by Kierston Drier
An adage in my family has long since been, “Some of the best jobs are the ones you don’t take.”
I can’t believe I am writing this, but for this first time since entering the world of film and television, I turned down work.
Not just turned it down, but walked away from a job that was handed to me. Walked out in the interview. And I firmly believe it was the right thing to do. I gathered enough information during the interview to understand that the show I was being offered a job in would be far more difficult than the reciprocation they were offering. I’m going to share with you some of the warning signs for what to look for and how to tell when it might be better to let a job pass you by.
KNOW HOW YOU GOT THE CALL
It’s important to start at the beginning here. There is a difference between getting an interview for a mass applied for job posting online, a call from a head hunter, and a personalized referral from a colleague or known source. Mass applied for jobs are likely to have a large pool of applicants, and head hunters can usually guarantee a certain amount of quality in their offers . Referrals are common and trusted in the film and television industry, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the person who referred you, what your professional relationship with them is, and who they chose to send your information to.
KNOW THE COMPANY
Research the production company, the show, and, if possible, the team you’re with. Some shows are secretive and keep their information quiet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t research the production company or tap your industry resources for reviews and references on working with the company or similar team. Listen to multiple viewpoints, and listen to everyone’s opinion. Don’t make an opinion on your own immediately, but listen to and tuck away what you hear from others and what you glean from your own personal research.
KNOW YOUR JOB
Know what job you’re going in for. Know it inside and out. Know what it takes to do your job correctly and what things you need the job to be able to provide you in order for you to perform your responsibilities. Need access to reliable transportation? Need to be promised a certain type of equipment? A specifically allocated budget? Know what you’d like to have, know what you need to have, and know what the happy medium would be between the two so that you can negotiate comfortably.
KNOW YOUR RATE
This is so so important. Know your rate! Know your personal rate, know the professional rate for that job in general, know what your worth is based on your experience and your craftsmanship. Make sure the people hiring you know what that rate is. Go in with knowing what you’d LIKE to make, what you SHOULD make and what rate is TOO LOW.
There is a strategy to working below rate and working for free. Sometimes it is done for experience, for a special credit, or for a passion project or for a friend. But remember when going in for a JOB, what is your relationship to the employer? If the job is one you have done before, and one you have experience in, then there is little reason you should accept any lower than the standard professional rate. Unless you are doing a favour for a friend or close contact, you should not be willing to negotiate that rate any lower than industry standard.
KNOW WHEN TO WALK
Walk away when:
-The company refuses to answer all your professional questions with clear, informative answers.
-The company or production makes unrealistic promises that they do not put in writing.
-The company or production uses non-committal language while discussing details that are absolutely necessary for your job to be completed. (Ex. ” We’re pretty sure we’ll have enough money for that [insert absolutely necessary item].”)
-The production or company refuses to pay your kit fee, or supplement you for your own materials without prior discussed and written consent.
-The information you are basing your job around keeps changing. (Ex. A craft person who constantly gets a different head count number than predicted; a location manager whose location requirements keep changing.)
-The job is physically more hours, labour or requirements than is legal.
Remember, some jobs aren’t worth the headache!