Opportunity of a Lifetime

It’s no surprise that a lot of Your Big Deal Hollywood Types troll the local film schools looking for cheap labor. Oftentimes these very attractive openings originate within our own ranks, with say a Slickster Producing Alumnus whose now got a little mojo going out there and ain’t afraid to spread the wealth. Just the other day, for example, a posting came over the student-alumni listserv regarding a P.A. job on Another Lame Sitcom People Are Saying Good Things About. The pay isn’t great, the poster went on to apologize, but, hey, they’re really nice to us here. Though the current duties mainly focus on refereeing the hierarchal posturing in an overcrowded parking lot, taking a black eye or two for the team is highly likely to lead to a staff writing job.

Or so the thinking goes. My feeling it’s a living either way—if only a meager one. I’m certain the kids were falling all over themselves to send in those resumes glowing with degrees, accolades, references and Major Awards from Maui to Nantucket. What I don’t understand, however, is the decidedly less attractive type of Big Hollywood Job Announcement, such as one I received today:
Volunteer P.A.’s needed on set of Tim Allen movie. We need unpaid interns (we will take care of parking and feeding) to help with the open casting call for extras for The Santa Clause 3 over the weekend of September 17 and 18. Tasks will include crowd management, picture-taking, and processing of information cards from candidates, most of whom will be children and young adults (accompanied by parents). B---- D---- of  B---- D---- Casting will be in charge, I am just helping him out (we worked together before on A Beautiful Mind and Seabiscuit), with principal casting.
What so many of my erstwhile Hollywood colleagues fail to understand is that volunteer work is generally performed on behalf of a non-profit organization, such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. According to my research, The last Santa Clause sequel did $139,236,327 on domestic box office alone. Seabiscuit, it’s worth noting, brought in $120,277,854; while A Beautiful Mind tipped the scales at $170,742,341. Somehow I doubt a whole lot of it was set aside to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

While I recognize the potential value the right internship can foster, I’m hard-pressed to see exactly how herding a throng of Jon Benet Ramseys and their Loopy Stage Mothers around Dodger Stadium translates into relationship-building. Maybe we’re all just looking for any small accomplishment to write home about. Parents want to know we're getting something out of our pricey educations, even if it’s only a chance to pretend we matter while some brat pees on our sneakers and eats the last of the Noz-Kote. Maybe it’s the association with a celebrity—even one who’s an ex-felon and second-rate eighties sitcom star—that’s meant to elicit such generosity of spirit.

Still, would the overcrowding at San Quentin justify such a lopsided invitation to criminology students? “Come on down and search some anal cavities, no pay. Hot lunch and possible Charles Manson sighting included.” I can’t picture the L.A. County Morgue trying to con recent pathology grads into giving up the free autopsies just because they’ve got a famous corpse in the house.

But then, we’re much better targets, we with the stars in our eyes. I myself answered a listserv job posting this week, from a writer-director in pre-production on his first indie feature starring Cedric the Entertainer. The guy offering a very fair wage for screenplay proofreading services turned out to be a school chum of mine—one who'd joined my family for dinner the night we graduated last year. He’d already hired some other desperate soul from a whopping forty responses by the time I got him on the phone. I told him to get rid of her.

“Bad summer?” he asked.

“I'm just so close,” I said. “Read the blog, babe. Just read the blog.”


  1. I'm with you one hundred percent on this one. And the only reason they get away with this unpaid intern crap is because they can. You throw a rock and you'll hit ten people willing to do it for free. When I was in film school, I couldn't really do too much of this stuff because I had this pesky problem known as having to pay my bills.

  2. Julie,

    Dig the site. I'm a graduate of NYU film school so I've seen the same demons that haunt you.

    Probably a couple more demons on top of the ones we share.

    After school, came the drinking. Fraternizing with the criminal element. Even a little blood was shed for the cause of me.

    My point?

    I've found the glory of autonomy. I don't mean "independent film" I mean autonomy. I'm doing work in LA-LA but I revel in the true state of not giving a fuck about them, their free-shit jobs and their little system.

    Once you don't care, they can't hurt you. You like writing? Then don't work for free, write for free. Write anywhere someone will let you and don't hold back. Get fans. Be brave for them. Be their courage. Build an army of fans that you love back two-fold and fight for your cause.

    Shoot first, Julie. Shoot often.

    Hollywood can't ruin your life. It can't stop your career and it can't give anyone validation. It's just a place where people get paid too much do something pretty fun.

    In practice...treat them all like cowards. Lately, that's been working for me. Hating them a little doesn't hurt. They're used to it.

    You've got a new fan in me,

    Each 1, teach 1.

  3. The good news is, I'm still having fun, at least most days. Thanks for reading. And for the advice.

  4. I'm also an iconoclast by discipline. Factor that in.

    I love the positive attitude, though.

    If you post it...I will come.