Breaking and Entering: How I Snuck into a Building and Broke into Film
August 28, 2015
In my own definition I haven’t made it yet in the film industry. I work on big budget films, TV shows, indie short and indie feature films in all kinds of varying levels of leadership. I’ve made a life for myself where I can survive and be happy in the crazy NYC world, but dammit it was hard, and keeping up with this industry is a continued struggle. I have one email to thank for my start in this whole freelance big budget world.
One email. You know the saying all it takes is one “yes” to get the ball rolling? Well, in my case it definitely was what happened. You can call it lucky, but I call it persistence, and just plain smart. I moved to NYC, the Bronx specifically, over 3 years ago. My first day rats greeted me while I rested with my luggage trying to figure which way my apartment share was located. I knew from that point that this was going to be interesting, and it would call for some serious perseverance.
I knew I wasn’t going to get a set job straight away so, my first priority was to get a job that was flexible enough for me on the off chance I did land a gig. Whoever made the work schedule- make sure they liked me, and make sure that I would be able to get those days off.
Back home I was involved in the film community so I knew how it worked, but this was NYC! I researched like hell to get any lead I could. I remember one of my bosses on set back in my home town said “it sucks starting out in a new city,” the “craigslist stage” he called it. This is just you trying your hand at any free work you can get to get to know people that are out there in the industry.
It comes down to networking. But dammit there are so many people out there trying to make a film with every single person (except the DP) working for nothing. Who has time to slave away for someone else’s insane film project. Oh! That’s right any damn person in NYC you come across. Working for free is almost implied now. Well I was looking for paid work, sorry guys.
Through a lot of Internet searches I found a ton of sites. There was this one film crew site that had a person’s title, number, and sometimes email right there! I hate talking on the phone; cold calling has to be my worst nightmare so, I opted to only email. My thinking was that if they were listed on this site that they wouldn’t mind being contacted and helping someone new to the area. I had my sights set on becoming part of the AD department so, thats who I contacted.
The database of contact info was in the hundreds, maybe over a thousand. Every day I emailed about ten to twenty people. My email went something like this: “Hello, I’m new to the area, I’m looking to become part of the AD department so any help you can send my way in getting Set PA work please let me know.“ Give or take a sentence or two. I know it sounded better at the time.
I’d never get any emails back. If I did — it was someone clueless, not working in NY anymore, or passing me on to someone else that wouldn’t be very helpful. I almost stopped emailing until weeks and weeks into this I received one email that gave me a little tip.
First off they were happy to help me out since I was new to the area. Which was so refreshing! I had thought that it really was every man for himself out in NYC.
They told me to go to this building in lower Manhattan. Bring a stack of my resumes with me. Once I am in the building just tell the guard that I was there to talk to someone from such and such show and just start dropping off my resume. I was told it was pilot season so once I was in I could hit up a bunch of TV shows currently or going into production.
Obviously reading that email I was ecstatic. I think the average person probably would’ve thought this person was going to kidnap and murder me. But my next day off I sure as hell put on my interview clothes, printed out a bunch of resumes, and headed to this building.
Immediately once outside the building I knew the person that emailed me wasn’t lying. I just knew it was legit. I walk in, the guard is there. He asks me where I was going, and I told him the show I was told to give him from the email. He said “ok, go ahead it’s right upstairs.” So, I went upstairs. No issues, no funny looks, nothing. I was in!!
Now, here was the hard part. What did I do once I ran into a person?! I’m not my best improvising, aka lying. Some offices had no one there and I just found certain mail boxes and dropped my resume in their box. Depending on their title. One show had people there! I walked in and told them who I was and what I was looking for. I told them I was a PA looking for set work. The office PA called out this other guy. I talked to him for a few minutes. He asks to see my resume and says thanks. That was it. I walk out and proceed to drop more of resumes off to other shows.
I was done in a few minutes, and just left. Guard was happy and even said, “Have a good night” to me once I left.
I got to my car and just thought to myself, “I couldn’t believe that I just did that!”
A few weeks later I’m a Set PA on a Pilot for an ABC show! It was from the guy I had met with face to face back at the building. He took a chance on me. Whatever impression I left was a good one.
From that one show I made a few close friends, but one contact that connected me to another gig after the pilot, and another Key PA, then that Key PA gave my info to another Key PA, and so it goes! Contacts are made and I keep working. All from that one email that said “hey, go and do this.”
I’m just happy that I was smart enough to muster up the guts to have done what the email told me to do. The opportunity was there and I didn’t want to not try.
My advice to people starting out: don’t let opportunities go unexplored, don’t give up, listen to people that are trying to help, and thank those that do help you out.
Oh, and if you do something not quite kosher and live to write about it in the future…use a pseudonym.