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PGA Job Forums: "Hire" Ground
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The PGA East Non-Fiction Job Forum
Whether you’re sitting at a PGA Job Forum table or making the rounds conducting interviews, you can count on being dazzled by the producing talent on display. Participants perfect their "elevator pitches” so well that by the time the fourth interviewer comes around, tablemates can do each other’s spiels. You may think it’s hard to connect that quickly, but we all know first impressions play a huge part in any job interview.

For the uninitiated, a PGA job forum presents an opportunity for one-on-one face time between promi- nent employers and numerous qualified producers, executive producers, line producers, APs, field/segment producers, post producers, production managers and production supervisors. On the West Coast, up to 100 members take part; events held through the PGA East are slightly more intimate, with participation capped at 55 members.

These popular events were inaugurated in Los Angeles in 2003, when the West Coast Employment Committee embarked on its quest to showcase the Guild’s talented members to the major employers in our industry. The Job Forums quickly became one of the major benefits to being a member of the Producers Guild, and the format migrated east later that year.

The event’s format is often compared to speed dat- ing. Participating PGA members sit in groups, where they are joined by a potential employer. Members at the table get a chance to market themselves for two minutes — it’s longer than you think — a great way to hone your interview skills. It’s a format that forces you to be direct about how you’re a good fit for the person in front of you, and they listen intently as they have only two minutes to suss you out. After a prescribed amount of time, a bell sounds, and the employers rotate to the next table.

Alex MacDowell, Director of Production Management at AETN, greets a table at the 2010 PGA East Non-Fiction Job Forum

In the course of one event, employers meet scores of experienced PGA professionals and leave with a binder brimming with resumes — a fantastic resource to staff up their next project. For PGA members, besides the obvious benefit, it’s also a chance to find out what employers are looking for — and network with lots of their fellow PGA members. (You never know where your next job will come from!) The event is a win-win for everyone involved.

Over the course of a year, the Employment Committees organize separate job forums for separate categories of production. On the West Coast, employ- ers are eagerly signing up for the Episodic/Scripted TV Job Forum, which will be held Saturday, January 29. Representatives from ABC, CBS, NBC, Comedy Central and Sony TV to name but a few, are already lined up to make their acquaintance with dozens of PGA members. The PGA East’s Job Forum for Scripted Production takes place in the fall.

PGA members who work in reality and non-fiction can look forward to their own job forum, held in the spring on both coasts, with a second non-fiction forum under consideration for later in the year in Los Angeles. This forum is regularly used as a resource by such companies as Mark Burnett Productions, FremantleMedia, Endemol, E!, OWN and many more. Feature film and long-form television are given a separate forum in Los Angeles, usually in October, with past attendees including representatives from Warner Bros., Walt Disney Pictures, Morgan Creek and Miramax.


Employer and PGA East Vice Chair Mark Marabella (second from right) of Marabella Productions meets with members Stephen Palgon, Mitchell Scherr, Cindy Younker, Patrick Denzer and Laura Marini
There are some important differences between the coasts. On the West Coast, the events are more regimented, allowing for more precise specialization. Depending on the forum, the employers a member will meet will work in either scripted TV, non-fiction TV or motion pictures & long-form projects. The looser East Coast events allow for more "cross-pollination,” inviting producers from different platforms and media to the same event. (i.e., so long as your production fits the "scripted” label, the company is welcome at the forum.) For instance, many New York members who work primarily in non-fiction TV also work in no-budget film; the PGA East Scripted Job Forum represents a chance to meet line producers and EPs from bigger-budget films and TV shows and learn a little more about how they can get a leg up in the scripted world. According to Committee members, those events tend to feel something more like group networking at the tables, rather than individual mini-interviews. (The Committee is quick to note that those forums still have resulted in members getting hired!)

The respective Employment Committees approach each Job Forum with a few goals in mind. Job interviews — even just reaching out — can be really stressful and scary, and the upbeat atmosphere at our events alleviates that on both sides of the table.

The obvious goal is getting people jobs, of course, but long-term contacts factor in as well. Especially in this economy, it’s hard to find companies that have openings right at the time of a job forum, so it’s a great way for them to add to their stable of freelancers and have an instant list of names to call upon when they do have openings. For members, it’s not only about looking for an immediate job, but also build- ing up relationships that could lead to something down the road, sometimes creating mentorship opportunities. Many attendees have followed up with informational interviews. Some have been referred by interviewers to other colleagues who are hiring.

Another important goal is to give members more options in their job searches. As productions get smaller and the landscape of the industry changes, it’s important for producers to understand how they can tailor their work experience and skills to different employers and productions. At a job forum, members have the opportunity to meet employers they might not have considered approaching, and hear about opportunities where they didn’t even think to look.

As the industry continues to evolve, the Job Forums will, too. We’ll always strive to reflect the work that’s out there and to provide our members with a variety of opportunities. In this effort, both Committees have expanded their slates of events. Because the film community hires differently than TV and new media, the West Coast Employment Committee successfully experimented with a "Targeted Tuesday” event — a more informal mixer for our film-based members. Based on the success of the initial offering, L.A.–based members can look forward to more over the coming year. The PGA East Employment Committee now also offers a series of job- seeking workshops and a group of legal seminars, with even more programs in store.

The Job Forums remain one of the most consistently popular membership events on either coast. Employers reading this who would like their companies represented at one of our upcoming job forums — including the January 29 event in Los Angeles — should contact Committee Chairs Richie MacDonald (rcmacdonald@sbcglobal.net) or Beverley Ward (bdeliege@mac.com) on the West Coast, or Robin Berla Meyers (rberla@nyc.rr.com) on the East Coast to reserve a place.

On behalf of the entire Guild, we wish you a happy, prosperous and creative new year in 2011!

by Beverley Ward, Richie MacDonald and Robin Berla Meyers   
Photos by Lemia Bodden