So my husband and I just moved to New York City and to help pay the bills while I work on writing screenplays and directing short films, we decided that I needed to get a part-time job.
I needed to figure out what kind of job I could do that would be flexible enough but that would also provide a decent hourly rate. I have an MBA, and experience producing films, bookkeeping, being a local coffee-shop girl, and even small business management; but I wanted something that wouldn’t drain me physically or emotionally. As much as I like to play the tough, macho feminist who’s going to take over the world, I’m really just a sensitive artist who takes everything about my self way too seriously. So I knew that bookkeeping and coffee-slinging would be too taxing for my fragile artistic soul (at this juncture). What could I do?
Then one day it hit me! Background work!
At first I was somewhat resistant to the idea, and to be honest, it’s because I’m kinda prideful. I’d love for people to think that I’m rollin’ in the dough, having made a ton of moolah on the feature we produced and don’t need any help getting my short film made. Well, the cut and dry of it is: the feature film hasn’t been released yet (and who’s to say how well it’ll fair at the box office once it does?), so I really do need the earn the money that we’re going to spend to finish my short film.
So in November, I signed up for Central Casting here in NYC. The very next day I was on a set silently improvising a conversation with two seasoned actors. The production was the pilot that Judd Apatow helped Lena Dunham produce. I questioned those seasoned actors and learned about other casting agencies – including Casting Networks. Shortly after, I signed up with Casting Networks.
The plan was to do the background acting for a few months to be sure I’d like it and could handle it; and if I did, I’d join SAG and earn the higher union wage (I became SAG eligible back in 2008 with a small role on an independent feature). I joined SAG back in April and haven’t looked back. It’s been really wonderful to have such a flexible job and for my job to be relatively low-stress! The early morning calls are tedious; but, boy! is it fun to be on set for a living!
Also, with my producing experience, I can watch what’s going on around me with an educated eye – and I learn. I’m learning how different First AD’s function; learning how different sets are run (big ones versus little ones); learning who the best caterers in NYC are; learning what keeps background and crew happy; learning how to organize a shooting day; learning all the extra space you need when you shoot on location; and learning SAG rules. Learning all this and so much more will hopefully help make me a smarter, more efficient and patient director. I know it’s already made me a better First AD (more on that in another post).