The DOs and DON’Ts of Cold Calling Production Offices

My friend, who is an assistant on a show, wrote the following post. Take her advice.

If you’re looking for work on a show to which you have no personal connection, you’ll be required to pass through the true gatekeepers of Hollywood – the people who work in the production office. The production office is the hub of a show. What time is call tomorrow? The production office knows. What’s the name of the Second AD? The production office knows. What is the Executive Producer’s favorite food? The production office knew THAT three days ago. The production office is your point of contact when you call and ask for a job. So the most important thing to remember is this – don’t piss them off. No, seriously. There’s nothing wrong with calling and asking if there are any positions available. In fact, many people are able to secure jobs by doing just that. However, it’s important to remember that what you’re essentially doing is cold calling. So be respectful. Be professional. And by all means, do not allow yourself to ever be a participant in a conversation like this:

Job Seeker:
Hi. I’m calling to see about a job on your show.

Me:
Okay. What kind of position are you looking for?

(Crickets.)

Job Seeker:
Anything, really. Maybe something administrative.

Me:
Great. What kind of experience do you have?

Job Seeker:
I was an intern with a studio.

(Awkward silence.)

Me:
Well, ok. I don’t think we have anything available, but thanks for calling.

Job Seeker:
Do you know of any other jobs on the lot?

Me:
Um, actually, I don’t have very much contact with other productions on the lot. We’re pretty self-contained.

(More awkward silence. Are you noticing a trend?)

Job Seeker:
Well, if anything comes up….

Me:
Ok.

Click.

Me:
Hello?

In addition to lacking common sense phone skills (which is perhaps the most important prerequisite for being a good PA), the job seeker in this scenario also violated the four major rules of calling to ask for a job. So that you don’t suffer the same fate, here they are:

DON’T sound like an inarticulate fool. I know. It seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? But you have no idea how many people muster the commendable nerve and initiative it takes to cold call a production, only to blow it in the delivery. The first rule of a successful call is actually the simplest – be polite. Be confident, yes. But also be pleasant. Be professional. Don’t whine and definitely don’t allow there to be awkward pauses on your end of the line. Most production assistants spend their days fully expecting to pick up the phone and have a problem waiting for them on the other end of it. Don’t be that problem. Be friendly. Be respectful. You have no idea how much of a positive impression this will make on the person you’re talking to – the person who will ultimately decide whether your resume goes into the permanent file or “accidentally” ends up in the recycling bin.

DON’T be pushy. This one’s tricky. You want to express interest in a job (whether it’s a position that’s currently open or one that may be available in the future), but you can’t be so insistent that you cross the threshold into the realm of annoying. If the assistant says they don’t have any positions currently available, don’t assume they’re holding out on you and then proceed to ask the same question a different way. Instead, simply say “thank you for your time” and ask for the office’s fax number or email address – you’d love to send over your resume should any positions open up in the future. Also, it’s absolutely a good idea to follow up on resumes you submit. But it’s NOT a good idea to follow up EVERY DAY. I once heard the story of an individual who called to follow up on his resume four times in a single week. That, my friends, is what we call overkill.

DON’T be vague. You know why you’re calling. And after two seconds, the assistant will know why you’re calling. You’ll ask if they’re hiring. He’ll say not right now. You’ll ask if you can send over your resume. He’ll say sure. There will likely not be much more of an exchange, but if there is, you need to be prepared. If the assistant asks follow up questions regarding your experience or what department you’re interested in working with, don’t hesitate. Know what you want before you call. Do you want to work in the art department? Be ready to say that. If you’re courteous, and a little bit lucky, the assistant might connect you with the art department right then. But regardless, know what you want to say before you call. It will make you more confident and ultimately serve you much better throughout the course of the conversation.

DON’T say “I’d love to be kept in mind for any positions that might open up” and then not ask where you can send your resume. It seems obvious, but it’s very easy for this step to get lost in the shuffle. It’s understandable. Cold calling a production office can be intimidating. But don’t let that prevent you from asking the most important question. The show might not have any jobs available right then, but something may open up in the future, and without sending your resume, you won’t have a shot when it does. When you call, simply ask for the production’s fax number or email and then make sure they get your resume. Don’t waste all of the time and energy you’ve already put into researching shows and making the calls – make sure the production knows how to reach you!

One thought on “The DOs and DON’Ts of Cold Calling Production Offices”

  1. I would add that it is not a bad thing to drop your resume off to a production office, if that is possible. I have had people come in looking for PA gigs before, and we have not had an opening but the show next to us has, so I send the person right over there. Might not be possible to do that in L.A., but it is very possible in New Orleans.

    Also, showing up in person shows you really want a gig. So if I have a hard copy of your resume, I am more likely to walk it to the department head directly and put in their hand.

    It is a thin line between persistent and annoying. The worst thing for me are people who say they know Department Head X, and can they just go back to see them. Or can they have their e-mail. Don’t lie to the production office. If you really knew them, you wold have that contact info already.

    I would also say, make sure there are no lies on your resume. Don’t fudge anything. Because if we do need someone, and we see on your resume you worked on a show a friend worked on, we will be contacting them. I have seen resumes and IMDB pages where people listed their jobs as the exact same one people i know had for the whole show. Turned out the other person was just a day player.

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