[IN THE TRENCHES] That First Gig

That Familiar Flying Logo

I think the primary question for most impending college graduates is: What now?

That was in the forefront of my mind as a senior in the film and television department at NYU.

I had a couple of thoughts.

There was a student I knew whose aunt coordinated parking for film shoots in the New York area. Maybe I’d start my professional career as a parking P.A. A few of my friends had done it over the previous summer break and ended up on Goodfellas. Not too shabby.

I’d also acted in a PSA during high school for a small production company on Long Island, and thought I might be able to get a job there. Maybe an internship. Something industry-related until I could sell my million dollar spec.

The Vault of Weird Goodness

Thankfully, there were then (and still are today) lots of entry-level industry positions to be had if you’re already in a city with media and entertainment companies.

Places like New York and Los Angeles are the obvious epicenters. But there are plenty of others throughout the country, to varying degrees. You just have to do some research on what’s in your particular area (or the area you’re going to. Particularly).

The types of industry jobs available just out of school are a bit of a smorgasbord as well, as my NYU peers illustrated quite nicely.

One friend started out as an assistant at a production company. Another friend, a camera operator on low-budget features. Still another started by doing script coverage for a producer. Beyond that there are P.A.s, personal assistants, receptionists, and coordinators, to name a few more. None of those jobs are going to get you a Tesla right out of the gate, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Before I pursued any of the local jobs I was thinking of, I got an offer from my friend, Tim, who had left school after the previous semester. He was in Los Angeles, working in development at a company called Franklin/Waterman Entertainment and there was a job to be had on one of their shows.

Back in the day, this was High Tech. Maybe Medium Tech.

(Note to everyone in every industry: Your friends are your network, and you are theirs).

The show was Night Flight, a weekly two-hour block of music videos, film shorts, and other odd odds and ends. It had originally been an overnight block on the USA Network, but this version aired nationally in late-night syndication.

My job was as a Segment Producer, which sounds mighty highfalutin for a kid fresh from college. What it really meant, though, was that I wasn’t on salary. Instead, it was my job to conceive of and pitch segments. With the approved ones, it would be up to me to edit them for airing on the show. Then I got to invoice.

Most of my segments were cobbled together from music videos, electronic press kits, public domain movies, and assorted other video weirdness from the show’s vast tape library.

My favorite piece was a dance montage called Hip Hop ‘Til Ya Drop, set to (and including) MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This, which was painstakingly stitched together to the beat from more than 25 music videos on a linear editing system. Please hold your applause until the end…

Night Flight graphics also Medium Tech.

When Night Flight finally invested in a professional grade Hi8 camera, I got to shoot bumpers, band interviews (The Sisters of Mercy, The Godfathers), and eventually even a short “film” of my own for the show (to be entailed in a future post).

In short, it was a great start for me – A reason to move to L.A., a landing place with an “endorsement,” and a gig on a “brand name” series.

Granted, it’s been a roller coaster ever since, but it was a welcome entry point

The main thing to remember, is that you shouldn’t think of your first job as a life-and-death decision that will define the rest of your career. Not that you should take just anything. But primarily, it’s a place to start working, develop your network, and then figure out the best path to your ultimate goal.

Mine is to be cartoonishly wealthy and get anything I dream of produced.

I’m still working on it.

Share This:

This entry was posted in Biographical, IN THE TRENCHES, Industry, NYU and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.