get that first PA gig as you might hope. As we've said before, Hollywood is all about who you know, but if you don't have any solid contacts in production, you're probably feeling stuck. In fact, the most regularly cited suggestion if you lack connections is to cold call the production offices of all the TV pilots during pilot season and all the series as soon as they start up in the summer and ask for your resume to be put in a file.
But how does cold calling work -- and is it effective? First, you’ve got to find the production office numbers. Production Weekly and Production Bulletin are a good place to start, since they’ll give you relatively accurate start dates and production office contact information. If nothing is listed, or you don’t have access to those resources, call the studio and ask the operator for the production office number. When a PA answers the phone, politely ask if the production is hiring and how you can submit your resume for consideration. More often than not, you’ll get a contact email address, and you can shoot over your resume along with a quick cover email. Then you sit back, relax, and wait for a phone call. But the phone never rings. What happened? You did everything right . . . right? The thing is, simply emailing your resume probably won't be enough to get you a phone call. Your resume may get printed, but chances are, it’s not getting looked at. The busy line producers probably hired most of their staff already and would prefer to ask friends for recommendations than leaf through binders of resumes. So is this process all a waste of time?
It doesn’t have to be. Keep a log of the productions you call, who you spoke to, and how they reacted to your call. If you follow up regularly -- about once a week, preferably via phone -- you’ll get to know the PA on the other end of the line (and your handy dandy spreadsheet will remind you if you’ve spoken before and how many times). If they’re friendly, respectfully ask if they have any tips for getting someone to read your resume. If they sound hesitant or annoyed, don’t push it -- they will remember you negatively. But many of these PAs had to fight desperately to get their jobs, so you may find the unicorn who will be willing to pay it forward, and yes, even pulls for you to get hired (we know of cases where it’s worked!). If you don't feel comfortable asking the PA for tips, still call -- you never know when they'll need a PA for a reshoot or because someone is out sick, and if you're persistent, they're more likely to remember you in a pinch.
Even if you don’t get the job -- which is, unfortunately, the likely scenario -- the process of calling is actually good for you. You’ll get comfortable on the phones, which is critical for any entry-level job, and your knowledge of the industry will grow simply by dedicating yourself to reading Production Bulletin and the trades. Find the confidence boosters in the cold calling experience instead of seeing it as a dead end, and you'll feel more at ease the next time you’re at a networking event or informational interview and trying to position yourself for a job.
Attention writers! Hollywood Resumes has a new guest blog post on Any Possibility (if you haven't heard of Any Possibility, you should check it out -- it's a great resource for aspiring screenwriters!).
The job search is pretty straightforward when you’re sending in resumes and going in for interviews. But as a writer, getting a job is even more difficult because you also have to sell an idea. The reality is that most ideas will get passed on for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. If you’re talented and have a story to tell, someone’s eventually going to be interested . . . that is, if you know how to present the project correctly. The submission and pitching process is a tough one to navigate, and there are many mistakes that could be causing your great ideas to be dismissed. Angela Silak's guest blog post covers a few bad habits to avoid when pitching.
So, you’ve been at your job for a while, and the assistant thing has become second nature. However, you’re realizing that the types of projects your company produces aren’t interesting to you, you aren’t enjoying the actual work required to move forward in that side of the industry, or you simply don’t have enough to do. You’re bored to death and dread coming into the office every morning — what can you do to keep yourself from going crazy? This is a common problem in Hollywood, especially when highly-educated and motivated young professionals are forced to start out in administrative positions that aren’t challenging enough. But there are a few things that can help pull you out of the boredom rut, so if you’re in this position, try one (or more) of these strategies:
1. Read EVERYTHING. Even if you’re in a job that doesn't provide room for growth (or at least not anytime soon), and your opinion isn’t getting heard, you can still find ways to learn something about your company or industry that might come in handy in the long run. Print out some scripts and read them during your free time, look through any documents that you have access to that might help you learn more about business processes, and start developing opinions on everything you come across. Maybe you’ll find something that can get you more engaged with your current position, but at the very least, you’ll be boosting your knowledge for your next job and will have more to talk about during interviews.
2. Learn something new. Along the same lines, you can refocus your energy on other types of learning if you’ve become bored and aren’t interested in your current company. Sometimes it helps to turn your mind away from the entertainment industry entirely and find additional mental stimulation in another area. If you have the time and money, you could consider pursuing a graduate degree in the evenings, or sign up for a free online class on Coursera. If you're studying something that could help you in your current job, consider your coursework professional development, and feel free to let your boss know about the new skills you're acquiring. If you choose to learn something that's not related to your job, make sure you have time outside of work for your assignments — you don't want to anger your supervisor by becoming distracted.
3. Give back to your community. Remember all those extracurricular activities you did back in college? There's no reason you can't have any now. Taking a leadership role in a volunteer organization will help make up for all the hours of sitting quietly at your desk at work. You can become more active in an industry-specific professional organization likeJHRTS, or you could devote time to a cause totally outside the industry (political, charitable, religious, alumni club, etc.), which will allow you to separate your personal and professional interests and give you a break from the inevitable tendency to "talk shop" at Hollywood functions. Plus, you never know who you'll meet that could help you along the way — in LA, everyone's connected to the industry somehow.
4. Apply for new jobs. If you’re bored at work, you’re probably coming home every day and sending out a few job applications, but there are ways to use your workday to find a new job. If your boss is frequently looking over your shoulder, you may not want to be on other companies’ job portals or working on your resume, but you can at least research new companies or different types of positions and start making a list of careers to look into once you’re out of the office. Another thing you can do is network! It’s fair game to set up coffees and drinks while at work — try to build up your contact base and meet people at the companies you’ve identified during your research.
Being bored at work sucks, but if you can find ways to occupy your time at the office, hopefully you’ll be able to hold out until you can find another position. And if you’ve got money saved up or a backup plan, it’s also okay to consider leaving. A job where you’re not learning anything new is not one worth having.
One thing to keep in mind about job interviews: You’ll almost never hear back as soon as you’d like to. Even if you were promised an answer in two weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll wait three weeks to a month (or longer!) before you get a response. Some companies don’t even notify applicants that they won’t be moving on to round two, especially in super-competitive Hollywood assistant positions. Regardless, you can never know what’s going on internally at a company that might be delaying the hiring process. It can be infuriating to continue waiting patiently, but it’s important that you’re not pestering the interviewer with constant follow up emails. However, when done appropriately, a good follow up can help reiterate your interest in the company and may put your mind more at ease or give you some closure if you get a response. The key to following up is to do it in a way that’s tasteful and not annoying.
First, as we’ve said many times before, you should ALWAYS send a thank you note after a job interview. Ideally, you’ll get this to the interviewer within 24 hours (but on the same day if possible!). Unless you’ve heard that your potential boss has some strange obsession with hand-written thank you notes, you should send an email -- it’s the quickest and most efficient way to get the hiring manager’s attention, and it creates a thread that makes it easy for him to follow up. If you are asked for references or sample script coverage, be sure to send that over right away with your thank you email (or by a set deadline). Otherwise, be patient, and wait for the interviewer to come back with more information.
Hopefully, you were able to get some type of answer about the hiring timeline at the end of your interview. If you were told they would be making a decision about second round interviews in two weeks, you should sit tight, and follow up a couple of days after the two week deadline, giving them a chance to get back to you first. If you didn’t get a clear picture of the hiring timeline, you’ll have to be a little more strategic in your communications. A good rule of thumb is to wait a week and a half and two weeks for each follow up email. Emailing more frequently will irritate the hiring manager, especially when they’re in the middle of interviewing tons of candidates alongside their day-to-day job. Hiring a new team member puts added stress on the department, so keep in mind that they’re trying to fit you into an already tight schedule.
If the hiring process keeps dragging on over weeks or even months, try not to get too invested in the position. Sometimes the process gets put on hold for a variety of reasons, or you simply may not be a frontrunner. At this point, your follow ups can be more infrequent -- an email every two to three weeks will show the hiring manager that you’re still interested and available but aware that these things can take time. Remain positive, and find a middle ground between being eager and overbearing so you don't burn a bridge.
If you’ve waited all this time and are finally notified that you didn’t get the position, don’t worry -- your careful follow ups have kept you on the hiring manager’s radar, and you may be able to use this contact to land a different position in the company. If your main point of contact is an HR recruiter, continue to follow up about job postings you see or ask if he knows of any opportunities that may become available soon. If you were interviewing with an employee in the department that's hiring, find a way to build a relationship with him and keep in touch. Especially if you were a finalist, you likely made a good impression, and the employee will surely be willing to sit down with you for an informational interview or maybe even meet you for drinks. It’s very common for a solid interviewee to return to the same company to interview for additional positions, so don't despair, and maintain whatever relationship you can.