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Its 9:00 a.m. and I have to go to a Thanksgiving dinner tonight. I found myself putting on my nylons, ironing my floor length skirt and donning it, and then getting the wrinkles out of a crisp white shirt. I am dressed and ready to walk out the door at 4:00pm. Why? Because one never knows what might happen between now and then! I’m nothing, if not prepared.

According to Wikipedia the most developed type of preparedness is “Disaster Preparedness”. That’s a little dramatic for my liking. Hopefully you will be prepared enough to forego any pending disasters that might befall you while you are moving up in your career, taking chances, taking steps up, earning credits, and for the most part stepping outside of your comfort zone because admittedly, for a long while, a lot won’t feel comfortable. Why? Because it’s new and unchartered territory.

And while you are in lulls in between work instead of sitting around moaning that you don’t have work, what are you going to be doing? Preparing. Why? Because when the opportunities do arrive you don’t want to get caught with your pants down. You never know what might come your way, how senior the role might be, and what you are going to be required to know.

Part of being prepared might involve signing up at your local film school, but if that’s not an option economically, you will have to pursue to learn by doing the route that I did. This route involves learning while you are on the job, and from whatever sources you can get your hands on like this website. At this time in history it’s never been easier to get access to information. It’s at your fingertips. I recommend devoting as much time as you can every day to studying your craft.

I know a guy that is obsessed with filmmaking. All he does is read the Hollywood Reporter, watch movies, and read every website on the planet with information about making films, what is currently in production, who is working with who, what is failing, what is succeeding and everything in between. He lives and breathes film and is probably reading the daily sales figures while he’s eating dinner. I’m not suggesting you become obsessive compulsive, but a little bit of this passion and commitment never hurt anybody. If this is what you want to do then preparing yourself, and equipping yourself with knowledge will never go to waste.

And I am the first to admit when you are new at something the fact exists that you don’t know what you don’t know. In other words, how do you know what you don’t know until you happen upon a situation that throws a light on it? Sometimes we are good at flubbing, and can cover up and go away and find out the answer. Sometimes things are happening in the moment, and we have to know the answer NOW. This is never a good position to be in and the only way I can think to remedy it is by gaining experience…. real life experience, by shadowing someone who does have the answers.

Of any learning you are going to do, what will stick in your brain the most, and have the biggest impact, is seeing things in action. By being on a set, seeing what problems crop up, and how they are handled. If you can beg and plead your way onto a set to shadow someone in the field you wish to be working in I highly highly recommend it. And this does not have to be a huge studio production. Kudos to you if you can pull it off, but any old set will do.

Don’t discount the value of spending time on the set of a commercial, or a music video, or a corporate video, or a short film running on a micro budget. Doesn’t matter how big and flashy it is. The same issues, and the same procedures will be followed, and the same level of professionalism expected. I would say the vast majority of friends I know in the business have never once been approached to have someone shadow them. You’d be surprised what a novelty it is to be asked so don’t discount this. People might be willing to entertain your request.

And as you’re moving up don’t discount any work opportunity. Heck I spent a summer making karaoke videos! It introduced me to the realities of what goes into making a production, so I was less green when my first shot on a television series arrived. I wasn’t so scared and intimidated because I had a bit of preparation, and knew what to expect. There were no disasters because I saw the potential for them before they happened. Common sense comes into play, but also if you’ve seen a situation happen in real time, and saw how it was handled, you can see the smoke before flames erupt and do something about it.

There are a lot of ways to prepare yourself, but the most important obviously is getting opportunities to practice your craft. Take whatever you can get! Yes most won’t pay much, if anything at all, but that’s the reality of building a resume and body of work. You learn so much by the act of doing, and it’s the only way you are going to improve and get better.

So that is my advice to you. Prepare, prepare, prepare…and then prepare some more. Don’t let complacency and negativity take your brain over, telling you it’s never going to happen so why waste your time? I’ve seen plenty of people do this, their shot did arrive, but they weren’t prepared to handle it, and someone else got the job instead. Sometimes buses are late, but with enough persistence and waiting they do eventually turn up. Be ready to step on board, whip out your money, and take your seat. Don’t be the idiot who doesn’t have enough loose change to pay the driver, and be asked to step off again. While you are waiting you should have been counting your currency, and if you didn’t have enough you should have gone and got some more. Knowledge is currency, talent is currency, experience is currency – gain what you can while you can. There’s lots of ways to prepare. Ask yourself what you are currently not doing and make it a point to go do it.

Katherine Di Marino

About Katherine Di Marino

Beginning her career in 1994 as the Producer’s Assistant on the TV series Highlander, Katherine was eventually awarded an Associate Producer mentorship by the CMPA on the Showtime series Dead Man’s Gun. She went on to gain a broad knowledge base throughout her work at Peace Arch Entertainment and Omnifilm Entertainment in the areas of development, production and business affairs. During her career she has been involved on many projects including Francis Ford Coppola’s sci-fi series First Wave, David Steinberg’s comedy series Big Sound, the ½ hour dramedy Robson Arms, five Lifetime Network movies, the animated series Pirate TV, along with nine documentaries. She also did two stints at Creative BC as an Analyst. She has done work for over 20 broadcasters and won numerous international awards. Katherine just produced the movie “Rio Heat” – a Canadian/Brazilian co-production featuring Harvey Keitel.