Alright! You’ve got that brand-new degree in Drama or Filmmaking in hand. You have some experience under your belt and you’re ready to take the plunge into the world of fantasy and excitement, aka The Movies! Or maybe you think the industry is interesting and want to put your “real world” experience to work helping to entertain the masses. Whatever your reason, there are ways to go about finding a job in Tinsel Town.
Don’t forget that while making movies seems like a lot of fun, it is also a very, very big business. Productions Assistants and Coordinators are the guardians of the production gates and they don’t have a lot of time. Remember to be as friendly and professional to them, as you would to the Production Manager or Producer. Don’t waste their time!
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Before Contacting Anybody
Before you pick up that iPhone, remember to do your research. Projects swirl around Hollywood like tornados in Texas. And since your goal is to get your resume into the hands of person in charge of hiring, research is critical. Find out what you can about the company you’re targeting. The best way to do this is, of course, online.
Look up the production company and find out at least four things:
- Who the principles of the company or project are. (i.e Hiring Manager!)
- How long they’ve been in business.
- What projects they are working on.
- What positions are open for hiring in your area of expertise.
These four things will help you narrow down any opportunities, but the information may be limited. For example, the project may be in development, but not ready for hiring. If this is the case, the production office won’t be open. Keep your ear to the ground and listen for news on when the project will start.
The second thing to do is to assess yourself. Define your strengths and weaknesses. Most interviewers will ask this question. Be honest when answering and have ways to overcome any weaknesses. Don’t just say you don’t have any or try to turn weaknesses into strengths. All interviewers see through that easily.
Decide what you can bring to their table and how you can best fill the position you are applying for. Of course, this will differ depending on whether you want to be in front of the camera or behind it. If you can do an honest assessment, you will be in a better position to know, not only which jobs you can do, but which jobs really interest you. If you love your job, you never work a day in your life!
Do You Know Someone?
Another thing to do before calling is look at your network. Networking is extremely important in this industry. Never leave someone out. The doorman at your building may have a cousin in the business. Your best friend’s roommate’s sister’s Aunt may have a son that is a major director. Network and keep your contacts handy. Hiring and production managers prefer to hire someone they know or know of. So don’t burn any bridges.
If you don’t know anyone, don’t give up. Start building your network and apply anyway. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up. But think of the network you could build by working at a production company simply answering phones!
Now You’re Ready
Remember that scene in Sleepless In Seattle, where Tom Hanks is trying to pick up the phone to ask his designer out, his very first date since his wife died, while the score is playing “Back In The Saddle Again?”. Sometimes cold calling a production can feel like that. Your hand moves toward the phone and back again. You take a few deep breathes, stare at the phone and take a few more. Well, you see where this is going! You gotta get your hand on the phone and punch those numbers in!
When the phone is answered, it will go a long way to establishing a relationship with the voice on the other line, if you remember a few things:
- Be professional – This is your all important First Impression. If you can, find out who the assistant is and use their name. Practice your “lines” before calling. You won’t forget anything critical and you sound like you know what you are doing, even if it doesn’t feel that way!
- Know which positions are open – You can come across as vague if you don’t know why you’re calling and you won’t be connected to the department you want. Remember, the assistants are busy and you aren’t the only one calling. Don’t get hung up on!
- Remember to ask the right questions:
- Who is the hiring manager for project X?
- Where should I send my resume so he or she will receive it?
- What are the best times to follow up with a phone call?
- Are there any other positions open that haven’t been announced yet?
- Let them know you heard about the project from a friend in the industry.
Once you have charmed the voice that answered the phone, it’s time to send your resume to the hiring manager. And it is important to include 3 things with it.
- A professional cover letter.
- Headshot and/or examples of your work.
- Links to any film work you’ve done, preferable through your professional website.
The key to this phase is to be professional! Clean lines, links that work, professionally taken headshot, all this is an indication of the kind of work you produce. Sloppy resume and cover letter will equal sloppy work in the mind of the hiring manager, something you definitely DO NOT want!
It worked! Your professionalism and resume got you an interview. Now what?
Well, this is your chance to shine, so be prepared. How? You ask a good question, but interviewing for a shot at the movies isn’t that much different from interviewing for any other position. The atmosphere may be more casual, but you’re there to make the same kind of impression. Here are some steps:
- Call the assistant. Make the assistant your friend, then gently pump for information. Ask if the dress code is professional attire or more business casual. Get ideas on how to dress for the interview and any professional traits that the hiring manager values.
- Make sure you have references, so the manager can see that your experience matches what is on your resume. Do not exaggerate that experience! In this business, more than any other, people talk and reputation is everything.
- Ask questions! Ask questions about the project, how the position fits in with the project (if you are behind the scenes,) how the manager reacts to deadlines, etc. Anything that is relevant to the job. Make sure the questions you ask also show that you have an understanding of the skills needed, as well as the duties performed.
Now that you’ve interviewed, you may get the project or you may not. Still follow up with thank you notes for everyone you talked to. This means keeping accurate records of who you talked to, when and what about, along with their contact information. Not only does this help with networking in the future, it starts building your reputation in the field. So if you didn’t get this position, someone you sent a thank you note to may recommend you for another one.
Be positive and be prepared. Keep trying. Send resumes out to all the projects that interest you. There is a lovely boost of self-confidence that comes when you are able to professionally turn down one job because you were hired for another one. Who knows? Maybe the company you turned down will beg you to work for them on the next project!