By: Sharon Sobel
I recently landed a gig with the NFL for Thanksgiving Day.
You likely have at least one of two reactions:
1) That’s cool! How did you get that job?
2) I bet you’re making a lot of money on that!
I will use this blog post to address both of these potential reactions.
NUMBER 1: HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB?
I don’t believe it is truthful to say “you can’t get a job unless you know someone”. However, when it comes to high profile jobs or shows, this weighs more than you or I would like to think. Several years ago, when the Washington Capitals started getting into the playoffs on a fairly regular basis, I had a contact with great connections in NBC Sports, who was working full-time at one of my regular W-2 jobs at the time. He was asked at one point if he knew anyone who would be willing to do some PA work when there were home hockey games during the playoffs. He suggested me, and I started getting called regularly. I’ve been working those games (only about 4 a year before the Caps screw things up and get ousted typically) for the past three years, but I’m definitely qualified to do much more than make coffee and help with craft services. I’ve been verbal about it to the folks who do the hiring. Not in a whiny way, but “hey, I’d love to learn some more about live sports production, and I have background knowledge to bring to the table- are there any other opportunities for me? Who should I contact?”. I was put in touch with the crewer for NFL Sunday Night Football this summer. I dropped the names of my best NBC Sports contacts and told them about my experience and asked if there were opportunities that might be a good match, if there were any openings. This week, I was confirmed to work as assistant stage manager for the Thanksgiving Pre-Game show and assistant bug operator for the Ravens/Steelers game on Thanksgiving Day. These are great opportunities, necessary to move up to other technical roles. I’ve got my “in” now.
NUMBER 2: I BET YOU’RE MAKING A LOT OF MONEY ON THAT!
Oh, my friend, how wrong you can be on this. I’ve learned this time and time again, and it is one of the great myths out there that no one is telling those high school students who dream of working on television shows. Here’s the real reality: THE MORE GLAMOROUS THE JOB, THE LOWER THE PAY YOU WILL BE OFFERED. I should also add “and the longer hours you will be asked to work for this crap pay”.
This is not an isolated reality. I have been in the business for almost 20 years, and I have found it to be true, time and time again. The stations/production companies KNOW that you will take whatever they are offering, just to be able to say you worked on __________. And if you say “no”, they have a line of people willing to say “yes”, so they don’t give a damn about your principles. Realize this. Accept it, or don’t pursue the work. I’ve chosen to not pursue the work, as I have more self-love than that, and my standard of living requires me to make more money than what they offer most of the time. Yes, I’ll take these NFL gigs and the really cool stuff when it comes my way, because yes, it’s pretty cool. But I also know it’s not enough money to live on. So this really cool job on Thanksgiving Day? It’s paying me the EXACT SAME AMOUNT as I was being paid to get coffee and manage craft services. And I know I cannot complain. I will enjoy the experience (I hope), and comfort myself by saying “Well, you usually don’t make ANY money on Thanksgiving, so this is good!”.
*Find this and more on Sharon’s blog Musings from the Maven