How do you show that your other work is relevant to filmmaking?
Especially when you’re first starting out in the business, you will probably have some, or many jobs, that have nothing to do with making movies or working in the theater. Either way it’s important to showcase your employment history to show relevance to work as a Production Assistant.
When I help someone with their résumé and cover letter, I ask them a survey including questions about their other jobs. It’s not enough just to list the job on your résumé especially if it is something unusual. If you worked as a barista, people pretty much know what the job would entail. However I helped one person recently who worked in environmental services at a hospital. This involved handling sensitive and frankly hazardous waste in a safe manner, and showed a great deal of responsibility. These are useful skills.
So although for most production job resumes I discourage the use of a skills list, when a job is outside of the business and the duties not obvious, I do encourage you to include a one line description of your duties. Many of the people I help are also veterans. I encourage you to put the brief description of your special skills or specialty task, as well as the rank you attained on your résumé.
Your cover letter is the important place to include information about your other jobs. Start the process by listing, on notepaper, all the tasks that your job entailed during a regular shift or during the day. Make a note if you managed other people. Then beside each task list the skills that you needed to complete that task or that you learned from working on the task. These might be general things like highly organized, stay calm under pressure, work well in a team, or prioritize well. These are the kind of skills that translate into production work.
When you write up your cover letter you will in include your work history. It’s important to consider your cover letter as a sales document. Don’t merely assert that you have these skills. The point is to use your past work history as proof that you have these skills, and be very specific and pointed.
Here are some examples from past clients. (Skills in bold for this post):
- I’ve also been working at B……. Hospital for two years, as an environmental attendant. Handling bio-hazards safely is a big responsibility of the job, so I’ve learnt to be careful and thorough. I also take care of recycling and disposal. I’m willing “to get my hands dirty” when needed, and I’m not afraid of physical work.
- My time as a crew trainer at M…… taught me to thrive in an extremely fast paced environment.
- After just one year I was promoted to the Child Care Supervisor on site. I added administrative duties to my tasks of providing the children in my care with organized learning activities, individual developmental exercises, and play opportunities while maintaining a stable environment. It has taught me to be quick thinking, imaginative and very patient, and to value consistency.
- I’ve also kept busy working part time as an Audio Technician for event production company P….. Services, all over Los Angeles. It’s hard, sometimes very physical work. Like filmmaking, it’s all about teamwork, attention to detail and getting things done on a hard deadline for spectacular results.
- I am a Marine Corps veteran of three combat campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. I attained the rank of Sergeant before my Honorable Discharge. Before that I volunteered with the M….. County Fire Department. These situations taught me about leadership, co-operation, being absolutely focused on needed tasks, and working towards common goals.
- I was a Submariner in the US Navy working as a logistics specialist. It taught me to be detail oriented, highly organized and to always follow through. It’s all about listening, communicating, and heading off problems before they happen. Because I enjoy helping people, I felt like I had the best job on board!
It’s true that not every Producer or UPM reads cover letters, but MANY do. Even if they don’t at first, it is more likely that they will read the cover letter once they have selected you to come in for interview from your résumé. Before going into your interview make sure you read over your cover letter. Chances are it contains interesting information from which the interviewer will draw questions for you.