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Advice for "breaking the ice" with a local production co.


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:13 PM

Hello all,

I'll be graduating from film school in May with my masters, and I've begun looking for potential places to work (or intern) after I'm done. I'm from the Kansas City area, which is a pretty good production area. And since I have family here, I can live cheap, which is good in this economy.

Anyways, there is a production company that I think would be PERFECT for me, and one to which I think I can contribute a lot. It specializes in history films, specifically Civil War films. As an undergrad I majored in history, and my emphasis was on Civil War and Antebellum history. I love studying it, in addition to my passion for film making and cinematography. Hence why I think it would be a great match for me, and one in which I could make a valuable contribution.

And that's what scares me, ironically. I want to make a good impression. I feel that I've got a good resume; I've been active in festivals, as well as history scholarship; my documentaries have won some awards, and my thesis film deals with slavery and pre-Civil war history. My demo reel will emphasize my work interviewing historians, as well as my skills working on location, using steadicam. What leaves me at a loss is: How do I break the ice? How do I get my resume/demo reel in their hands? How do I make a good impression so that they take me seriously.

I'm just not sure how to start. Do I call? Write a letter? Just send them my reel in a mail? Walk in?

How would you recommend I strike the right balance? I'm confident that I could be useful to them, but I don't want to come off as cocky, like some grad with a degree who thinks he's entitled. I want to convey to them my eagerness to be a part of their company, but I don't want to seem desperate, or willing to sell myself short (though I'd be totally willing to accept an unpaid internship, if that's what it took).

A friend I talked to said the way he got his first job was by NOT applying for a job, but going in asking for "advice" on his portfolio. They looked at it, and offered to take him on. It's an interesting approach, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with it. Frankly, I'm pretty bad at pretense, and I wonder if trying something that doesn't work for me would come off as disingenuous. Should I just be upfront and forthright?

Also, a minor point on the demo reel: should I just stick with a short and sweet compilation, or should I include excerpts from my thesis, since it is a history production company, and my film is a history film? Or should I perhaps both in an interactive DVD?

I would REALLY appreciate any thoughts or suggestions from all of you who have more experience in this. It could make a huge, huge difference for me.

Thanks a lot!

Best,
Brian Rose
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#2 Walter Graff

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:53 PM

Call them and ask them if they are looking for anyone. Undoubtedly they receive many reels and resumes every week. I get about 100 myself a month so there is no shortage for people looking for work. If they are looking make sure you emphasize that you are a perfect fit in your cover letter. Study their web site and look for key words and phrases that you can reiterate in your cover letter. Since you are out of school you have little real world experience so don't expect to be vice president. Take what you can get and let your work ethic do your talking for you.
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#3 Brian Rose

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:29 PM

Just so I'm understanding, you'd advise calling before sending anything in the way of a demo or resume? Or do you mean sending info first, then calling to follow up?

Best,
BR
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:46 PM

Just so I'm understanding, you'd advise calling before sending anything in the way of a demo or resume? Or do you mean sending info first, then calling to follow up?

Best,
BR


Here's my experience. Send them a reel or resume and it's more than likely going in the trash. Go to their website. Find the owners email and send him an email to describe your situation. SHORT!! Focus on him and what you can do for him, as in your history background and ask him if there are any possibilities for you there in any role and that you have a reel and resume you'd like to send him. You need a name. Cold resumes have near zero return. Finding someone up the ladder will help.

Letter should be in the style of hi, I just got my masters in film and have a strong background in history (or whatever will catch his attention related to his company). I'm local and have known your companies name for some time. I have a good resume and a reel which contains stuff specific to what you do. I'd love to send it to you if you have any opportunities for a day player or more. Don't say "openings" or make any reference to full time. Let him tell you if he has it or simply has some stringer work for you. Tell him you are open to any work they might have at any capacity since your background and interest could definitely be of help. Send it to me first if you want. I have helped many (including some here) get jobs knowing how to say things without being passive aggressive which most folks hate in resumes.
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#5 Mike Nichols

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 11:44 PM

Here's my experience. Send them a reel or resume and it's more than likely going in the trash. Go to their website. Find the owners email and send him an email to describe your situation. SHORT!! Focus on him and what you can do for him, as in your history background and ask him if there are any possibilities for you there in any role and that you have a reel and resume you'd like to send him. You need a name. Cold resumes have near zero return. Finding someone up the ladder will help.

Letter should be in the style of hi, I just got my masters in film and have a strong background in history (or whatever will catch his attention related to his company). I'm local and have known your companies name for some time. I have a good resume and a reel which contains stuff specific to what you do. I'd love to send it to you if you have any opportunities for a day player or more. Don't say "openings" or make any reference to full time. Let him tell you if he has it or simply has some stringer work for you. Tell him you are open to any work they might have at any capacity since your background and interest could definitely be of help. Send it to me first if you want. I have helped many (including some here) get jobs knowing how to say things without being passive aggressive which most folks hate in resumes.


I can't stress the importance of a quick, prompt email. Odds are, the email will probably go in the deleted folder too. Truth being told, it's a tough task. I know this is a bit of a catch 22, but you have to find a reason for them to be interested. In the past, all the people I have hired "hooked" me by the following: A strong resume (and GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT cover letter that was short and to the point), professional attitude without being a "stick in the mud" and finally, SOMETHING that made me feel a connection. People who hire are looking for a reason not to hire you. Give them a reason to hire you...and make sure it is not something cliche or generic like "I am a hard worker and you won't be disappointed." The easiest way to do this is try and get on as an intern. Great interns get hired. Good interns get school credit. Bad interns get...

Good luck!
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#6 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 12:16 AM

A lot of good info posted above.

Just try and remember through your career that everyone has different paths in this business, and what has worked for someone might not work for you.

It seems like you would be a good fit at this company, so if sending emails/letters/reels doesn't work...show up and say HI!

I did that with Doggicam Systems and I was offered a job that I unfortunately had to turn down. Like walter said, these guys are busy, but if they see you popping in to say hi, you have a better chance of them remembering you, or you meeting another employee that can help you out.

People like to feel like you take an interest in what they do. Showing commitment and excitement for the type of work they do is a great start.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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#7 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 01:03 AM

All the above info works. Volunteering for (hopefully) short unpaid internships generally leads to better things IF the intern is a keeper. Being friendly, helpful, talented, EXPERIENCED and dedicated pays off for sure. The "I am a fast learner" bit never works in the long run. It is tough out there, so anything that separates you from the rest is what is going to be key to identify and use to your advantage when looking for work.
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#8 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 03:40 PM

If they are looking make sure you emphasize that you are a perfect fit in your cover letter.

Make sure you also say why you are a perfect fit - nothing turns me off a cover letter faster than someone saying "I am a perfect fit for your company" without backing it up.

--
Jim
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#9 Ira Ratner

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 05:32 PM

I've always found that it's important to show empathy for the prospective employer, important to make all of your communication as "informal" as possible, and to NEVER state emphatically why you would be good for them, but to instead, make it easy for THEM to make that decision in a sneaky way.

For example:

"Hi, Mr. Smith. My name is Brian, and I just completed my masters in film at Whattsamatta U.

"I know that production is kind of slow these days everywhere (with the bad economy and all), but I'm looking to secure my first position/internship with a company in the immediate area, since this is where I grew up and want to remain for a while. (I have family here.) Besides film, my main area of interest and background is in American history, which is why I think could be a good match for the kind of work you do. Of course, I'll leave it to you to make that final determination.

"From the production end, I.....................

"Well, I guess that it's for now! I appreciate your time, and you have any questions, I can be reached at............

"Thanks!"

The guy thinks this kid understands that things are bad nowadays (empathy), he's not BRAGGING and making outrageous claims (humility), and he specifically wants to work HERE (motivated and right for us). Smart kid, not a shmuck, sounds easy-going and well thought out--let's give him a call.

Edited by Ira Ratner, 10 January 2009 - 05:35 PM.

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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

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