Making the move

On making the move…

I recently worked a job for VH1 for a new series, tentatively titled The Grand River Singers Project. Right before it started, the lease ended where I was staying, so I didn’t have a place to call home in Madison after the 7-week shoot ended. One of the shooters from the show convinced me to move to Atlanta, after taking a month to wrap up projects back home.

Within 3 days of arriving, I was working for Real Housewives of Atlanta, and within 3 weeks was busy on multiple shows.

Why was my move so successful? And would it have been if I had tried to move earlier in my career?

Some of the factors were the same as the ones that let me make the transition to freelance. Being hardworking and knowledgable about my craft really make it easier to find work.

I don’t think that making this move earlier would have been possible. I didnt have any major credits as an AC prior to GRS, and while I had experience ACing, every market has different needs and expectations, and I didn’t know what they would be in Atlanta.

After this show, unlike Battleground, I had contacts who I knew would bend over backward for me. One person in particular called up several of his connections, who, trusting his word, and not having even met me, connected me to production companies all around Atlanta, and those are the ones that I’m working for so far.

What if I hadn’t made these connections?

Well, I sent somewhere around 50-80 emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and the like to different people who I thought may have connections in Atlanta. Not a single one had anything that helped me out – and that’s not their fault, it’s not them that do the hiring! It was really one person who connected me to the local community. Without him, I’d have arrived, searched, searched, and searched for work, but who knows if I’d have found anything.

So the major factors, the reasons I’ve been able to be successful, have been experience, and the right level of experience, and connections. I didnt have the right kinds of experience previously, but I was unlikely to get any more in the Milwaukee area. There aren’t many ACs there, and there isn’t really need for any more. I worked short films, sure (and a lot of them!), but there was no real work as an AC. Moving was my only option, so I put myself to being the best AC possible, and to finding the connections and area that would be best. I’m not sure that New York or LA would have worked for me. I know people in both, but there isn’t a lack of ACs there like there is here, and with a word of mouth industry like this, having people who can spread your name is key.

Since arriving, I’ve gotten quite a bit of work from people who I’ve worked with, and I’ve even had offers for full seasons instead of just day playing. Being heads-up, respectful, and knowing what you’re doing pays off – connections are worthless if you’re not great at your trade!

So what advise would I give to someone who is young, working in a smaller market, and thinking about moving?

1: Work everything you can! You may not have, say, reality AC experience, but if you’ve done Doc, Film, TV, Pilots, etc, *and* have shooting experience, *and* know how to do DIT work, *and* have a couple other skills, as soon as you work with someone, they’ll see ways that every single one of those skills, which weren’t what you were hired for, are coming in handy, and they’ll keep hiring you back.

2: Make connections before you try to move. Want work? Find people who know how to find work.

3: Stay positive! Believe me, being positive will make all the difference, whether you’re looking for work, or are on set and things are getting a bit crazy.

4: Get ready for a wild ride! You’ll have the time of your life, you’ll have some down times, you’ll fake knowing what you’re doing, you’ll stay up all night researching how to do something that, looking back, will look silly, and hopefully, if all goes well, you’ll quickly be too busy to worry about anything past the current shoot.

About Randy Lee
Shooter. Editor. Colorist. Filmmaker. Coffee Addict. Workaholic.
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