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How to land that first job in television

Devon DeLapp posted a while ago a technique he used to land a job on a TV Show even though he was a “complete stranger to the entertainment industry”. The website is long gone, but I managed to find his original post:

How did a complete stranger to the entertainment industry (me) land a job in TV? The short answer is I called the production office of every show shooting the Greater LA, and asked about their “staffing needs”. A few were hiring, some interviewed me, and one hired.

But, of course, there’s more to it than that. It was mostly a robotic task that took more effort than ingenuity. However, there are a few things to know. First, most of the jobs are seasonal:

Pilots hire in mid-January to late-February.
Dramas hire late-May to late-June.
Comedies hire late-June to mid-July.

Any other time of the year, the job hunt becomes more difficult,
though positions do pop up (usually people being replaced, or for
mid-season shows, or smaller network shows (like HBO, USA, etc.) who
follow different schedules). But, really, all you need to do is call the show and ask if they’re hiring. That cold call is what will introduce you to them, and is the first step towards landing a job.

How do you find the numbers of the production office of all those shows (I counted 96 in Los Angeles along this past season)? A few web sites list which projects are going into production, but my favorite is TheFutonCritic.com. They list the projects in development and production. Specifically, we’re looking for the ones that have been approved for a pilot (as opposed to just being scripts) or are in current production. Futon Critic should list for each show the production company (who makes the show) and the network (who’s paying for and possibly airing it). A newcomer may have the best luck with a pilot because:

1. A whole new crew is being brought in, presenting more opportunities, as opposed to an established show where many crew members are returning.

2. This is just my opinion, but I think because it is a smaller commitment of time (again, as opposed to a full season, established show), the people in charge are slightly less particular about who they hire.

Next step, once you know the projects out there, you can get the number for their production office by calling the production company, OR calling the studio lots they are being made on. For example, CLOSE TO HOME is a Warner Bros produced show, but it is shot on the Sony lot in Culver City. I found their number by calling the Sony lot operator (310-202-1234), and asking for the number to the CLOSE TO HOME production office. I also could have called the Warner mainline (818-954-6000), and possibly received the same info. Or, because it’s a Bruckheimer show, you would call his office, and they’d tell you the number. All those mainlines and lot phone numbers are in the yellow pages.

Once you have the production office number, you start calling.

And calling.

And calling.

I never counted the exact number of calls I placed before landing a position, but I spent four to five hours each day, for several weeks, just c dialing these shows. I would call each show once every week or two. Once I had someone on the line, I’d essentially run through this following script:

“Hi, this is Devon DeLapp. I’m a production assistant. I was wondering if your show was still staffing.”

YES IT IS: “Great, could I fax in my resume? Who’s attention should I send that to?”

NO, WE HAVING STARTED HIRING YET/ARE ALREADY STAFFED UP/SUCK: “Would it be alright if I still faxed in my resume? Who’s attention should I send that to?”

Be unflinchingly polite and always thank who you speak with for their time. FYI, it is generally the Production Coordinator who hires the PAs, although sometimes it can be the Assistant Production Office Coordinator (APOC), or if the show is still getting setup and a POC or APOC have not been hired yet, it may an Associate Producer or someone like that.

For your resume, just include any relevant experience. The keyword job titles that people look for are “Production” and “Assistant” — list anything with that in the title. Did a few student films? It’s okay to list them. People realize that as a PA, you’re probably new to the industry and they’re not expecting a huge amount of experience. Just present yourself as best you can. Always be sure to spell check everything. References can help a lot, particularly if they’re from someone in the industry.

And keep calling. Follow-up. Rinse, repeat, you get the idea. Write down everything. Ask for people by name whenever you can. It became such an enormous hassle to track all the numbers and names, I put together a tool called Job Hunter to help me track it.

Anyway, eventually, hopefully, if you’re friendly and professional sounding enough, someone in need will ask you to come in for an interview. Here’s what I learned about interviewing for PA jobs:

Appear willing to do anything.

That seems to be the top order. I mean, good hygiene and a winning smile are all important, but really what the boss wants is someone who will do the work well, without a hassle, and help them look good.

I think a reasonable ratio would be four to eight interviews before being offered a position. Any more than that, and I would suggest taking a close look at how you’re presenting yourself.

And that’s really the basics. There’s tons of little things, of course, but you’ll pick them up along the way.

Although certainly not a miracle solution, I’ve heard that it indeed worked for some people. So even though it takes a lot of patience and mindless typing to get through it, if it works…
He also posted a nice tool to help you cope with the numbers and names you get during the process.
I bet it can also be used for other stuff!

Anyway, there’s also a key thing to keep in mind when applying for a PA job: Appear willing to do anything.
A reasonable ratio before being offered a position is 4 to 8 interviews. So if you don’t get offered one after that, revise yourself!

Good luck in your hunt.

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