Being Memorable

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Katherine Di Marino head shotWhen you are first starting out in the industry, finding work can be tough. Your first job may not immediately lead to a second job… it could be months or even years before the next opportunity presents itself. The best you can do is to make yourself memorable when you are working, and do everything in your power to be of service to everyone, and make other crew members lives easy. You need to go out of your way to go the extra mile, and if you do it will be remembered and rewarded. Let me tell you a bit about how I did it.

I got my first job in the television industry by fluke. The producer had an assistant back out on him a week before going into production on a series, and he went on a spree interviewing no end of potential candidates in one day. It just happened that our personalities meshed and I got the job. I was as green as the hills those first few months but I did everything in my power to learn what I could, and when times were slow I picked up the slack for the coordinator and assistant coordinator when they were over- run with work. If I had free time I didn’t spend it lounging around, but made sure I was of service to others.

I even managed to get a thank you note on that first job which I proudly displayed on my desk, which made me realize that hard work does not go unnoticed. Even if it doesn’t fall under the category of your role, if you’ve got a few minutes to burn asking the rest of your department, production or post production office what you can do to help goes a long way.

With that first job, every opportunity that was offered to me I took. After the show had wrapped they needed someone to create the as-broadcast scripts so I took that on and was meticulous about the detail I put in to them….every umm, aww and change in dialogue uttered by the actors was recorded. And then someone in the post production office had to take a week off for an unexpected family emergency, so I ended up helping them out too. I could never have foreseen that those few days of work would be the making of my career. Never pass up any opportunity!

I finished that first series and had no idea what was to come next. I couldn’t get hired onto another show so ended up taking a job outside of the industry as a stop gap measure to pay the rent. I worked for over a year at this job hating every minute of it but at least I could afford to eat. Then the phone rang one day and everything changed. It was the production manager of a television series. She had been given my name by the assistant editor of their show. He remembered me from my first job and how well I had done, and recommended me for this position. He was not a senior player, he did not have much authority, but I had gone the extra mile for him just like I had for everybody else and it left an impression.

I went in for an interview and got the job. It taught me a valuable lesson. Everybody counts and don’t underestimate the power someone else has. He was only an assistant but was well respected and liked, therefore his word and him vouching for me meant something to these people. I don’t even know where he found my phone number but they tracked me down somehow. And that was when things began to snowball.

While working on this series I once again went out of my way to do the best job that I could and although I was the producer’s assistant, also took work off the plate of the production manager and line producer. I let them know I wanted to learn, and I was willing to take on odd jobs. They were more than happy to accommodate me. I did tasks as little as updating their scripts with the latest revisions because they had better things to be doing with their time and they were appreciative. Word got around. As soon as this show wrapped I was contacted by the parent company that owned the rights to the show and they were offering me a position with them.

I had proven myself to be reliable, hard-working, competent, and willing to pick up the slack for others without complaint or fuss. I had done my darndest to be remembered in the best light possible and it caught the attention of other senior staff.

Whether we want to believe it or not people talk, and you have no idea who is speaking to who and what kind of sway they may have. As proved earlier with my story about the assistant in the post production office, even an apparently low man on the totem pole can give you a leg up. Even someone who does not work in the same department as you, is forming an opinion about your competency… or lack thereof, and won’t hesitate to voice their concerns or praise.

The reality is that people move up in their careers, and you never know who they may end up becoming. Never underestimate the power of having strong and respectful relationships with those around you. They can make or break you.

Just like the people I worked for in the beginning of my career I have also developed, grown and moved forward. And I have the memory of an elephant. Everyone who did me wrong, who disrespected me, took advantage of me, who made my life more difficult, was lazy and uncooperative… I remember them all. And in turn I will never choose to work with them again, or hire them on one of my shows.

There are also those that were moving up the ladder at the same time as me, and I learned valuable lessons about who I would or wouldn’t want to partner with in the future. People spend their career taking notes: and whether an experience with another human being was positive or negative sticks with you. It’s not too difficult to remember who the squeaky wheels were. If someone was a jerk and difficult to deal with, no one wants to go in for a repeat performance. The next opportunity that comes up that person will be by-passed because they left a negative impression with their bosses and co-workers. They were certainly memorable people – but not in the way they should have been.

Don’t forget everyone around you is taking notes – and you want to be remembered in the best light possible. It may take a while, but if you’ve gotten your foot in the door, and done the best job you can putting the best of yourself into your work, others will notice and you never know how it’s going to pay off….even decades down the road.

That first producer I told you about…the one that gave me my first break in the industry. Its 20 years later and I recently tracked him down. That’s the kind of impression he left with me. I wanted to work with him again now that I’ve relocated to the same city. He remembered me fondly, and I remembered him fondly, and we were both quite happy at the prospect of teaming up again. This time I am the producer and he is the executive producer.

People come in and out of your life and you can never foresee when or where. Make sure you’re always doing your best for people and leave them with happy memories of you. You may think they won’t remember you but they will….and that could just lead to the break you’ve been looking for!