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Time to ask the industry giants!

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wiedenuTime to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 11, 2007 at 3:54:36 am

Hey Cow community,

I am six months out of graduating with my B.A. and have had an internship with a state-wide broadcast facility for all of those six months. As my internship is coming to a close, I'm hitting the pavement looking for jobs within the broadcasting and production industry in the Midwest (mostly MN-IA-IL). I just had my first interview this past Friday and felt a little unprepared question-wise.

"Get to the point already!"

So, here's what I'm asking. To better prepare myself for future interviews, what are some of the questions YOU would ask applying for an editor/production assistant/producer position within YOUR company or production house?

Thanks a bunch!

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David Roth WeissRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 11, 2007 at 4:42:58 pm


I think you're going to have to be a bit more specific about the questions that left you feeling unprepared. And, what are your expectations and goals at this crucial point in your career?

As a recent college grad entering a very competitive field, you may feel as though you are expected to know everything, and in some ways, because you've probably soaked-up so much knowledge in the past four years, you may even feel that you do know everything. But, the fact is, you're just starting out and both you and your potential employer must understand that in order to have a mutually beneficial relationship that will allow you to continue to grow and to learn on their dime.

This means that its your mission in the interview to resist trying to impress them with your knowledge and experience as much as you can, and instead let them know how loyal you are, how much you want to learn from them, how much you want to help them accomplish their goals, and how great an asset you're going to be to them in the future after they give you the opportunity to develope within their company.

I hope this helps...


David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.

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Nick GriffinRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 11, 2007 at 7:34:37 pm

Industry giants, huh? In my case I guess you are referring to girth. (See. I don't need Stinton's jabs. I can insult myself.)

David is stone cold on the money with his advice. The best thing you can do is NOT look and act like you know everything. What you should attempt to convey is your process for identifying and solving problems.

You certainly have to be competent in the areas you claim to be. It never ceases to amaze me when people say they know all about something only to prove the contrary with their answers to a few simple questions. Honesty pays. Dishonesty shouts "NEXT."

Along these lines, don't think that just because school is over you can slow down on learning new things. If anything that will be the time to intensify the process. This will also be a time to broaden your skill set. An editor who also knows web development is more valuable than an editor alone.

You also have to be friendly and likable because these days, in this business, for every one open position there's probably a couple of hundred applicants to chose from. Who's going to get the job? The person who seems like they'll best fit in with everyone else and be dependable.

Oh, and one other thing. A post-interview thank you letter is fairly important. Keep it brief but use it to summarize the high points of the meeting and to demonstrate that you're a follow-through kind of guy.

Best of luck, John. Breaking in may take a long, long time so don't get discouraged and don't give up.

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David Roth WeissRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 11, 2007 at 7:52:44 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Industry giants, huh? In my case I guess you are referring to girth."

Couldn't agree more with both your excellent advice and the whole girth thing. Gosh, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.

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beenyweeniesRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 11, 2007 at 11:22:52 pm

Some good advice here already, but I will add my 2 cents:

- One thing you said was a bit of a concern: editor/PA/Producer. I don't know any studio who wants one person that can do all of those things. Hopefully you aren't out there peddling yourself in this manner, because it really says "jack of a few trades, master of none." Pick one, focus on it like a laser, and pursue that line of work. Spreading yourself that thin, especially fresh out of school, won't work.

- If you want to be an editor, your demo reel will speak far more than an interview ever could. On the creative side I tend to hire mostly on reel quality (90% of the decision), then personality comes into play. If your reel isn't good, I probably won't be able to make time to chat in person, and I suspect most hiring managers are the same way.

- If you want to be a PA, emphasize your ability to follow direction and your attention to detail. An ability to follow through and do things properly is a major asset with any PA. Aside from that, any curveball question you might get when pursuing a PA job is pure BS. It's just not that kind of job, so the interviewer is probably just being overly anal retentive. Don't sweat it. Every question does not have a "right" answer, and you will get more respect being honest and saying you don't know than trying to BS your way through it.

- If you want to be a producer, you need to really demonstrate that you know the industry, how to manage production etc. and fresh out of school, that's tough. You can expect to be thrown some tough questions and, to be honest, if you don't know the answer then you probably aren't ready to be a producer. But that's just my opinion, don't let it stop you from pursuing what you want out of your career, just know that it's tough to break into, even for people with a lot of experience.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 12, 2007 at 4:28:22 am

Besides my ego, the giant part of me might be my shoe size 13-&-a-half. Probably not something I'd mention in an interview, though.:-)

I'd say rule number one for someone in your bracket is never over-promise. We were most of us the same as you at some time back in antiquity, when puppies were the oldest animal on Earth. So we know applicants fresh out of school are about 20 percent talent, 30 percent whatever was poured into their heads by their teachers, and 50 percent bluster and bravado. That's okay. We've all been you.

Be honest about what you know and what you don't know, and realize within yourself you don't likely know what else you don't yet know, ya know? You come freshly forged from school with book larnin', a vocabulary of industry jargon and hopefully some base level of experience in a general set of skills and recent or semi-recent equipment. That's not the end of your industry education, it is the very smallest BEGINNING. If you applied yourself in school, you probably found an area of specialty you enjoy most where you spent extra time and effort and pushed yourself to something like a commercially useable competence level. You are only going to get better at that over time. Lead with that.

Explore in your mind what it is about that talent area that energizes and inspires you so much, and try to apply to jobs that need that skill. Stress to employers that this is an area where you think you can particularly shine, but that you're also not too proud to work wherever you're most needed at any particular time, and that you like to learn about all the aspects of production and how they fit into or work with your area of specialty. If a producer or PA job is what your after, a major factor is being detail oriented, obsessing about getting everything letter-perfect, no mistakes, backups upon backups, no contingency left unanticipated. If your C.V. and cover letter have typos or bad grammar, you are already toast. If you can't be bothered to get that simple task right, you are not ready to work for anyone.

And now a pause from our sponsor...

Here I want to mention something you face that my generation didn't always. Loyalty and length of working relationship. My dad came from a generation where the Social Contract was very much the norm: you hire me, I work for you basically until I retire, I give you my best, you pay me well and give me great benefits, and we both profit. People your age just coming out of school face a completely different dynamic. Even if you want to work at one place forever, they often don't want you that long. They may not admit it but you are a meat-based component in a machine and will only remain with them as long s they perceive you are generating value beyond the cost of keeping you. If you are the best editor they ever had, they may STILL fire you after five great years and replace you with 2 guys not as skilled that work for less money and have not racked up enough years to cost a lot in benefits.

But see, here is the little game of lies played in the open; they'll ask you how long you want to work for them, because they don't want to waste time training a guy who flits from job to job every 1-2 years, taking that expensive training effort to a competitor. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is a common question. Like an inkblot test, there is no perfect one answer to this, it's more a way to ascertain what your motivations and attitude are, and where your loyalty lies. An altruistic sounding response is safest, if you can sound sincere about it.

If you are being honest with yourself, the answer in your head is "As long as I can make good money off of you and nothing better comes along, this is a game of who will screw whom first, and I'll walk over your bleeding body to get a better gig somewhere else without a second thought". To an extent, for self-preservation in this world you have to think in mercenary terms like that because nobody but your mom cares if you live or die. However. It's a remarkably small business, one that revolves around the strength of one's character and reputation among peers, and one where you don't want to burn bridges. So the answer you say out loud is more along the lines of: "As long as I feel I can make a meaningful contribution here, as long as I can grow in my responsibilities and improve myself, while doing work I'm proud of". The subtext there is "I'm with you as long as you hold up your end and I don't feel exploited".

The employment stats today are that people DO flit from job to job several times in any one career, that they may have as many as four different careers in a lifetime, and this is now more the rule than not in the video business. While you're young and unencumbered is a great time to live this way; traveling and seeing and doing a lot of things and meeting all kinds of people. It's a time to get a lot of experience and try to build up savings, so you live rather bohemian, like when you were in college. The older you get, though, the less appealing and sustainable this life becomes and you'll want to transition to something steady where you can put down roots, especially if you marry and have kids. In this new era, I feel that is really going to be hard unless you create the job for yourself by going into your own business. So your long-term life plan might benefit from thinking ahead to that time and building assets to get you there.

But back to the interview.

An air of entitlement for someone your age is deadly; all the more so, the older the person interviewing you is. So being humble is the best strategy, particularly if you have a strong reel or portfolio that can speak for you. Describe thru concrete examples that you are a problem-solver and team player, but that you are also able to work alone when you have to, and you're not embarrassed to say when you don't know something and need guidance. Every boss would much rather have someone with the courage to admit they don't know how to do a particular thing, than someone who bluffs thru it and screws up a project for the whole team. They also appreciate the attitude of "I don't know much about that, but I'll study up on it and be better briefed on it by the next time we talk." It shows the right kind of initiative.

The other guys are right in saying that your personality and ability to work with all types of people is a key ingredient. You can refer to dorm living and group project experiences in production classes as preparing you for such challenges.

How active, engaged, and confident you act in the interview shows how ready you are for this responsibility. The employer is going to invest time and money on you and you are there to contribute your best to the team effort in return. When I interviewed for the job I currently have, I was only a year or two out of school. I felt I had a strong reel, and I was always anxious to show it, but the bosses that hired me never cared to see it, didn't look at it until a year or two later. ( I found that old demo reel a year ago and looked at it, I am SO lucky they never asked to see it, much of what I thought was the bomb-diggety in it then, I now see as horrible. You'll probably feel that way every 1-2 years looking back at your work if you have a drive to improve yourself. I see things I did just last year that I hate now because I now know better ways to do the task. )

They picked me, not because my reel was strong, but because I came across well: personable, ebullient, full of gung-ho optimism and drive, I demonstrated verbally that I had a good grasp of the skills by having intelligent questions to ask about their place and hardware. I showed interest beyond the immediate job, asked about how they approached certain problems, what their standards were, how they assign single and team work, who their clients were and how they interacted. My bearing and attitude was that I had come to help in any way I could, that I was an applicant, not a supplicant.

When they'd quiz me about something like how to fix a particular problem in lighting (mixed color temps on sources and window), I gave complete and well-considered answers. If I felt I could be a little humorous in those answers, I added it, my way of "keeping it real". In the lighting example, While I told them the textbook answers about the options of gelling the windows or gelling the tungstens or using HMI lights, I followed up with: "If you can't afford the very large gels or the HMI, then it's time to re-write the script so you don't have the window in the shot: pencil's are ten cents." They appreciated that underlying understanding that the organization has limitations and we sometimes have to find creative ways around them instead of throwing money at problems.

Twenty-odd years later, the question I get asked most often on a daily basis is "How would you go about doing so-and-so"? Every project you work on makes you better able to answer that question. Sometimes you apply a particular skill or technique. Sometimes you throw money at it. More often, you use the pencil.

Whatever it says on our business card, what it boils down to in the business is that we're problem-solvers.

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zrb123Re: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 12, 2007 at 6:29:14 pm

Its kinda funny I was having a conversation about interviews just the other day with someone.

Your demo real and resume tell the people what you can do before you ever get to the interview, a lot of what the interview tells the employer is how your personality will fit with the rest of the team, and how you will handle different situations.

Good Luck.

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Tom DRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 12, 2007 at 7:31:43 pm

I was kinda in your position a few years ago. Definetly not an industry giant yet lol...

Best advice is to be honest. Like the other guys said, don't overpromise.

The best preparation is the stuff you do before you even apply for the job....Try to learn something every day(the COW is a great place, do tutorials(once again the COW), and read some good books/watch some DVDs (once again the COW). Make a habit to improve yourself every day. Depending on what you are applying to, also try to make the best demo reel you can.

As far as the actual interview, be yourself and research the company before you go in. Find out what projects they worked on etc...

And always send a thank you note after the interview. I got my first job out of college that way. I was up for a job at a local post house. It was down to me and another guy. I sent a thank you card and he didn't.

Final Cut

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wiedenuRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 14, 2007 at 12:31:32 am

Wow! Amazing insight! Thank you all so very much. Your information and feedback to my questions not only have given me quite a bit of hay to chew on, but also have given me some confidence as I continue my job hunt.

Again, thank you all for the invaluable advice!


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Raymond Motion PicturesRe: Time to ask the industry giants!
by on Nov 20, 2007 at 7:17:45 pm

[wiedenu] "what are some of the questions YOU would ask applying for an editor/production assistant/producer position within YOUR company or production house?"

I would want to know about your writing skills. Can you tweak a script without someone holding your hand? It's about content. Great stories are put together by great communicators. So how's your writing?

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