So today I got a friendly e-mail from a KU alum who had seen me post about what I’m doing/where I’m working now that I’ve graduated from KU and am living in Los Angeles. He sent me the same type of e-mail that I know I sent to a million and one people when I was reaching for the stars and entertaining the insane idea of moving out here to work in television. He asked for my advice on how to get from where he was to where I currently am. Now, I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t nearly as friendly in my advice-giving as the people who answered my inquiries when I first came out here. In my defense, I wasn’t in an optimistic mood, and I whole-heartedly believe in keepin’ it real (unless you’re keeping up appearances–idk wtf am I even saying? It’s a Friday, guys. I just want to go home and drink).
But I also believe in paying it forward, and if this is truly something that he wants to pursue, I want him to jump in head first, knowing exactly what he’s getting himself into (because, believe me, I totally relate, and I completely support pursuing your passions).
I also really just wanted an easy blog post for this week, and since I’d already spent a fair amount of time writing this gem of an email, I figured, why not share it with the rest of the very small world that reads this blog?
So, two birds with one stone. **DISCLAIMER** I am not, in any way, shape, or form, an expert in giving industry advice. If you want something a little more thorough, check out The Temp Diaries or The Anonymous Production Assistant, which can give you a much better idea of what it’s like to work as a PA in this town.
If you want a laugh, though, please, read on. I was in a very sarcastic mood (edited for privacy purposes):
I’ve been doing comedy in Chicago for a while, but my wife and I have been eyeing a move out west for a while. One of my shorter-term goals would be to land a writer’s PA position at a scripted TV show — so when I saw your post, I thought, “hey wait a second, that’s what I want to do!”
I’m sure you’re extremely busy, but if you have time to give a complete stranger some advice, I’d greatly appreciate it. What path did you take to get your current position? What sorts of things should I be doing to get there myself? And have you enjoyed the job and/or found it helpful advancing your career as a writer?
Okay, so here you go:
Honestly, I hope I don’t sound like a complete asshole, because there isn’t a whole lot of advice I can give you. There isn’t really one specific way to get a job as a PA. Pretty much everyone I know (including myself) has gotten their job through the connections they make out here–so living in LA is probably the first step. But I’m sure there are lots of production jobs going on in Chicago as well, so trying to find some job listing groups on Facebook and get in with a production crowd as a freelance PA while you’re still in Chicago might also be a good way to go. I know lots of people who’ve been able to advance a lot faster because they knew/worked with people back in their home towns/other cities before moving out here. But basically, just getting out here and NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. (This is also miserable, because LA is expensive and even once you start landing PA positions they pay like shit. I’m making minimum wage and thank God I get fed at work or else I wouldn’t be able to pay rent.)
Besides the money factor and the difficulty in finding a job, I absolutely love what I do. I don’t know that it’s really advancing my career as a writer, but it’s been motivating and a great learning experience to meet the writers, sit in the writer’s room, and get their advice/feedback on writing. However, I should also specify that I work for an amazing crew of totally nice super awesome people. There are quite a lot of jerks in Hollywood, and I get spoiled where I’m at right now. So not every job is this great. I worked a reality show before this, and even though the people I was working for were super nice, I absolutely hated it. I drove an hour both ways just to get to work, and then did 12 hours straight on my feet without sitting down, with the only other time I was off my feet being when I took my mandatory 30 min unpaid lunch break. It sucked.
Keeping with the whole honesty thing–and here’s where I’m going to sound like the biggest asshole you’ve ever spoken with–being a Writer’s PA/Writer’s Assistant on a scripted show (or getting into scripted TV, period) is about the hardest job to get in Hollywood, and most people will tell you this. For one, it’s just difficult to break into the industry, period. For another, there is about triple the amount of reality TV programming to scripted television. I fell into the job I currently have because a friend of mine, who I studied abroad with my freshman year of college, had a friend who worked as a PA under my current producer, and somehow heard there was an opening on this show and so my friend forwarded my resume to her friend, who forwarded it to the Production Coordinator, who interviewed me and offered me the job two weeks later when the producer I work under found out I was a KU alum (he went to KU, too). So an insane amount of chance got me my job. It sucks, but hey, if you’re good at making friends and have a good work ethic, then you might stand a chance.
Another thing you should know–especially because I don’t know what your wife does for a living–is that jobs aren’t steady or consistent. I was extremely lucky to get work so quickly after finishing my two internships (I spent four months working full time for free out here before I started looking for paid work, and I got paid work insanely quickly). But even after working on a sitcom for five months, we are almost wrapped with production for our current season, and I’m not sure what’s happening next. Right now I’m looking at unemployment for at least the month of September, and crossing my fingers that something comes along before I burn through my savings or have to become a barista like my roommate, who gets up every morning before God is even awake.
Anyways. I hope that answers some of your questions. If you’re crazy enough to still want to move out here, let me know and when you and your wife get out here we’ll go get drinks in a super dive-y LA bar in Midcity before I show you the van where I live down by the river.
But seriously, I actually do know a guy who lives in a van. I wish it was down by the river but, you know, drought.
I really hope this guy e-mails me back. I think we stand a real chance of being great friends. Oh, also, he added me on Facebook, where I post links to my blog every week, so if you’re reading this right now, I’m sorry I didn’t ask your permission before posting this. I hope I left it anonymous enough for you. Being honest again, though, I have no shame. Your e-mail saved me something like two hours of extra brain power.
Until next week,