This January, the minimum wage in California will increase to a whopping $11 an hour, and that’s great news for entry-level Hollywood employees. Some assistant jobs have historically paid $500/week for a 50-hour work week, but these new laws should help curb that. Even so, you won't be making the big bucks. Our friend Sam Wilson at Any Possibility has a breakdown of entry-level salaries across the industry, and the highest she reports is $850/week as a writers’ or showrunner’s assistant, which is arguably not even an entry-level job, since you’ll usually need solid connections formed as a PA ($147/day) or agent’s assistant ($12/hour) to snag those gigs.
So, what’s a Hollywood hopeful to do with this information?
Hollywood is like a small town -- everyone knows everyone or at least knows someone who knows someone. So, when you lie on your resume or in a job interview, you’re bound to get caught. There are big, obvious lies to stay away from, like saying you interned at a production company whose doors you never even walked through, but there are also smaller lies that can get you into trouble.
If you were an intern, don’t say you were an assistant; chances are, your future employer knows someone they can call to verify (or worse, knows the actual assistant!). If you were an art department PA, don’t say you assisted the producer. If you spent your summer only writing coverage, don’t claim that you developed projects. The risks of getting caught far outweigh the benefits of stretching the truth.
There are three types of job candidates in this world: the kind who sling together a list of skills into a Word document written in boring Times New Roman; the kind who include infographics, word art, and shaded borders to stand out; and the little bears who get it just right. You might think your skills can speak for themselves and proper formatting is unnecessary. Wrong. An unformatted or under-formatted resume exudes carelessness and pigeonholes you as the kind of candidate who can never, ever, ever be assigned outward or upward facing communications. What, are you going to submit a treatment to a network that looks like it was written on scratch paper?!
It's just as bad if you oscillate the other way and showcase your graphic design talents or your excellent ability to use the design functions in Word that no one really understands. (Though, for design industries or art-related jobs, go for it, but maybe use Illustrator, not Word). Your resume isn’t your booth at the 7th grade science fair, adorned with a collaged poster to lure the judges over. It’s a professional document and should read like one -- organized, clean, and bolded/italicized/underlined minimally and consistently. Try reading your resume in under 30 seconds, the way a hiring manager would -- does all the information you want to make “pop” pop without giving you a headache? If not, you need to reformat.
It’s tempting to take the first job you're offered, especially since the entertainment industry is so competitive. But there are times you shouldn’t accept the offer.
For instance, if the job comes with a substantial pay cut without the opportunity to gain new skills -- like moving from development assistant at prodco A to development assistant at prodco B -- you’re probably better off waiting a little longer for another opportunity, even if you’re bored as hell and can’t stand your boss at your current job.
If you got weird vibes during the interview, you should think twice about accepting the offer. Maybe your potential future boss has a reputation for being horrible to his assistants, and you could clearly see the mascara-stained tears on his current assistant’s face.
Or, you’re really looking for a place where you can grow, but the interviewer makes it clear that they don’t plan to promote unless one of the higher ups, who’s been there for a decade, randomly decides to leave or mysteriously disappears.
In cases like these, you should hold out for a better fit.