The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!
In show business it’s often more about who you know than what you know. An ability to network and rub elbows can help your career soar up the ladder, while a pursuit of a film or media studies degree can only promise your resume will pass an employer’s first judgment, assuming he or she even gets to reading it.
This is why, perhaps contrary to popular belief, the best first jobs you can get in film or television should contain these key elements, within reason: name recognition, a quick turn-over rate, low pay, and at a large company. Yes you read me correctly, low pay isn’t necessarily a bad attribute for a first job. It motivates you to continue networking and impressing employers to get that promotion, while also giving you the easy out once that next opportunity comes along. A quick turn-over doesn’t necessarily mean employees are miserable; it can indicate that their job opened up a wide array of opportunities of which they took advantage. Company name recognition adds a stamp of truth to your resume, and a big company allows for lateral promotion or career exploration within a company that is now loyal to you over outside applicants. If you’re searching for your first big job out of school, here are some hidden gems that are worthy of consideration.
The Agency Mailroom
“What is that you want me to do? Be a mailman?!” is probably what you are screaming at your computer screen right now. Not exactly, but also kind of. While the industry is constantly changing and adapting to new inventions, artistic trends, and marketability, there are some great traditions that have withstood the test of time. If you have an interest in hierarchy or were involved in your school’s Greek system, this option might be right up your alley.
Many of the largest entertainment agencies in Los Angeles and New York, including CAA, WME, UTA, and Gersh, start their entry-level employees out in the company mailroom, sorting letters and packages. While it is a great way to get to learn the names of all the company’s players, there is an aspect of traditionalism/ hazing to it as well. After a few months, if you pass that first test, you are moved to floater, or substitute desk duty, until an assistant position opens up. These positions are competitive and cut-throat, with a high-turnover rate, but if you survive the long hours and high stress of this position, you will be able to meet many of Hollywood’s elite. Show ambition and initiative and you will be printing your ticket out of there in no time, and on to your dream position. However, if you find you love the agency environment, you are able to stay and keep fighting your way to the top.
We all know the NBC Page Program from Kenneth on 30 Rock, but notable real-life alumni include Joan Rivers, Regis Philbin, Ted Koppel, and Aubrey Plaza. There is also the Page Program at CBS in NYC for those who want to focus on the late night scene, assisting David Letterman’s Late Show. Many networks have entry-level hourly programs for those who want to get their foot in the door. This position on your resume proves you know how to network, you are proactive, and you are willing to work hard and long hours. Performing well in one of these programs also opens up the rest of the company’s job opportunities to you. Take advantage of access to the HR department if possible, and make friends. It will be helpful to have contacts to reach out to when you are ready to take your next step.
Freelance Production Assistant
If you are still looking for a steady job, taking on freelance PA positions could be the perfect way to develop your career while you search. If you don’t have any experience, search Facebook groups, mandy.com, entertainmentcareers.net, indeed.com, and other sites to find volunteer or low-pay calls for PAs. Volunteer labor may seem a drag, but if you look at it as an opportunity to network with production coordinators who will remember you for future opportunities, then you may have a hell of a time. Assisting on shoots opens you up to meeting a lot of new industry people who right off the bat will be aware that you are looking for a job. Perform well and ask for career advice; in no time you may be onto something more permanent. You also may find a love of set production in the process.
An option that often goes ignored is joining a temp agency. In larger cities, temp agencies are often specialized, which leaves you some control as to where they put you. A temporary position gets you an income while allowing you to gain a wide array of experiences and contacts. Play your cards right and a temporary position may turn into something more permanent. If you love a company in which you’re placed for a few months, make it known to your employer. Go out of your way to help other departments or supervisors if you have free time. Bake cookies for your coworkers to make them feel like you are part of the team. Your positive attitude and work ethic will keep you in their minds for when a new permanent position opens up. Some agencies to check out include Elite Placement Group, OfficeTeam, and Core Staffing Services.