Imagine this: you’ve just received word that your favorite director, Master Director X, is producing his next movie only a state away. You email the producer with your resume and a note saying how much you would love to work with Master Director X.
They respond offering you a position on the crew and now you’re excited because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. In may even be your first job — your foot in the door!
Then the bomb drops: production isn’t going to pay for any of your travel expenses. Plus, you’re on your own for accommodations.
You have to work as a local or not work at all.
Should You Do It?
There are two questions you should ask yourself before accepting (or even reaching out for) a job like this.
1. Does the job offer something unique beyond the money?
If you’re looking for a job as a local to which you aren’t a local, you need to gain something from it beyond the money.
Why? Because you’re going to blow a lot of the money you earn simply living as a local. You will have to pay for your own accommodations, meals, transportation, etc. When you work as a local, you aren’t given any commodities by the production.
That’s why you need to look for a job that provides value beyond the money.
For instance, is the film the new Chris Nolan Batman movie? Will you be able to take on a higher crew position than you normally get offered? Or, are you interested in moving to this place and working as a local eventually and want to make contacts?
All of these questions have potential answers that give you value beyond the money. Unless you’re getting paid an absurd rate, money shouldn’t be your deciding factor.
2. Is it logistically feasible?
OK. I lied. Money can be a deciding factor, but usually in deciding for you to say “no!”
Before you even accept the job, is it going to be logistically feasible for you to work on the gig?
Do you have friends you can stay with? Or will you have to shell out for a hotel? Are you even able to guarantee that you would have a place to stay? Do you need to bring your own car? How much will gas round trip cost? Is the cost of living in this area high?
If the production is a long one, these questions become much more important because you will be without your normal home lifestyle for an extended period.
Advice for Local On Location Work
Reader Jayson recently sent me a note that describes this predicament:
I would like some advice on “working as a local” far from home. I live in Missouri, but my next job is in Louisiana where I will likely be working as a local meaning I will probably be springing for my own hotel, camping, begging another PA for a couch, or living in my car for 4 weeks.
Any advice on road living, managing bills and money while on the road? Ways to get hotel discounts? Or convincing producers you’re valuable enough to get traveled? Any advice from yourself or other readers would be awesome.
Jayson is understandably concerned and asks for some help in dealing with it all. Well, Jayson, here are a few tips on how to handle the more logistical side of things:
- Find out if you have a friend or family that lives nearby and ask if you can stay there. Offer to pay rent if they are hesitant.
- Call nearby hotels and explain your situation. They may be able to provide a discount if they know you will be staying for a long period of time.
- Talk to the producer on the project and ask if they have options for non-local crew. Perhaps you can get in on that and pay out of your own pocket.
- Get a credit card to use only for business expenses. This will make it easier to track receipts and purchases.
- Save every single receipt, even if you don’t think you will need it.
- Do not front any money for production unless it is absolutely necessary. Tell them you are already stretching your budget to be there and can only afford personal expenses.
Working Out of Local Status/Getting Travel Compensated
- You have to be so valuable to the production that they can’t find a replacement locally
- Make it as easy as possible for production to reimburse you. Offer mileage totals, gas receipts, airfare options, etc.
- Consider swallowing the cost this time around and use it to your advantage on the next job with the same people.
What Do You Think?
I want to open up this topic to you to provide some experienced insight into this kind of situation.
Please leave a comment and let me know: Have you ever worked locally when you weren’t a local? Would you do it again? What kind of deals are out there? Is it worth the hassle?