A reader asks:
Last month there was an article in the L.A. Times by Ben Fritz about how the previous Hollywood model of aspiring assistants climbing the ranks to studio execs or movie producers is no longer valid. With recent staff cuts and fewer movies being made many 20 and 30 somethings are losing faith in the system and moving elsewhere because of vanishing opportunities. Given your expertise and first hand experience in this field is this something you are seeing as the trend or are perhaps the ones that leave the ones that lacked the motivation to be there in the first place?
Here’s the link to Ben Fritz’s article: In Hollywood, a Tougher Climb To Studio Executive Ranks.
To answer your question: Yes, there are fewer assistant jobs than there were five years ago. I was hired as a PA just four days after I moved to L.A., and I had no connections. I simply faxed my resume to every show that was in production and landed several interviews. At the time, every show I interviewed with had at least three PAs. When I started at According to Jim, we had two EP’s assistants, a line producer’s assistant, two production office PAs, a night PA, a writer’s PA, and three writer’s assistants. Today, it’s common for ALL the EPs to share an assistant and for the production office to have just one office PA (who also functions as the writer’s PA), one night PA, and one writer’s assistant.
Unfortunately, it takes longer to break in than it used to. I have very qualified friends that took a year to land a PA job.
My advice is to stick with it. Make as many connections as you can, build the best resume you can, and be patient.
Six months ago, my friend Jill interviewed for a PA job. She didn’t get the job, but the coordinator told her to keep in touch. About a month ago, Jill emailed the coordinator: “If you hear of any openings, I’d greatly appreciate a recommendation.” A few weeks later, the coordinator called her: “One of our PAs is leaving. If you’re still available, we’d love to hire you.”
If someone tells you to stay in touch, they mean it. A coordinator can’t possibly remember everyone they’ve interviewed, so it’s important to stay in touch so that when a job opens up, you’re fresh in their mind. Email them and say, “I’m looking for assistant work and would greatly appreciate if you could pass my resume along.” DON’T FORGET TO ATTACH YOUR RESUME. Don’t assume they kept a copy of it.
Happy job hunting!