So you want to work in Hollywood, huh?
Join the club. This crowd ain't easy. There's a reason your parents tried to talk you out of it. But hey, look on the bright side. Kim Kardashian became a huge star for no reason. Angelina Jolie got to direct her own feature. You, too, can ride the train to Tinseltown, have lunch with James Cameron...
(sound of broken glass)
My sarcasm aside, working in Hollywood is a real thing. I moved to LA after college several years ago. Nearly my entire film school class moved there too (from New York, no less.) Eventually, we all got jobs working in film or television. Many of those people still work in the industry. Heck, some of them are producing, directing and writing full time. While it is hard to get a job doing anything remotely interesting, it's possible with a touch of determination and the right phone numbers. [We still use phones, yes?]
Before you dive into these, you should know that wherever you start will affect where you end up. For example, if you take a gig as a Camera PA, you're on track to be a Camera Operator or Cinematographer. If you work at a studio, you'll likely stay in that realm. Sometimes, you can move around, but it's not as easy.
On that note, try to work on a Union show or a production company that does scripted work, if you can. Reality can be an ok segue, but it tends to build you a totally different network.
There are four main ways to break into the film industry:
1) Work for an agent
All I know about this is that it's a thing. Ask an agent or someone who works for an agent about this. Don't know anyone? This probably isn't the path for you.
2) Get an assistant job at a Production Company or a Studio
This is a good route if you want to produce or perhaps write. Or if you just want to work in an office because these jobs are easier than being on set.
Production companies and studios actually list some jobs online like normal people. You might be able to dig up one of these jobs on Mandy.com, EntertainmentCareers.com, on LinkedIn or their own websites. For example:
- Legendary Entertainment
- NBC Universal
- Raleigh (offers internships on their lot)
- Warner Brothers
- Backstage's List of Production Companies
- Commercial Production Company List on Variety 411
- Television Production Company List on Variety 411
- Track down the UTA job list. The Anonymous PA reposts some of it.
(Note: Be sure to vet any companies you've never heard of to make sure they are legitimate. By that, I mean, look up their work, look up the people.)
3) Get a job as a Production Assistant on a commercial, TV show or feature.
This is the route I took to get into the Art Department. It's the route John Roman took to becoming a Producer. From my experience, it's a common avenue not only for producing, writing and directing but, especially for cinematography, production design, costume design and editing.
The tricky part about being a PA, as you likely know by now, is that there are no job listings. It all happens by word of mouth. The good news is that, these days, word of mouth happens online.
The BEST WAY to get a PA gig is to know someone hiring PAs. This is usually ADs (Assistant Directors) or Production Coordinators, but most departments have a PA. If you don't know anyone in the industry, you need to go to as many industry-related events as you can afford. Here are a few to consider:
- Meltdown/Nerdist events
- Below the Line Screenings
- Events at the Writer's Guild (when they're public)
- Events at the Director's Guild or things posted on the DGA Facebook page
- The Art Director's Guild awards
- Join LinkedIn, Facebook and Google groups for film and television. Here's a new one for Film Production Office Staff.
Again, check the studio and production companies listed earlier in this post.
You could also try the new wave of digital houses like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Machinima, ZEFR, etc.
Read industry blogs that are updated often. A couple aimed at PAs:
It's worth tracking The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline for productions that are greenlit. You can sometimes get the production office number before shooting which occasionally gets you a shot. At the least, you know what's happening in Hollywood which is valuable anywhere you go.
Lastly, Production Coordinators use Coordinators 911 (a private Google Group) and ProductionYak.com to post jobs for their peers to recommend people. If you can get in there, that's your best shot at getting a set or production PA gig.
4) Write or direct something absolutely insanely awesome that catches the attention of someone super powerful and influential
e.g. Make Donald Trump's campaign video or track down Christopher Columbus (the director, not the explorer) and give him a copy of your brilliant, edgy story of a local town on the edge of extinction.
A few words on convincing people to hire you.
You can (and should) google companies or shows you want to work for and track down at least one person who works there. I would not be above testing different email formats or finding a personal email/social media account you can message. I would never advocate for stalking people in person but sending one or two messages online is ok.
Ask everyone you meet and everyone you know if they know someone hiring PAs. And have your resume ALWAYS with you. Otherwise, make it really easy to find your resume online including who you are and what you want to do in film. You can do this with a website, a blog or social media profiles that say "Production Assistant" or "Writer's Assistant," etc.
Consider taking work on an indie project either over email to Kickstarter projects or through searching on Craigslist or other forums for student and indie films. A lot of times indie crews have Union people directing, writing or producing them and you can get in with them and their connections.
As with any job, you have a much better chance if you know the people. If you get ahold of an email address, make good use of it. Try to provide value from the first interaction. You ask about their work (works best with people who aren't famous) or ask about the biggest problems they're facing. People might even let you shadow them for a couple hours or interview them for your awesome Hollywood blog. It's a lot to ask, but if you ask nicely and succinctly, someone will offer you an in.
Getting work in Hollywood is a lot of pounding pavement, knocking on doors and showing strong determination and capability. Convincing someone that you can do the job is the biggest hurdle you'll face throughout your career. Do or do not. There is no try.
Wait, are you sure you want to do this?