As the website instructions state, you have to work for 30 days on a contract production in order to apply for membership in Local 480. But, productions usually look to union members first when filling jobs, not to the general public. The reality of working in the film industry is that most people are hired because of who knows them and the quality of their work. If you do not have any contacts in the Local, it can be very difficult to get work on a show. We have provided some tips here, but we ask that you do not contact the Local 480 office for further advice as there is nothing more we can tell you.
- If there are more productions than can be crewed from Local 480 members, the Local will send email blasts for specific jobs to the entire Overflow List. If you have the skills to perform a job and you are available, then reply to the email blast, following the directions given exactly. All replies will be forwarded to the production looking for crew, and the production decides whom to hire. You might reply to dozens of job blasts without getting a call to work, so you must be persistent. Only send one reply per blast.
- If you know a member of Local 480, you should let that member know that you are on the Overflow List and available to work. The Local cannot provide you with contact information for its members, but if you know a member well enough, then you should put the word out that you want to work.
- Put in the time to attend the Local’s general membership meetings and outreach events. You may have an opportunity to network with union members at these events and that could eventually lead to a job for you. But please remember that the Local 480 office staff has zero influence over who works on productions. Also, the office staff are not members of Local 480, so attempting to “network” with them will not be helpful.
- Consider working in other, non-union capacities on productions, such as a background actor or a Production Assistant (PA). You can find out information about casting for background on the website of the New Mexico Film Office, nmfilm.com. Working as background or as a PA will familiarize you with working on set and afford you the chance to watch film crews at work.
*These are not 480-covered crafts and do not count toward your union days worked.
- Local 480 has numerous outreach events that need volunteers, and you can earn days toward union membership by volunteering. You may also meet union members or gain skills that would be useful on set if you volunteer. The outreach program will send emails if volunteers are needed for specific events, or you can email outreach@ iatselocal480.com to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Events may also be listed in the Calendar section of the Local 480 website.
- Do your homework by researching what each Local 480 craft actually entails. Consider taking classes at a community college or online to expand your skill set.
- The Local 480 office staff cannot give you information about which productions are shooting or how to contact them. Nor can they give you contact information for members or tell you who is working on a production.
- No matter how skilled you are and no matter how much you want to work on movies, being on the Overflow List is not guaranteed to get you much work. That is, unless someone in a hiring position knows you. That is the reality of working in this industry in New Mexico or anywhere else. Complaining that this is “unfair” or a “catch-22” will not be helpful, nor will it endear you to union members who might one day hire you. People join the union every month.
- Take a hard look at your resume and how you are responding to job blasts to see if you are coming across as negative or clueless. Here are some examples of things to avoid:
A reply to a request for a Payroll Accountant that says, “I have never worked as an accountant, but…” No one will ever read the rest of your reply, and you have betrayed your ignorance of a Payroll Accountant’s function, which is not the same as an accountant’s. Know what each job entails.
Don’t come across as whiny or desperate; don’t mention how badly you need the job.
Don’t point out how long it’s been since you’ve worked or how many times you’ve responded to job blasts with no result.
- On-the-job training is uncommon, so don’t expect it or get angry when you don’t get it. The Local occasionally offers or advertises specific craft training courses, but it is still up to you to become knowledgeable and skilled in your craft(s).
- Attitude matters more than anything else. No matter how skilled you are at carpentry or makeup or data entry or sewing, you will not work very much if you act entitled, get angry easily, talk too much on set, contradict your supervisor, refuse to do what’s asked of you, or whine about the work, your coworkers, the weather, or anything else.
- If you have attempted for a year to get work on productions and are having no success, maybe this is the time to consider whether the film business is the right one for you. If you do succeed in joining Local 480, you will have ongoing, lifetime financial obligations that you must pay, even if you never work. And remember that the Local will not find work for you — the Local will represent you when you are working, and will give members information about productions and jobs, but film workers are essentially freelancers who must market themselves and may go weeks or months between jobs. Are you prepared to do that for the rest of your working life? If not, this is not the right industry for you.
We don’t want to discourage motivated, enthusiastic people from trying to join the Local, and clearly it is not an impossible task– the Local’s membership has grown by over a third in the past 5 years. What matters is that you go into this work with your eyes open, knowledgeable and informed about what will be expected of you.