Since taking the Studio Managers crown here at Westside I have come to learn that although every week is different, I can always rely on their being 1 or 2 calls from some fresh meat…AHEM, I mean hopeful assistants. My standard response when a voice is telling me about their photographic hopes and dreams, is to provide my e-mail address and request that they do the following: write me a letter detailing their 5 Ws, provide links to where I may view their work, hit send, and sit tight. Assuming all’s looking good you’ll probably hear from me in a week or two to set up an “interview”.
This brings us to today’s TGIW, in which I would like to dust off the ol’ soapbox and lay down some do’s and dont’s for when it comes to making that first knock on the assistant door.
Image © Derek Shapton
DO write a professional, personalized, and (to the best of your abilities) grammatically correct letter. This isn’t an english exam, but like any cover letter or resume, sloppiness isn’t going to get a potential employeer (APE) champing at the bit for a meeting, especially if you don’t know their name.
DON’T name drop. Unless it’s a direct referral from someone APE might expect, telling them that you worked for so-and-so isn’t going to woo them into getting you on set. Instead, use those words for highlighting your strengths as an assistant. Haven’t worked on a pro-level set before? Tell APE that, but also tell them why that’s no biggie because you work great with people.
DO include all your contact information. Regardless of what your area code is, include your phone number; APE might have some long distance minutes they are looking to use on you because your letter was so righteous.
LINKS TO YOUR WORK
DO include links to your portfolio no matter where it is being hosted. Yes, your own personal website looks more professional, but maybe the idea of going to your Deviantart page will get a laugh and a call back. Who knows?
DON’T include a link to your Facebook page unless APE can view your work without having to ‘Like’ your page. Your timeline cover is not enough to make APE ‘Like’ you.
DO have a properly formatted LOW-RES PDF of your SELECTED work availible for direct download, or if you don’t share anything on the internet at all, attach it to the e-mail. APE doesn’t need a 20MB file in their inbox, nor do they need to be able to zoom to minute details of your image; a nice clean organized layout, combined with smart image selection will go further than you might think.
DON’T attach JPEGs. Unless maybe it’s one single image that serves as your assisting promo, do not do this. APE doesn’t enjoy getting e-mails that have the maximum number of attachments in them.
Image © Frank Hoedl
DON’T expect an immediate response from APE. They have a job and may not have time to get back to your offer of assistance for a few days, maybe even weeks.
DO follow up 2-3 weeks later if you never heard back from the first e-mail. Preferably by e-mail, but if there’s a phone number listed on their website APE can’t get mad if you try to drop a quick, “Hi there, I’m Fresh Meat, I sent you an e-mail, blah blah”. Chances are, if you can get APE on the phone, you’ll find out if a face-to-face is a possibility.
DON’T be discouraged if it takes a while to get your foot in the assistant door. Like photography, assisting is a competitive business. A little persistance and positivity will go a long way.