Is There PAID film work in Arizona?
If you're in Arizona or looking to move to Arizona and are interested in working in the film industry, you've probably thought about this question before. First off, lets make it clear I'll be talking about PAID work. Many of us have probably worked on sets or even had our own sets where people were working for free with maybe food as compensation. But let's be honest, that doesn't pay the bills for very long.
The short answer is yes! There is in fact work and in this post I will be going over what that work is, my experience in it, and some tips on getting into paid work. Here we go!
What Type of Film Work Is There?
Speaking from what I've experienced and heard, there is limited feature film work in Arizona. If you're local, you may of heard of Transformers 5 being filmed here a few months ago.
But for the most part, big hollywood films don't stop by Arizona simply because it's not cost effective. Other states like New Mexico that have similar landscapes offer tax incentives that film companies will happily take advantage of that Arizona does not offer. Additionally, local feature films are limited. They are often "passion projects" from local filmmakers, and if you're starting out in the industry, you'll probably not be getting paid, or be paid minimally.
On the other hand, there is quite a few television gigs you could land in Arizona, specifically in reality television. I have a handful of friends who have worked on a broad range of reality tv shows filmed all over Arizona. Just to give you a few examples, my friends have worked (and I played an extra) on a Discovery ID series called Women In Prison. This show pretty much exclusively films in Arizona (Why? I have no idea) and has been consistent work for some of my friends. I've also known people that work on cooking shows, live broadcasted shows like fights, and a number of ABC, TLC, and Discovery productions.
I've worked on a few reality shows as well, my most recent job was for an ABC game show called "The Great Christmas Light Fight." This show was only in town for a few days in October to film a family who was competing in the national competition. I was working as a field production assistant. Here's a blurry photo of the decked out house competing in the game show.
Aside from film and TV, there's a number of commercial and corporate gigs you can get involved in. There are always different commercials being shot from cars to restaurants, hiring local talent and crew.
How Do You Find It?
So it seems like they exist, how do you get to work on them?
Well of course knowing the right people and having a network is always the most important key. The film community thrives on connections. But if you're just starting out and don't know anyone in the business, it's not hopeless. There are a few online databases and networks that make finding a film gig simple.
The one crew network I'm going to highlight is Staffmeup. This is a website that focuses on connecting crew to projects. Everything from online video to feature films are posted on Staffmeup daily and with a free account, you can apply to 5 a month and view a limited number of job postings. With a premium account you can apply to as many as you want, add a cover letter, and view all the listings posted. Often times paying to join a network may seem worthless but if you're serious about finding paid work in Arizona, you should consider it.
My experience with Staffmeup has been pretty positive, even with the free account. I was individually sought out on Staffmeup and asked to work on the ABC show I mentioned above with the basic account. On that set I learned a trick to gaining more work with the network: pay for the premium to gain access to the production companies name and contact info, and then personally reach out to them via email or phone call. The likelihood of you landing the show right away by just clicking "apply" is unlikely, so going the extra step and directly contacting the company helps you lock down the job. Plus, after one job, the subscription ends up paying for itself ($109.99/year)!
Another network I'd like to point out is Movieworks. This website is most beneficial for actors. It is a casting website where many Arizona productions go to to find leads and even extras. Additionally, print work is also posted on there if you are interested in modeling too. You can open up a free account but you can't apply to be considered without a premium account. They have all kinds of different pricing for different time frames, so check out their website if you're interested.
Depending on what side of the camera you're trying to be on, both of the websites above are useful tools to get started in the industry.
What Do People Pay/Charge for PA work?
So that's all fine and dandy, but how much does it pay?
Alright well as you can imagine, these jobs range from almost free labor to upward a thousand a day, depending on the job and skill level. But let's just assume your experience is relatively low and you're trying to get any job that gets your foot in the door: production assistant.
From my experience, companies will pay between $10/hour to $300/day. Because it varies so much, I often have to outweigh the gains and the loss. For example, a reality TV gig was filming in Tucson for 2 days and was only going to pay $120/day. Currently living in Tempe, it was more of an inconvenience than a gain to take the job, so I turned it down. Other cases, companies will happily pay you your full rate and more. It all just depends on the company and the type of work it is. From my experience, corporate gigs pay a lot more than TV.
If you're new to working in the industry, consider taking a few low paying jobs at first just to get your credits rolling and gaining the experience you need to be a skillful crew member. After your resume has some bulk to it, you can definitely start looking for and asking for a higher rate, but I wouldn't try to only seek out the highest paying jobs at first.
When you think of Arizona, no one is jumping to say that the film industry is booming, but contrary to popular belief, it is existent. I'm still a full-time student so I haven't devoted 100% of my time to getting jobs, but I know of many friends who just graduated film school and are constantly working in the industry, so much so that it has lead to connections outside of Arizona which leads to them traveling all over. Once they're down with that, they come right back to Arizona for more work.
It seems to really rely on two things: connections and actively looking for your next job. Although that is true in any state you are in when working in this industry.
Thanks for reading/watching, let me know in the comments below if you have experience working in AZ and if I missed anything!