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.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan