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Why Survival Service Jobs Make You a Better Film-maker!


A survival job. Whew! Many of us have had the (dis)pleasure of relying on a passionless job while we pursue our dreams. And it’s not just actors putting in hours of tiresome service work to make ends meet. Surprisingly, 33% of servers in Los Angeles are actually writers/directors/producers who still haven’t found consistent enough gigs to bid that survival job adieu. And while I completely made that statistic up, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that people involved in production don’t just get handed jobs on a silver platter. Much like the notorious actor, film-makers must also pay their dues. However, these trying times will not only make you a better person, but a better film-maker as well! Here’s why:

1) You learn to multi-task and prioritize.

The food service industry is all about juggling a million things at once. You have to create a mental list of priorities and constantly shuffle it around for roughly 8 hours until freedom. {“Get app orders from 4, drop the check off at table 3, the guy is sucking down those cokes at 5 I should get him more…”} you think as you take table 2’s order. Being on a set is much the same. Everyone there needs something from you. It’s your job to figure out what’s most important and how to get it to them (usually while you’re in the middle of doing 10 other things.)

2) You can read people.

When you work a service job, many times your livelihood relies on the satisfaction of someone else. You pick up real fast what works with certain people and what doesn’t. When you’re on-set 14+ hours with the same folks, it really pays off to have the ability to gauge their moods. Which brings me to…

3) You can kiss ass like a champ.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, hones your ass-kissing skills like your performance being rated with money.

4) Thinking ahead is second nature.

The man who ordered the hottest item on the menu is bound to ask for more water. The lady with the 5 kids is gonna need extra napkins. If serving has taught you anything, it’s that bringing things before they are asked for means bigger tips and less work in the long run. Having this skill will make you an invaluable asset on-set. Anticipating needs saves lag time and means an earlier wrap and a happier cast and crew.

5) You have a sense of humor

If you take the service industry too seriously, your soul will be crushed into a million pieces and blown away by the wind. Having a sense of humor lightens the mood and makes you more enjoyable to be around! Good fun energy equals a great re-hirable crew member.

6) Grace under pressure

Being surrounded by people that all constantly want something from you is terrifying. After awhile the snaps, waves, drunken threats, sober threats, passive aggression, and rudeness, desensitizes you. Not to the point of carelessness but rather you’ve gained the ability to maintain your composure when things don’t go your way. Which is every day on-set.

7) You know what it’s like to be on your feet all day.

Enough said.

8) You have an amazing memory

Remembering orders, specials, ingredients, types of beer and alcohol, alterations to menu items etc has primed your brain! You are a verified sponge capable of recalling cast and crew names, location of equipment, set-ups, scene numbers, the script, gaff tape, continuity errors… Your bear trap mind will be appreciated by all (especially the 1st AD.)

So there you have it! The next time you feel down-and out about your career, remember that your service job is preparing you to be the best damn film-maker the world has ever seen. Go take the world by storm! And when you do finally make it…please tip accordingly.

*Editor’s Note: our founder Helenna Santos has a similar piece for actors who work in the restaurant industry HERE in Backstage Magazine

*photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club

Jaz Moore

About Jaz Moore

Jaz Moore is a writer/director living in Los Angeles with her best friend Cheeseburger the tortoise. She loves horror films, fears the sun, and wears her “Saved by the Bell” nightgown more than is socially acceptable. Follow her on twitter @JazMoore