Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Read Between the Lines of a Job Posting

As I've mentioned before here, I am looking at job listings on a daily basis.

After reading a recent ad, some thoughts went through my head that I thought I would share.  So below is the ad (I'm not going to put in the company name here, but if the job still interests you at the end of this post, let me know, and I'll send it to you privately).

Production Assistant/Videographer (these are 2 very separate jobs with very different pay levels.  This implies they are trying to get a videographer to work for a production assistant rate).

About the Job

The Company seeks a Production Assistant/​Videographer to capture and produce its premier online educational program.​  The educational program will be a documentary-style production, and we are seeking a team member who can execute all aspects of the video program, including sound, lighting, camera work, editing, and graphics (note that they now need someone who can shoot, edit, light, cover audio, and do graphics.  Yeah, I can do those things, but I'd never let you consider me merely a videographer or a production assistant if you're asking me to do all these things).​   Candidates should have experience with interview-style videography and should be able to produce (um, you just said PRODUCE here.  Not ASSIST THE PRODUCER, but PRODUCE) short films from start to finish independently.​  Production Assistant/​Videographer will not be responsible for the content, but will be responsible for all other aspects of the video.​  So that means you've got a content expert on board.  Great.  That doesn't make them the producer.  That makes them the content expert.  You're making this new hire the producer; let's not kid ourselves.


Strong lighting, sound, and cinematography skills (Now, we've moved on from just videography to cinematography.  This person should actually be called a Director of Photography, if that's truly what you're asking for)
Strong video editing skills
Understanding of video archiving project best practices Finally- something that sounds like a production assistant
Ability to work well under pressure
Flexible with changing priorities and deadlines
Ability to work under tight deadlines
The items in green above?  They've mentioned tight deadlines, changing priorities, and pressure.  This is a red flag that this team is unorganized, and you're gonna have to put up with it, because it's now status quo for the company.
Ability to produce, film, direct, shoot, and edit a course from start to finish
Must work well with other team members and volunteers  Oh no!  This could be the kiss of death here.  What do the volunteers have to do with you?  Are they going to be doing some of this video production?  If so, no wonder there's pressure, changing priorities, and the like.  You're spending extra time you didn't plan on cleaning up the work of the volunteers.

To Apply:

Please send resume, cover letter, salary requirements, and sample of your video work.​  Please note we are flexible with respect to location.​  This implies you could work from home if necessary.  It also could mean they don't have any equipment for you to use for this job, so if you need to edit from your home office, they're okay with that.   Where ever you need to be to get the equipment they don't have.

Sometimes jobs are certainly too good to be true.  Be very careful when you read job listings.  Try to see what they're actually saying.  If you read carefully, you can avoid a bad job choice, or a wasted interview.  And for you companies out there making these postings?  Shame on you for using these tactics to justify your inability to pay a fair wage for what you need someone to do.

This job listing should have read:

Educational Video Producer

About the Job

The Company seeks a Producer to capture and produce its premier online educational program.​  The educational program will be a documentary-style production, and we are seeking a team member who can execute or supervise/direct all aspects of the video program, including sound, lighting, camera work, editing, and graphics when sub-contractors are hired for those specific roles.​   Candidates should have experience with interview-style videography and should be able to produce short video segments/productions from start to finish independently.​  A content expert will be assigned for each project.


Strong sound and cinematography skills (I would note the cameras they're using here, if they own any equipment)
Strong video editing skills (I would note the editing platform they're using here, if they own any equipment)
Understanding of video archiving and media management best practices
Ability to work well under pressure
Flexible with changing priorities
Experienced in all aspects of production to either perform those skills, or supervise others in specific production roles
Must work well with others 

To Apply:

Please send resume, cover letter, salary requirements, and sample of your video work.​  Please note we are flexible with respect to location, as we are not able to supply any video production equipment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Follow up on Health Insurance posting

At the end of August, I invited you dear readers to take a health insurance survey (August Health Insurance Posting).  To jog your memory, this survey was aimed to independent artists, creatives, etc. that don't have health insurance.  Well, the results are in!  To summarize the highlights:

The survey found that:

Of the 3,402 artist respondents, 43 percent do not currently have health insurance. This is more than double the national estimate of 18 percent uninsured (ages 0-64), as calculated by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Of those respondents who do have health insurance (N=1927), 39 percent said they are paying for coverage themselves. This is over six times greater than the estimated 6 percent of the general population that pays for private, non-group insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Of uninsured respondents, the vast majority – 88% – say that the primary reason that they don’t have insurance is that they can’t afford it. 

Visit this page, or read the executive summaryfull report, or slide deck for a lot more details, including specifics about levels of insurance by artistic discipline, income strata, age, and location, and respondents' feelings about the changes in the health insurance landscape.

If you are an artist who seeks information about health insurance or the Affordable Care Act, check out This site provides links to an artist-friendly FAQ, resources, events and seminars, and a staffed hotline where artists of any type — musicians, composers, dancers, theatre actors, visual artists, filmmakers, literary artists, and more -- can call for advice and guidance.

During this time where there is so much discussion around how is unable to work properly and the alleged lies told by the Obama administration, there still cannot be any denial as to the need of so many Americans to get health insurance, and the obstacle of cost that is standing in the way.   When you see these numbers of so many more people (just from the survey even!) than expected that don't have health insurance, you can see why the demand was so much more than expected.  Does that mean we need to forgive the broken website?  No.  But it does explain how they could have built something that didn't meet the demand that was truly out there.

It's not a sign that the government providing healthcare options was a bad idea.  If anything, it confirms that is was indeed something that people needed and wanted.  Now, we just need to ensure it works as well as everyone needs it to, so that our fellow creatives can get the affordable healthcare they really need and want.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is there any market out there for DVD productions? The answer may surprise you.

I just finished creating 20 DVD labels for a job I've got this Saturday.

It's been so long since I made DVDs, I had forgotten where I stored the blank labels.

But I DO still make DVDs for my clients.  Even though I have gone through the efforts of learning webcasting, I know what makes a good webcast.  I also know when a good ol' DVD just can't be beat.

Webcasting is great for events.  Particularly for those events where you don't expect to get as full an audience as you'd like, and it would be even better if that audience had an opportunity to participate like they were right there.  So webcasting is a great delivery method for lots of kinds of applications---even weddings are being webcast these days so that Grandma can feel like she's right there, even though she's not able to travel these days.  She no longer has to wait for a copy of the wedding video.

But when is a DVD better?  Well, in this weekend's assignment, the DVD has replaced the VHS tape, but will serve the same purpose:  to provide a means of analysis.  Just like sports play-by-play guys yell "Let's go to the videotape!" to double-check a play and see what really happened, a DVD can be used to analyze performances and find room for improvement.  That's what I'll be helping with this weekend.  I'm creating DVDs of 20 marching bands in a competition.  I just set my camera up on a wide shot, hook it up to a DVD recorder, and hit the "record" button.  Each band director will walk away with a DVD at the end of the day of their band's performance so that they have something to yell at the kids about on Monday morning.  Glad to be of service.

So don't throw away your DVDs and DVD burners.  There's still a market out there.  However, those VHS sleeves and head cleaner cassette I stumbled across while looking for my labels?  Yeah, I think those can probably go. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The realities of "really cool gigs"

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.


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.


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!".

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back to School? Yes and No.

Last week, all the kiddos went back to school.  So did I, but not in the way you might think.  But it did inspire me on two fronts.

Primarily (please pardon the pun), the enthusiasm of all of the kids and staff is such a positive thing to be around.  I work for two area school systems, in their television departments.  I don't teach kids, I don't even have interns.  But I produce programs for the school systems' PEG channels, on an assignment basis.  So obviously, I'm more busy during the school year, then the summers.  When I get that first call, that first assignment of the new school's exciting.  One of the school systems that I work for has a separate building that houses our department, so I'm not in an actual school and there's no kids there.  So September 3 feels a lot like August 3.  But at the other school system, our department is adjacent to the TV production class.  And there's lots of kids.  They're all excited to see their old friends, to make new ones, and they're still excited about all of the stuff they're going to learn in the upcoming year to set them on their way to what they hope could be a successful career.  I identify with them even more this year.  I've picked up four new clients in the last month, all with work starting in September.  I'm excited about where these opportunities will take me.

And on the second front....about what I think you originally thought I meant. (Did you follow that?)  No, I have no intention of going back to school to further my education.  I have no desire to get a graduate degree.  To be frank, I don't understand why anyone in our industry would go after a graduate degree, unless they wanted to teach, and it was needed by their future employer.  Too many times, I've heard peers complain about not being able to find work, and they're assuming that if they get a graduate degree, that the work will follow.  No.  No, it won't.  Employers hire people based on their skills and experience.  They don't hire people based on their degree.  I promise you that.  An undergraduate degree is great.  There are fabulous programs out there that will teach you everything you need to know to get that first job.  That first job will get your your second, because you'll have gotten additional on-the-job training, and work experience.  That counts for SOOO much. Don't de-value it.  Another scenario:  you got an undergraduate degree, but have been having trouble getting a full-time job in the industry, and you're waiting tables instead.  How do you move into the industry from here?  You get the experience and skills you need, any way you can, whenever you can.  You're making money doing SOMETHING, so that's great.  Get some experience at the public access station.  Participate in a 48-hour film project.  Take some pro-bono work for a good cause and experience.  Then SELL this stuff on your resume.  Don't even mention the waiting tables thing on your resume.  Your resume needs to reflect the kind of work you WANT to do, not whatever the hell you're doing to pay the bills. 

The only time I go back to school these days is to do TV work, and make money. 

I do want to mention however, that "continuing education" is a whole different thing.  Taking classes to learn new software is fantastic when you can afford it.  If money's limited, visit

Friday, August 30, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes!

So, today is a bit of an anniversary of a sort.  A re-birth, even.

A year ago today, I was working as a government sub-contractor as a Webcasting Producer/Director.  The environment was pretty dysfunctional, but the potential experience and financial stability kept me there probably longer than was mentally healthy. 

Well, I was NOT in control of my destiny.  Very suddenly, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the production company that signed my paychecks told me it would be my last day.  The irony was not lost on me that they decided to take this action right before Labor Day weekend---a holiday that celebrates the American worker, and all of the rights that workers had earned for themselves through history.  I even mentioned it, as I was being let go. 

I had been thinking about what would be next after this position, but didn't realize I'd have to put those balls in motion a bit earlier than I expected.  So I went to a career coach, I re-vamped my resume to reflect the new skills and experience I had obtained on the government job, and basically re-invented myself to the jobs I wanted to seek.  I started cold-calling companies that offered these kinds of jobs and offered to train for free, in expectation that they would add me to their freelance pool.  Anyone who showed any kind of positive response (even if they didn't have an immediate opportunity or need) was contacted periodically, asking when a training opportunity was coming up.  As they say, persistence pays off.  I started working with three new clients within the first four months.  I also resumed my work with two local school systems as a video producer, and continued seeking more live event opportunities and webcasting opportunities. 

In the past 365 days, I've obtained three new clients for regular work, I was the supervising producer for the Regional Emmy Awards, I landed a retainer contract with a national association, and was added to the freelance pool as a webcasting producer for a large DoD contractor.

Through hard work, persistence, and help from my career counselor , I've re-invented myself to even better opportunities than I left a year ago. 

Labor Day celebrates all of the many ways that one can earn a living- whether as an employee, an independent contractor, or an entrepreneur.  I think it also celebrates the many ways that one can FIND the ways that they can earn a living.  These are not the same thing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Freelancing and Health Insurance

Today's post was inspired by a survey that's currently in the arts community about health insurance.  I encourage you (if you're reading this before August 31, 2013) to participate in the survey.  Here's the link: 

Now, here's my story.

I have been freelancing for over 10 years.  One of the obstacles my husband and I had to deal with when we both decided to be self-employed was health insurance.  Well, when I started freelancing, he owned his own company.  He had employees.  I could get coverage under his company's policy.  Times change.  He decided to sell his company.  Conveniently, this came at about the same time that I took a contracted position with the government.  A position that offered me health insurance, and coverage for my spouse.  How convenient!

About 8 months later, that job ended.  I was offered COBRA coverage.  My husband, at this point, was working for a Canadian company, as their sole American employee.  Everything was new as to how to deal with this American employee and his health insurance coverage expectation.  A negotiation was made that the Canadian company would simply pay whatever premium we had on the COBRA coverage for both of us to have health insurance.  This was approximately a $650 monthly benefit.  However, we decided to see what other coverage was out there. Was it cheaper than COBRA?  Was it better coverage?  As we embarked on this journey, we were constantly turned down.  We haven't had any surgeries, hospitalizations, serious illnesses.  No, we were turned down because my spouse had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and I was 3 points over the "bad limit" on cholesterol.  I also had been checked for an ovarian cyst, which wasn't there, and my doctor had submitted a letter stating such, on my behalf.  Didn't matter.  We were now considered too high a risk to get coverage.

Money wasn't the issue.  We make enough together to pay for any kind of coverage we could get.  But we simply couldn't get ANY coverage outside of the COBRA coverage, because we were too much of a risk.  Wow.

We're now in a spot where my husband will soon be employed under another company that offers American benefits, including health insurance.  Without this life change, our alternative would have been to simply shop the new health exchanges in 2014, when the COBRA ran out.  I wasn't concerned about that option, when I knew we had it.  At least we would HAVE coverage.  The alternative would have been that we would be a more-than-middle-class family that couldn't get health insurance.  There's definitely something wrong with that picture.

I have trouble understanding why so many people are against the health care reform changes ahead for 2014.  I do feel that many of those people likely already have health insurance coverage, and won't even see any changes for themselves.  Sure, the reform act may not be perfect, but nothing else acceptable has been passed.  We can't afford to wait any longer for things to change.  

Results of the survey will be posted in September of this year, and I'll be sure to share them here on this blog with you.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lots of jobs out there...are you finding yours?

Well, I was doing my periodic purging of email from my SaneLater box (thanks, Sanebox!) and I came across some pretty interesting things today, in terms of my job searches.

Yes, even though I am self-employed, I am a job searcher.


1.-  you never know if your-I-will-give-up-this-freelance-thing-in-a-heartbeat-if-my-perfect-job-comes-along will be listed (this is like the I-know-we-are-married-but-if-I-have-the-chance-to-be-with-Matthew-McConaughey-we-agree-it-will-be-allowed-one-time-only thing)
2.-  job searching doesn't necessarily mean it's just all full-time jobs.  Proper job hunts include freelance, contract, part-time situations, too.  You can even filter for those!  So you can find your next client that allows you to get that W-2 situation, on an hourly basis, and defer some of your paycheck to offset the taxes you owe from your non-W-2 clients.  This is smart, actually, and I do it.

Anyway, I digress.

So, I'm a regular subscriber to  (which many video pros are), and I was shocked to see there were a whopping 142 job listings!  Ok, none of them were here in DC, but this is a huge number.  There's generally about 30-45.  I don't know if Mandy's done some crazy PR thing, or there's just a lot of openings out there, but this is encouraging, in my mind!

Then, while I was looking at my Dollar Stretcher newsletter, I found there's a whole section for 20 somethings there that included this great article about using social media to find jobs.  It's been my impression lately that young people don't know much more than social media, when it comes to their idea of networking.  I could be wrong.  But I was intrigued to see what those 20 somethings are doing that I need to compete with.  One very interesting job search tool mentioned was Glassdoor.  This can allow you to put in a company that you want to work with, and it will scour your Facebook friends to connect who you know that already is working there (or worked there in the past).  For larger companies, you can see salary info for specific jobs (all submitted anonymously by other Glassdoor users).  Seems pretty awesome.  It seems to have a lot of potential, and seems to be a good non-traditional way to research companies, and who you might know that works/has worked there.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's a Producer Anyway?

So, I got this question asked of me the other day.

I like to compare a producer to a general foreman on a construction job.

So, let's say you want to build a house.  The foreman has to ask lots of questions like:  how big you want the house, when do you want it built by, where do you want to build it, what are the most important features for the house, what kind of money do you have to spend on the house, etc.

After he gets all his questions answered in the initial process, he works with an architect, day laborers, inspectors, etc., to create the house you were picturing....within budget, and hopefully, on time.  His job is to understand all of the problems that could occur, and ensure all of the people involved show up, do what they're supposed to, and he also interfaces with the client along the way to let them know how their housebuilding project is going.

In the corporate video world, that's a good analogy to a corporate video producer.  In Hollywood, it's not the same.  Someone with "producer" in their name may just be in charge of the budget.  Or they're supervising the shooting days.  Or they're just finding a studio to show the film, and trying to get funding.

I don't work in Hollywood.  I work in DC.  When I wear the "Producer" hat, it's a lot of roles in one...but generally, I'm making sure my client's project is on time, on budget, and is "what they are picturing".

So it's not really fair to call a producer up and say, "I want to make a five minute video.  How much does that cost?".  Would you call a builder up and say, "I'd like to build a five bedroom house.  How much does that cost?"?