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Working Your Way Up

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Sometimes I sit there and wish I had had an “in” to the industry. How nice would it be to just have an Uncle at Paramount who could place me in a high position on the studio’s latest project? Oh… to not be struggling all these years to make sure my voice is heard, and to find money for rent. It would be so nice to just be given my dream job, to have the reserved parking and not be the first one in and last one out each day. I am sure at some point we all wish this as we find ourselves struggling to get on our next gig.

For me part of my personal dream is knowing what I am doing and using my experience to make strong decisions, part of my dream is to be doing what I know I love to do, in the medium I love the most. Part of gaining this experience and knowledge means putting in the time.

I started at the bottom, I started as an intern while going to school full time and holding down a full time job. When I was in college, I thought I wanted to be an agent. I couldn’t find an internship at an agency that I could fit in my schedule, but I got one at a Management Company. I worked closely with the managers, the assistants and the actors and their Agents. I realized very quickly that I did not love this. This side of things was not where I wanted to be. I stuck through with the internship and learned a lot. I learned to talk to actors and agents with respect, and get their respect back. I learned about what the audition process can be like and the struggles the actor goes through while auditioning. I also learned that I wanted to be more involved with the production as a whole that I wanted to be in the “trenches.”

To this day, I am so happy I did this internship. It was the only time I worked on that side, in that area of our industry. Sure, I have cast my own projects, and I regularly talk to agents and managers, but I understand what they are going through, I may not know their day to day struggles and what problems they are dealing with in the moment, but I can at least relate to them, I know some of the pressures they feel on a regular basis, and I know what the typical process is.

Having worked my way up from an intern I have had so many jobs. I have worked in Locations, Wardrobe, Production, Post, Accounting and Craft Service. I have been lucky enough to learn so much on each and every job I have worked. Sometimes the shoots can be miserable, the pay is low, or none… so I always try to learn something. I cannot just take a job to take a job, I need to get something out of it, so I make it work for me. I have been lucky to do such a wide variety of things in many different departments that as a producer I am able to relate and have an understanding of what I am actually asking of my crewmates. Not every situation is the same, but I have an understanding I would not have had if I had not moved up the ranks and tried different departments out.

If I had just walked into a position of power I wouldn’t be confident in my skills. I would not always know what the person I am talking to does and what their responsibilities include. I like knowing these things because it also is respectful. For example, to ask someone in costumes to see about sunglass options for a cast member is wrong, and I would hate to make that mistake. Surprisingly sunglasses are the responsibility of the Props department… if you have a props team that is. If you are working on a small budget this item may fall into a gray area, but it is important to know this. If you are helming a small project and you have an art team, but not a specific prop person, and a costume team then its important to know that someone needs to take responsibility for such “Gray area” items as sunglasses.

Okay, yeah sunglasses are a small thing, cause really who wouldn’t want to just be handed an amazing high powered job… but for most of us, this is not a reality, so while you are working your way up try different things. If you have ever had the itch to try your hand at being an Assistant Director, try to find situations where you can work closely with an Assistant Director team, or maybe you can talk to an Assistant Director and really learn what their job entails. Take this time, and make your career your priority. Learn what you can, figure out what you do not like doing but more importantly figure out what you do like doing.

I dabbled in a lot of different fields and found out that I am really organized and like running a large crew of people. It is important to me to keep the day going to figure out where the problems are and help to get them resolved. I also realized that my ultimate goal is to work in film. I love television and I love the web, but I really have a strong drive for film and ultimately plan on taking the film world by storm!

I hope that you also can find a way to work your way up the ladder, and have it benefit you. Whether it’s the people you meet along the way, the skills you gain or finding out what you want to do in life. I said it before, I say it again, make your career your priority, we are not all lucky enough to be handed a high powered TV gig… most of us have to work hard and keep on going. So do that. Do the best you can and learn from everything you can.

Ashleigh Nichols

About Ashleigh Nichols

Ashleigh Nichols resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Eddie, and their Chihuahua mix, Nova. Together they work on their own projects as a wife-husband directing/producing/writing team. Through Owlet Pictures, they created the web series Coffee Shop Squatters, and the award winning short film Summer of the Zombies. Ashleigh is also working on a dramatic feature and creating a new web series, set to shoot later this year. While not working on her own projects, Ashleigh is currently an in house Production Manager at Ampersand Media. Before going in house she Production Managed several shows/Pilots for Comedy Central, HBO Go and Vh1, some of these include: The Jeselnik Offensive, The Burn, The Ben Show, Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! and Parental Discretion S2. Ashleigh is also honored to have Co-Produced the indie film The Historian, currently touring on the festival circuit.