Cover Letter and Career Help
I've read the recent Resume Thread and have some cover-letter questions.
I've heard a lot about listing specific achievements at certain jobs but I find that this is considerably difficult for to list. I currently work 3 video production part-time jobs and am trying to get a job doing tv commercial video production. At the one job which I do the most relevant work compared to commercial production, my boss gives me a job, and I do it well. I helped him out shooting 2nd camera for a film recently and offered my input and suggestions for shots, which some of the input he took into consideration and used, but for the most part he seems to really just want me to do what he said to do, and do it well. I don't feel like I've made any specific acheivements besides doing a great job and learning everything he's needed me to learn very quickly.
This is my 2.5 year out of college. I've had an internship at a Public TV Station, worked as a video editor for a news station, and then, in order to get into commercial production I've moved back to my college town to do an independant study and made 3 commercials. And now that I'm done I've taken three part-time video-production jobs until I can break into the business. Although my resume is building up stronger with experience, I worry about specific contributions I've made. The biggest differences I've made at my jobs are sometimes doing the job of two for periods of time when one person quit and another had yet to be hired. Or learning a job quickly and just doing it very well.
Another thing is most places want someone who not only knows videography and editing, but also After Effects, which i've had no schooling in. Is that something I should just think about buying and learning?
I wrote a cover letter at home that focused only on my personal strengths of budgeting my time with an extremely busy schedule, making sure the projects I do are the absolute best they can be (high acheiving) and how I strive on creativity and seeing my ideas come to life. I figured I'd try to incorporate that into my current cover letter which lists some technical strengths.
If anyone has some advice or wisdom to share, I'm all ears. Also, If anyone would be willing to take a look at my letter and resume in order to see where I'm coming from, I'd really appreciate. it.
I suggest you buy the book "Cover Letters That Knock 'Em Dead"
by Martin John Yate
This book helped me a great deal while I looked for my first video position. I've u.sed it's samples many times since. They key to remember is that your letter is there to get them to read your resume. It's like a 30 second ad spot. Also, consider that your resume should be short and to the point, leaving you something to expand on during an interview. Hope that helps. Best wishes.
Thanks Greg! I'll look for that book at the library~or at Barnes and Noble.
Make it formal, header with name, address, date, etc.
Intro: I'm interested in...
Relevant experiences (NOT "I was an X for a year" but "Last year I worked on a project in which the producer asked me to do this and that. The results were such and such. I feel that this is highly relevant to the position you advertised.") (It helps to know what the company wants. Do you know someone who works there? Do you attend local industry events? Do you know their work?)
Ask for the job. (you'd be amazed how many people don't).
Close with suggested action: "I'd like to meet with you to discuss your needs. I'll call you early next week to set this up, or please contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX."
If you finish this pre-interview process with some name recognition, you're ahead of 95% of the pack already. Do what you can to keep your resume at the top of the stack.
If you have no compositing experience, then yes, find yourself a used copy of AfterEffects and the Adobe training books/DVD's and spend the time learning all the supplied tutorials. AE is probably the most common/numerous compositing platform out there, and is heavily used in the creation of motion graphics and the like. To have "mad AE Skillz" is a big plus for you, to have no compositing skills at all will tend to lose you editing gigs. The folks hiring will like to get the most talent for their money, so add this skill as best as and as soon as you can afford to. Once you have the basics of compositing down in one platform, you can apply much of that learning to rapid mastery of other specific platforms.
Based on what you described, I would emphasize the fact that you're a team player who's not afraid to take on the occasional extra load, that the three simultneous gigs you have now show how well you can multi-task and that you're committed and active in your pursuit of the craft. Pointing out that you're learning compositing on your own time will add to that appearance as well.
Also you can spin the fact that you mostly do it the way the boss acts into a positive; it means you have learned to lsiten to whatt he client wants. Good client skills can make or break an editor. You may be the next Murch, but if the clients can't stand to be locked in a room with you for six hours, you're out of work. Conversely, clients forgive an awful lot of little mistakes and the like if you can communicate well and know when to advize and when to just listen, making them feel good about their experience with you.
Always find a way in your cover letter to name the job and relate something int he requirements to something in your resume. Example:
"When I read the description for your editor opening, It sounded like the perfect fit for my client skills: the kind of heavy-turnover work you do on tight deadlines is my specialty. You can read about how I did similar work for xyz corporation in my attached resume...."
Great! This is all really good advice and a lot of stuff I hadn't considered. Please keep it coming. Another thing. I have a demo reel with some commercials I've made for my independent study, and some older stuff from my undergrad. classes. Is this still relevant material? How important is my demo reel?
For most production positions your reel is very important. Do your utmost to keep it up to date. Old stuff and student stuff is good too - you just want it to show the best of your abilities, and you should be able to speak to each piece.
Ideally, you'll present your reel in person as part of an interview. Say who the client was, the nature of the project, your role in the project, how it turned out for each piece of your reel. If a particular project seems to have resonance with the interviewer, by all means go deeper on that project.
PS. on the reel:
Be proactive about showing your reel. When the interview is being set up: "I'd like to show you my reel. Should I bring it in on VHS or ???"
You want it - go get it Jill.
Awesome. Thanks for the advice and encouragement Seth. I've been re-energized!
Your demo reel is your selling point. Most people will breeze through a resume, especially once it gets through HR. But the demo is what gets you a job. I have seen amazing resumes with horrible demos. I do commercial production and am continually amazed at the amount of demos that just suck. Big note here, if you just tag a commercial DO NOT put that on your demo. Keep your demo short, less than 5 minutes. I suggest a montage to open. Something that will get the viewer wanting to see more.
Think of the demo reel as a commercial about YOU. Good advertising seels a product and this product is YOU!!!
You can bring a longer demo of work to the interview.
Also After Effects is a must!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This cant be emphasized more. Learn it, love it.
I got a copy of AfterEffects 4.0. It's one of the older versions. I also got the user's manual for it. So I think i'm set! Thanks for the demo reel advice. I wonder sometimes about what I should include in the demo reel. I've worked on a film as the second camera. Should I include a clip from that movie when it gets edited? Also I've done camera work for some interviews. Should I include clips of those? Everything that I already have on my demo reel is stuff I've thought up, directed, photographed and edited myself because it was from school (including my independent study). Should I include this other more recent stuff even though it's not quite as entertaining? (The film will be entertaining, but it's just not edited yet.)
Just like your cover letter the more you can target your demo reel to your future employer the better. If you are looking to do news or documentary work the more of this type on your demo the better, the same with promotions or commercial production. Sometimes this isnt possible, I know. When I got my first civilian job, I did this for the Army for a number of years and all I had was government work. Luckily this showed what I was capable of doing. But when you are able to target it, do it.
Once you get your job, keep updating your reel. This way your ready for the next opportunity. Remember the best way to get a raise is to change employers.
[c staley] "Just like your cover letter the more you can target your demo reel to your future employer the better."
You make a good point: The one doing the hiring is looking at your work from the perspective of what it brings (or not) to their situation. This is why many people I know in this business have multiple demo reels edited for different situations. A demo reel full of longer form shots that are shown in a camera person's demo reel is far different than the fast paced eye-candy parade on a motion graphics artist's reel. The pacing is different and the purpose is different.
One general purpose one-size-fits-all demo reel is often very self-defeating and can work against you.
In any event, the best demo reels I have seen are almost always one minute or less. Done correctly, they leave you with a feeling of wanting to see more -- too often, demo reels lumber and plod on until you feel as if sand is being poured into your eyes. When it ends -- if you get that far and haven't already hit the stop button -- you are almost muttering "Good grief!" to yourself.
Build your demo reel from your client/employer's perspective, not as a document of your history in the industry.
Tao of the demo reel:
A prospective employer is interested in what you have done, not what you can do.
Other points made above are excellent.
I'd encourage you to find a way to include at least one for-pay project in every demo. This is one of the things an employer wants to know, can you work professionally with teams, clients, schedules and budgets?