Patrick Mulhearn (Director of Studio Operations for Raleigh Studios Baton Rouge) comment from Twitter
The life of a production employee...what a life...
I've worked as an assistant to talent managers/producers and while that was a lot!...working on a tv show or movie is a whole 'nother beast! It's hard to even discuss with people that don't work in the industry. I often send and receive emails from colleagues with rants about some foolishness that happened on the current job. I long stopped talking about work with my family and friends because it's the hardest thing in the world to describe. Working in production sucks, is the best thing since sliced bread, drains the life out of you, makes you feel unstoppable, causes you to question your intellegience and reveals inner strength you never knew you possessed all at the same time. Everyone gripes about their job at one time or another so here's my rant about mine...
A day in the life from my view in the production office...
- I work behind (WAAAAAAYYYYYYYY) behind the scenes in film/television productions. I mostly work in the production office-sometimes a travel coordinator, sometimes production secretary, sometimes assistant to to producers/directors. These jobs offer great variety: every day is an adventure, no day is the same. The duties/expectations are varied and change from moment to moment. Flexiblility is not only encouraged but is a requirement because there are no steadfast rules in production. Organization is highly effective and since that's one of my best work qualities, it is an ideal work environment for me. I'm also super anal, can focus on 20 different tasks at one time-another plus for working in film/tv.
- I meet tons of new people-each new show is full of new people-the longer you work, the more you see that the circle is small and you begin to see the same people from job to job. Depending on your department, you get to interact with some top-notch industry people who get to see your work ethic direct and in person-I'm pretty lucky because my roles in the office cause me to have to talk to mostly everyone on the show. About 75% of the people you work with will be the most talented, creative bunch you've ever met...we'll discuss the other 25 shortly.
- There's always food on productions-since you work ALL DAY you're not allowed to go out so there's always snacks and they order lunch in (sometimes dinner too if you work a certain amount of hours-on set, there must be a full meal every 6 hours). Generally, there's a nice mix of healthy options available too!
- You get cool perks when you work on the shows-hotel discounts, restaurant discounts, discounts to the gym, low cost to free tickets to shows/concerts/festivals. Also NOBODY parties like film/tv people! Shows generally start with welcome party, then there's a wrap party, not to mention department dinners/get togethers. That stuff is super fun! At the end of the show, you generally get a wrap gift-they range from tshirts on up to leather jackets.
- The pay is cool too and you save a lot of money b/c you aren't spending much on food-you eat all day at work! Sometimes on the shows you can get cool with whoever drives the gas truck (they've got to keep all those vehicles gassed up) so you can ride free too.
- You learn so much about the production of films/tv shows from the inside out. You see what it takes to make an idea on a piece of paper turn into greatness on the screen. The term "movie magic" is not being facetious-it's amazing how many moving parts are involved to bring viewers 2 hours in the theatre or 30 minutes a week for your favorite sitcoms!
- Film/TV production jobs are not for the faint of heart. You work a minimum 12-hour day/5 days a week. Sometimes you have to work a 6th day. You get paid decent-you might make $1,000/week (I do not but just for example) BUT you EARN it-a work day is TWELVE WHOLE HOURS with a 30 minute unpaid lunch break. You don't REALLY get a lunch break either, you eat while you work. Your day might start at 6am or 6pm but you will work 12 hours-so yes sometimes it means being up all night. There is also overtime-sometimes the day will run over and you have to work over. Depending on your department and your deal, you may or may not get paid to do so. That $1000/week is based on a day rate of $200-for the day so that's all you get.
- While you do get free food it's not always up to you what you are going to eat. It's an entire office of people so its what the majority wants (it's not like someone is going to go to Burger King for you, Taco Bell for someone else, etc.). In general that is fine but say you don't like Thai food and on this particular day, the menu that comes around is for Thai-oh well, it's eat that or eat that cold breakfast food or a sandwich or something from craft service.
- Remember that 25%...well the majority of people you work with are amazing (most creative, intelligent, get-it-done people you'll ever meet). There's a group of them though that will drive you mad. You wonder how they even got such a coveted job! There's the asshole-every show has one that is just rude for no reason. There's the dumbass-no matter what you ask of them, they will just eff it up. There's the lazy azz-always looking for an easy way out. There's the passer offer-they are good at delegating all of their responsibilities. There's the micro-manager-doesn't delegate anything. There's the drama queen-every day telling you way TMI that's inappropriate at any job. It is simply insane.
- You will not sleep much while working on a show. You have to be at work 12 hours/a day (I say that so much because no one ever gets why I am never around-I work ALL DAY!). Right now I work from 8am-8:30pm. It takes me an hour to get to work; 30 minutes to get home so I'm gone from 7am-9pm M-F. Factor in time to get ready in the morning and to get settled for bed you've got 6am-10pm. Not much time for anything else but sleep! It's not a good,deep sleep either. Your mind is constantly trying to figure out if you got everything done or wondering if you f-d something up or anticipating the drama sure to come the next day. Most weekends, I'm too tired to do anything. I stay in bed or on the sofa watching TV/movies, catching up on books/magazines.
- The job makes you crazy-during the workday I experience tons of highs and lows. People test you constantly on crazy shit and it drives me up a wall. Which brings up another point, most of the time the drama is over dumb stuff that doesn't really affect anything-I've seen a woman yell at a worker for 27 minutes straight over the brand of ranch dressing he bought for the fridge in the kitchen! Freak outs/meltdowns happen often and when things are calm, it's hard to enjoy it (always anticipating the next wave of drama).
- Why would anyone do it? For me, there's nothing like it in the world! It's an amazing process that is truly a team effort. Everyone plays a part-from the highest paid star to the guy who comes to pick up the trash at the end of the day...if you take anyone out of the mix, something will not work! Working in the production industry fuels my creative drive.