Just some background so you know where I’m coming from: I grew up in Ohio and moved to LA about 12 years ago. I am what you might call a self-made filmmaker. I never went to film school. I just picked up a camera, shot some of my own work, got on set, kept learning, and eventually started a boutique production company called Marching Penguin (gomarchingpenguin.com). In industry speak, I am a producer / director / writer, in that order as it relates to my experience level in each area.
We started myproducer.io because we felt that the industry is broken. It’s broken in how people treat each other. It’s broken in how we hire and work together. If you agree with us, we’d encourage you to create a free account on myproducer.io and join us on this journey to reform the less glamorous aspects of Hollywood.
For the Job Seeker...
Getting your first job or even your next job in the industry is really hard. I’ve sifted through tens of thousands of resumes, interviewed thousands of candidates and worked with hundreds more. With that in mind, I wanted to share my 5 ways for getting your next gig. Our Head of Community, Jasper Grey, will add his 5. Hopefully, you’ll come away with some helpful tips and / or friendly reminders
Jordi’s Fast Five:
- Send a Thank You Note. This used to be hold hat. Now, and this is anecdotal, I see less than 5% of candidates send a thank you note. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of gigs / jobs they’re applying to. Maybe it’s because we live in the digital age. Regardless, it’s a way to send a hiring manager a strong signal that you care about the position and that you’re motivated. For extra credit, be specific about what excited you in the conversation. That specificity translates into authenticity, which will surely make you stand out from the crowd.
- Ask How You Can Help. These days, I find candidates regularly asking good questions either over e-mail or in actual screenings and interviews. They’re asking about basic things like start date, pay, responsibilities, etc. What I don’t find people ask about enough is how they can help. That may seem basic or redundant even. However, I can assure you that it’s not. Asking how you can help, fosters a deeper understanding about the role and its place within the production.
- Search for Common Ground. You’re talking to a producer or a production manager about the next gig. Sure, it can be awkward. And the last thing you want to do is engage in small talk. Instead, do your homework by looking up their background online. Maybe they have a LinkedIn or an IMDB profile. You can find common ground in geography, alma mater, or even just similar interest in TV shows and films. Regardless, it will set you up to have a more human interaction.
- Play the Long Game. You’re evaluating the gig. Either for experience, the money, your resume / portfolio or a combination of the three. Great. Yet make sure you aren’t treating this as the only gig. This gig may not be perfect, but the next one from this producer could be. Now I’m not talking about working for free or doing “copy/meals/credit”. I’m simply saying to keep an open mind. J.J. Abrams was crewing for much smaller stuff before Lost, Mission Impossible, and Star Trek. So long as the production team that you meet with is professional, offers reasonable compensation, and isn’t asking you to work under dangerous conditions, give them a fair shake. And if the gig still isn’t for you, great. Just make sure to turn it down in a gracious manner. Who knows, you may be turning down the next J.J. Abrams.
- Be Clear and Honest About Your Skill Set - Production is highly complex and requires a number of highly specialized skill sets. Even if you are an editor, there are so many kinds of editors with different kinds of strengths. My production company tends to hire a lot of editors who have motion graphics experience. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t hire more traditional editors to cut dialogue, interviews, and commercials. That said, we put a premium on getting an honest evaluation of what an editor’s strengths are. If an editor tells us that s/he doesn’t excel at After Effects, does that mean we will not hire them? Absolutely not. In fact, we often come back to candidates that did not fit a past project we were working on. At the same token, when editors have told us they could take on a specific skill and it turned out that they could not, well let’s just say those tended to be short lived relationships.
Grey’s Fast Five:
- Bring an A-List Attitude. We hear it all the time, but it’s worth repeating: Attitude is everything. On paper, a lot of candidates look impressive. They have a lot of credits, a lot of experience, and they may even have some really cool gear they bring to the table. Attitude trumps all of these things. People hire people they like and like to work with. Full stop. If you show up, acting like you have an issue with something before you ever start the job, you probably won’t ever start the job.
- Communicate That You Are Selfless. As my title would suggest, I value community, working towards a broader goal. A community working together beats an individual working alone any day. I firmly believe that the coolest aspect about working in Entertainment is collaboration. It’s insanely important to remember: any project takes the population of a small town to complete, a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and you need to realize your ‘job’ is always to set up other team members for success. The point here is: communicate to the production team how you support all aspects of a production, not just your own interests.
- Use Your Current Gig as a Catalyst for Your Next Gig. I’m not saying to look for jobs while you’re on the clock. However, your job search, in this industry more than most, starts with how you’re currently performing. To that end, look for opportunities to inspire others and to motivate them to reach beyond their self-perceived limitations. Encourage your teammates to want to be better. The best people in the industry do their work with a huge smile on their face, are well-dressed, and perform at a pace that says ‘keep up so we can get to the next level together!’ And off hours, consider that the people you encounter might just be in a position to offer you a job down the road. So, make sure you’re always carrying yourself in a professional manner, even at the end of a crazy 14 hour day.
- There is No Small Job. Spoiler Alert: nobody really is watching you if you take a ‘step down’ because you need the work. So, throw out the ego. If you need work, there are always jobs (shameless plug: you can find them on myproducer.io right now and apply for free). And when you get on set, don’t let your title dictate your job responsibilities. Of course, let people do their job and take responsibility for your assigned tasks, but don’t ever take on a “that’s not my job” mentality. Finally, never forget that once you walk off a set and back into the real world, the titles fall away, and all that matters is the collective end result.
- Find Your Tribe. Instead of looking for a gig, start looking for great people to work with. Surround yourself with people that are motivated, creative, and have #1 (an A-List attitude). If you build these relationships, I promise you that the gigs and opportunities will come. Often, they’ll come from places you never expected. This is a challenging industry, and I believe that the only way to excel is to have a Tribe that is your own.
Post by Jordi Matsumoto and Jasper Grey
Jordi’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordimatsumoto/
Jasper’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaspergrey/
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