Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Office vs. The Set

Well hello friends. Sorry for the extended absence. Life has been quite busy--I spent a couple months as a director's assistant for Alloy Entertainment's digital division during the pre-production of a rather large scale webseries, and then during production acted as script supervisor. The crew was great and I really am looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Now I am just pondering my next big move. I have long since heard that going the agency route is a wonderful way to learn about the industry, as well as to get to know future power players in the film world. The big agencies seem to be at the center of this industry, with scripts, actors, filmmakers coming into them and packages flowing out of them. Producers have told me over and over again that it is a great first stepping stone to take after getting out of film school.

At this time, I have an opportunity for a job at one of the big agencies. However, in spite of all the advantages, I am a little leery. Taking long term jobs is scary. So far everything I have done has been freelance....which is nice, because even if the gig sucks, you are done with it after several weeks and can go on to something else.

I guess the big decision right now, is the office vs. the set. I love being on set, but the freelance lifestyle can get a bit stressful--never knowing where your next paycheck will come from. However, on set, I get to perform a job that has a bit more prestige than being someone's assistant. As script supervisor on set, I have people bringing me coffee; as an assistant in an office, I will be bringing other people coffee. I am fine with that, but it is definitely something to think about.

Here is how it breaks down:

Agency (The Office):
  • Great opportunity to network
  • Fabulous learning experience that teaches you about all phases of the industry
  • Rigorous, but really prepares you for any job you get afterwards
  • Opens doors to many other career opportunities, thru the people you meet
  • Many studio execs, agents, managers, and producers have started in the mailrooms at big agencies
  • Consistant Pay
  • Job security & consistency--knowledge of exactly where you are going to work each day and at what time
  • Long hours but less than on set
  • Low hourly rate (9-10/hour in mailroom, small bump once you become an assistant on a desk)
  • Administrative work that does not have much of a creative component
  • Possibility of interacting with difficult personalities and being subjected to subhuman treatment (not a guarantee, but one does hear stories....)

Production (The Set):
  • Exciting and exhilarating atmosphere
  • Getting to be an important part of a film and having a direct impact on the outcome of the film
  • Opportunity to work hard for several weeks and then take time for yourself....can book appointments during the day and get things done on your off periods
  • Each project brings with it new people to meet and contacts to be made
  • Better hourly rate than most office-based assistant positions + lots of money for overtime
  • There is a good chance of extended time periods with no work
  • Very long hours (12+ hours a day)
  • Being a key player on set right out of college is great, but there is not much upward mobility since Script Supervisors are the only ones in their department - so the experience does not lend itself to other jobs

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I was once a recentish film school grad myself so I know the choice you’ve got to make. Either road you take will be good…and both might lead to the same place eventually!

    I think when you have choices like this you should think about your ultimate goals and your available opportunities. For example, if your ultimate goal is to write for TV and you have a chance to PA on a show right now, I’d say, go for it, and start working your way up! If your ultimate goal is to produce movies and you have a chance to work at a major agency, that could be the first step to getting a great assistant job at a big production company and working your way up. The good thing about either choice (office or production) is that you can change your mind if your goals change…I know PAs on shows who decided to eventually get jobs at agencies and production companies, and I know agency assistants who used those jobs and their boss’ connections to get assistant jobs in production (on shows). Good luck!