If you have the necessary qualifications, a great way to explore various industry jobs is to sign up with one or more of the temporary employment agencies that specialize in entertainment-related jobs. Each agency varies slightly, but in general, most place individuals in jobs as receptionists, assistants, executive assistants and in technical, creative, accounting and legal positions. Some handle production-related jobs (from PAs to production coordinators), and one agency owner said she handles the full gamut, placing PAs and receptionists, all the way up to CFOs.
Most of these agencies are located and/or headquartered in Los Angeles. Their ratio of resumes received each month compared to the number of placements made is pretty lopsided, but if your skills are sharp, you have a personality to match and you're patient, you have a shot at it. An agency will also look at where you've interned prior to taking the plunge into the work force. Having interned for a major studio or well-known industry company will set you apart from other entry-level applicants.
Once an agency sends you out on a temporary assignment and the client is pleased with your work, you'll be called again; and many temp jobs lead to permanent positions. This gives you the opportunity to see where you'd like to work, and gives employers who like you the opportunity to request you on a full-time basis as soon as there's an opening in their company or department. This was one of the ways I earned a living early on in my career. Whenever I wasn't on a show, I'd call the temp agency I was signed with, and they'd put me on their availability list. It was never too long until I had a job, some of them lasting quite a while. At one point, they sent me to a well-known production company to work for a producer while his assistant was on a leave-of-absence. When that assignment was over, someone else's assistant was going on vacation, so they asked if I'd work for him. Two weeks later, they found another position for me in their production department, and there I stayed until the company was sold two years later. You never know where you're going to end up. Someone I know who had only worked in production (and only wanted to work in production) signed up with a temp agency when work slowed down for her, and she found herself working in the home video department at one of the studios. It wasn't anything she had ever even thought of as a career possibility before, but here was a job she found creative and challenging—and it was steady. They liked her enough to offer her a permanent job, and she took it.
My friend Aubbie Beal moved to Los Angeles with the objective of temping until she found exactly what she was looking for. She held out, turning down several offers of good, permanent positions along the way, and last year, landed the job she wanted. Here's some great advice on temp agencies and temp assignments from Aubbie (although it's excellent advice for anyone who will be working as an assistant):
"If you are able to type faster than 40 words per minute, they'll be very impressed. For software, you should be proficient in (or at least familiar with) Filemaker Pro (most phone sheets/call logs are done this way), Outlook, Lotus, or Now Up-To-Date scheduling systems (in my experience, Outlook has been the most popular), and of course, Excel and Word. Specify if you're experienced with PC or Mac platforms (hopefully both), and always highlight any and all software programs you know, even if you are only coarsely familiar with them and/or think they will never come into play. The more you know about computers, the more they will understand you are computer-savvy and can handle the unique internal systems they throw at you, such as internal script submission logs or talent databases. But be prepared to really show that you can work in any program you say you can (in other words, don't lie). I wrote that I am proficient in
PhotoShop, Quark, PageMaker, PowerPoint, etc., and very occasionally do minor tasks in those applications. It wasn't much, but it impressed them and went a long way in their opinion of me.
Some offices still use Amtel and DataTel to announce calls (although most younger executives now use Instant Messenger). If you've never used these machines before, don't worry—someone in the office should be able to give you a very quick lesson. After that, by all means, add it to your resume.
Understand the basic principles of PDAs, two-way pagers and Blackberries (such as how to sync them up and charge them). Many execs carry these devices but will expect you to take care of the basic maintenance. You may even have to program a cell phone or two in your career as a temp.
Many temp agencies not only give typing tests and software tests in any application you say you're proficient in, but they also give basic grammar, spelling and proof-reading tests. Be prepared! You only need to get "average" scores on any of these to get accepted and placed, but if you score in the 90th percentile on them, you'll seem to instantly get preferential treatment and the choicest gigs.
If you've worked on phones at other offices, try to find out specifically what type of systems they were (brand names and models) and mark them down on your application. Companies love it when you not only have experience with busy phones, but when you also know their particular phone system. Sometimes the hardest part of a gig, especially on a busy desk, is figuring out the peculiarities of the in-house phone system (transferring and conferencing calls, especially). Because you may come in on short notice and have nobody there to train you, knowing the phone basics ahead of time will really make a difference.
Be familiar with the Internet and handy industry sites. You'll get a lot of questions thrown at you that need quick and accurate responses. Who reps this actor? What are this writer's credits? What was the DBO for this director's last five films? What movies are being released this December? How did horse-themed movies fare in the last 10 years when released in the summer?
More importantly, use common sense when on a desk. Be punctual. If possible, be early on your first day of a new assignment to review any notes the regular assistant may have left you, and become familiar with the computers, phones and layout of the office. After you've reviewed the "temp notes" from the regular assistant, ask your boss if there is anything she would like you to know about her work style, preferences for receiving calls, names of important people who may call frequently, what her
Continued priorities for the day are, etc. If you run out of things to do, always ask for additional tasks, but learn to recognize when finding more "work" for you is more of a chore for your boss than she has time for. If there is downtime and your boss has admitted she has no more work for you, sometimes it's okay to ask permission to read a trade magazine, script or book. Just remember to use your judgment, ask permission and don't let it distract you from your job. No matter how slow it is, never make personal calls during business hours. Even during your lunch break, make personal calls away from your desk.
If you temp for an industry executive for any length of time and feel like you have made a good impression, you may ask the executive or the regular assistant if they would mind writing you a general letter of reference. Most of them will gladly do it (if you indeed have been someone good to work with), or they may even ask you to write your own letter for them to review, edit and sign. Having respectable names on the letterhead of industry companies will be invaluable when it comes to getting into the temp pool of that other company you want to work for or an honest-to-goodness full-time job. It will set you apart from the massive number of other applications they receive. You've been road-tested, and other executives aren't afraid to vouch for you. That's huge.
Do not, under any circumstances, give your temporary boss your resume or ask for a job. For most companies, it's the quickest way to get yourself fired from that agency or at least never get placed again. You may tell an executive that you have enjoyed working with him and would be glad to return if there was ever another assignment, but asking for a job is a big nono. If they tell you they'd like to consider you for a permanent position, thank them graciously, and let them know your temp representative will be in touch. Then, follow up with your temp agent to make sure your resume is submitted for the position."
The following are some industry-related employment and temporary agencies:
Comar Agency (The) 9615 Brighton Way, #313 Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Force One Entertainment 9663 Santa Monica Blvd., #714 Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310/271-5217 (fax: 310/271-2439) [email protected] additional location in New York
Friedman Personnel Agency 9000 Sunset Blvd., Suite 1000 Los Angeles, CA 90069
Star Staffing Services 9250 Wilshire Blvd., #200 Beverly Hills, CA 90212
310/550-1002 (fax: 310/724-7222)
Agencies Affiliated With Specific Studios:
Adecco (Universal Studios) 801 N. Brand Blvd., #185 Glendale, CA 91203
Aquent (Disney) 6100 Wilshire Blvd., #410 Los Angeles, CA 90048
Co-Op Temporary Service (Fox, UPN & Paramount) 8447 Wilshire Blvd., #210 Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Spherion (Warner Brothers) 3400 Riverside Dr., 5th Floor Burbank, CA 91522
Ultimate (20th Century-Fox, MGM, E!/Style)
2121 Ave. of the Stars, 2nd Floor Los Angeles, CA 90067
818/241-9909 (fax: 818/241-7697)
additional locations worldwide
323/634-7000 (fax: 323 / 634-7696) www.aquent.com
main office in Boston, MA (617/535-5000) additional locations worldwide
323/655-1009 (fax: 323/655-7201)
818/972-0044 (fax: 818/972-0099)
additional locations in U.S. & Canada
310/369-0295 (fax: 310/369-8585) www.ultimatestaffing.com additional U.S. locations
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