During one of the busiest times of the year for the industry, it’s never been easier to start your career
By Rebecca Peterson, Staff Writer
The Canadian dollar is at a depressing low right now, which is bad news for pretty much everyone—except for American film companies looking to make movies at a low cost. The industry has just entered what’s known as “Pilot Season,” the time of year where everyone’s filming pilot episodes for TV series that will hopefully get picked up by networks and given a full season’s run. With the low dollar and BC’s reputation for diverse locations and good crews, business is booming. Now, we have tons of jobs available, and not enough people to work them. In the last hour alone, I’ve received two separate job offers, and that’s without being on any official availability listings.
So in the interest of helping out my coworkers, bosses, and industry siblings-in-arms, I thought I’d take some time to do some recruiting.
I’ll warn you right now, film work is not easy. It is physically and mentally exhausting, with long hours and high stress. The day before yesterday, I worked 18 hours—and long hours like that aren’t out of the ordinary.
That being said, there are some perks. The food is free, the pay is decent, and right now, the upward mobility in the industry is crazy. On the show I worked last fall, I started off as a production assistant (PA) and moved up to Key PA, then even filled in as a trainee assistant director for a day despite no experience in the department whatsoever.
As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and this is especially true in the film industry. If you have even a friend of a friend who’s in the industry, there’s a good likelihood they’ll know someone who’s looking for people. I cannot stress this enough: it does not matter what department you start out in. If you want to work as a camera operator and can only find work as a grip, take the job. You’ll meet people on set who, if you work hard and have a good attitude, will take notice and can help get you where you want to go.
If you don’t know anyone, however, the easiest department to start off in is Locations. PA work is vitally important and unfortunately thankless—you’re often the first to arrive and the last to leave. Still, if you have no experience and are eager to learn, Locations is the best place to start. Put your résumé together with the job you want in mind. Have you taken any film courses? Have you worked any labour industry jobs? Do you have your driver’s license, or better yet, a commercial vehicle license? These are all good things to include, but even a few years of retail experience shows that you’re capable of working, which is honestly all anyone’s looking for right now.
Next step is to Google “DGC Production List.” The first PDF result will show you what’s filming right now, as well as a few key details about how to contact the production and who to talk to. Look for the title “ALM” (Assistant Location Manager). Sometimes there will be two. Under the production name should be the production office’s e-mail.
Type up a cover letter template that’s brief and to the point, addressed to the show’s ALM(s). Key phrases that they’ll be looking for are “full availability” and “reliable transportation.” Always say you have reliable transportation, even if you don’t have a car and can’t drive. They just need to know that you’ll show up! This isn’t a regular job— if you start over-specifying your time constraints they will not hire you. Include your contact information, your résumé, and thank them for their time.
Your subject line to the production office should look like this: “Locations PA Résumé – ATTN: (Name of ALM)”. This will tell the person on the other end who to forward the e-mail to. E-mail as many productions as you can, and you should hear back within a week or two.
As I said before, film is not easy work, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you go in with the right attitude, a smile, and a willingness to work, you can go very far in a very short period of time.