The world was a better place when I was 19. My favorite superhero had finally made it to the big screen. Gas cost around a dollar per gallon so I filled up the same Honda I’m still driving today for only $12. Obesity wasn’t an epidemic in the country yet so girls in bikinis actually looked like girls in bikinis instead of resembling Thanksgiving dinner. Yep, 19 was a great year but the best part of it all was whenever I needed a job I could find one within a day.
Things aren’t as simple anymore. When I was 19, I was still getting into the industry as a PA. If you don’t know what a PA is, it’s the acronym for production assistant. PAs are the heels of Hollywood and are the first to show up onset to set up and are the last to leave. No one wants to be a PA but unless you’re tight with a major player, then you just have to go through it. As much as being a PA sucks it’s still difficult to land even that job in today’s market.
What made it was so easy for me to land jobs when I was 19 was because I only had to compete with the thousands of people who surrounded me locally. Even with those odds I still had more chances of standing out and landing a position. Those days are long gone since aspiring filmmakers now are no longer just competing with the thousands of other aspiring filmmakers around Los Angeles; they’re competing with the entire world.
My college students have an extremely difficult time breaking into the business. The odds are definitely against them since literally millions of people move to Los Angeles from all over the world every year with the same exact dream. And they can work for cheaper. To make matters even worse, so many productions have gone to Canada in order to save costs. It seems like you have more chances of getting into this industry if you were in Edmonton, Canada than if you were in sunny California.
Even the ancillary markets are plagued with this same concept of global competition. Say you have all of your computer software certificates and want to use being a production IT as your way in. Sorry, buddy, but there are factories full of techies in India who can do the same job as you for way cheaper. Say you’re an amazing illustrator and want to get in as an animator. Nope, Koreans got you there too.
The world has changed. You’re no longer going against just your friends and peers but everyone on the planet that has ever dared to dream the same dream. I see the frustration in my students’ faces and I really empathize with them. Fortunately for me, I already did the groundwork before the world became like this so now I can rely on my connections to support me and provide a steady stream of work. My students aren’t as lucky since they’re coming of age during the time of global economization, but I believe they shouldn’t give up.
Their challenge lies in how they’re going to find ways to make themselves shine to employers. They have to be innovative and create ways so employers warrant hiring them at their higher American wages. If anything, being up against the world is a good thing because it raises the bar on competition and makes current job seekers more resourceful than ever before. If the current generation is up to facing this task, then maybe we will see a future filled with undying determination and aspirations that will be reflected in their work on the screen.
For more information about Victor Phan, the founder of Torture Chamber Productions, click on the logo below