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My First Job in LA


My First Job in LA

Picture courtesy of isayx3 of Flickr

My First Job in LA

My nest egg was nearly depleted and there was no indication a job was on the horizon. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from the Director of Television Production at Warner Bros.

I had hoped to call this post “My First Job in LA.” Happily, I can.

Like my apartment search, I finally landed something, just when I was starting to worry. My nest egg was nearly depleted and there was no indication a job was on the horizon. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from the Director of Television Production at Warner Bros. I had interviewed with her the first week I moved to LA, back in November. At the time, she didn’t have any positions available; however, pilot season was coming up at the top of the year and she believed they might need extra help. She suggested I stay in touch with her. I followed her advice, and sure enough, she called in early January to see if I wanted to temp as a Production Assistant for two-months (hell yeah I did!). I had always heard the phrase “on the lot,” and I have to say, to now actually be on it every day is pretty cool.

No, It Wasn’t a Genie

Let me just say, I hate reading stories like this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or listened to someone’s journey, with the hopes of garnering some piece of useful info to help me navigate my own road towards success, only to hear some nonsense like “I just kinda fell into it” or “I was really lucky.” It may sound like this job fell out of the sky, but I assure you it didn’t. It took weeks of sending out resumes, interviewing, and registering with multiple temp agencies before I got this call. And as much as I dreaded it, I was willing to not be picky.

A week before I landed the WB gig, I had filled out an application at Urban Outfitters. Did I want to work there? Absolutely not. I’m not judging Urban Outfitters’ Sales Associates and of course I love clothes, but I didn’t move to LA to work in sales or fashion. I moved to LA to write for television. Urban Outfitters wasn’t going to get me any closer to that goal, so it wasn’t ideal for me to work there. That being said, it would have temporarily helped pay my bills, which was the priority.

In short, you may very well have to do something you don’t want to do when you first get here to stay afloat. It may sound hokey, but I honestly believe once the universe saw I was willing to make it work in LA by any means necessary, the position I actually wanted presented itself and was mine for the taking (and good thing, because Urban Outfitters never called).

The Dream Can be a Bit of a Nightmare

I was thrilled to get the job at Warner Bros., yet I was also anxious. The typical fears and thoughts flooded my mind – would I be able to cut it? Would I encounter those crazy, sadistic executives you hear horror stories about? I have to say, I was fortunate to work in a department with good people, but I won’t lie; learning the rhythm of the office and how to recognize all the different documents (i.e. call sheets, cast lists, deal memos, Directors agreements, production reports, and so on) and how they’re filed and distributed was daunting. I made mistakes, but I was never afraid to ask questions. Now I now know way more about what goes into producing a TV series, which in turn will serve me well as a writer.

Connect and Impress

I was fortunate that the executive I worked for was open to me asking any questions I had about the business. She even surprised me one day, by taking me to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch, in an effort to get to know me better and find out what my career goals were. I’m sure she does that with all her PA’s, but nonetheless, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with an Executive Producer.

You’d be wise to take advantage of such an opportunity (and if they don’t ask you, ask them!). It’s your chance to shine, show the person how intelligent you are, and how passionate you are about your craft – whether it’s writing for TV, directing films, set design, whatever – make it your business to leave a good impression on them. Provide them with a little personal background. Ask about their background (you never know what advice from their journey could help you on the road to achieving your goals). You may find you have a commonality or some experience that really interests them. Make a PERSONAL CONNECTION. That’s a huge part of what making it in this town is all about.

From day one, I knew I only had a short window of time to gain something from this experience. So, towards the end of my time at Warner Bros., once I’d become more comfortable and it felt organic, I began setting up meetings with people I’d been able to connect with. A showrunner’s Assistant who was kind enough to read one of my specs may now call me for an interview should their pilot get picked up. And, after meeting with an incredibly generous HR executive, I’m now staying on longer in a coveted position – assisting in the office of the Chief Executive of Warner Bros. Television. I only had two more weeks left on my initial assignment, but apparently I made such a good impression during that lunch with my boss, that she allowed me to start the new position immediately, in an effort to help me get closer to my writing goals (she is simply awesome).

I feel incredibly lucky, but also have to acknowledge that I’ve worked really hard for everything that’s happened over the last two months. I’ve clocked LONG hours (don’t expect to work less than 10 or 11 a day in television) and endured personal challenges along the way. But, it’s incredibly reassuring to know, as cliche as it sounds, hard work and perseverance can eventually pay off. I’m officially counting down to the post entitled, “My First Staff Writing Position.”

Jamila Daniel

Jamila Daniel is an LA transplant from New York pursuing a career in writing for dramatic television. You can follow her journey on Twitter here.

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