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Actor John Moran, PGA Member and Producer Melissa Friedman, actor Rick Steadman and PGA Member, Co-Producer and Director Carrie Certa on the set of Smiley

It’s no secret that the job market has been down across the board. No industry has been left untouched by the downward spiral of our economy.  In today’s job market where there simply are no jobs to be had, what is a producer to do? We create work.

In late 2010, PGA member Carrie Certa was gifted a full camera, lighting and grip equipment package for two weeks from Action On Film Festival (AOF). Knowing she did not require the package for that length of time, she offered the gear to fellow filmmakers and called on her PGA connections to produce not one, but eight short films which would premiere in July at AOF.

Being out of a job herself, Carrie could not pay for any position or additional equipment so she did the next best thing, she offered up networking parties and the promise of connecting people with paying work. The offer was met with much skepticism, but after the first networking party, naysayers soon learned Carrie was good to her word. She recruited fellow PGA members: Melissa Friedman, Tom Koyyka, Mark Shelton and Giselle Rivera to produce these shorts to the highest level a zero budget could provide.

Yes, zero budget.

PGA member Giselle Rivera on the set of A Day In the Life of Plain Jen.

Did you just roll your eyes? No one can blame you if you did. We’ve all heard the stories (usually horror) about no-budget films.  But if you pair up extremely successful and capable producers, you’d be amazed at what you can get for zero dollars. For example: Three free sailboats, a motion stabilizer from Perfect Horizon, lunch from Chipotle (never underestimate free food), free locations at a coffee shop, entire office space, houses, apartments, cars, a two week equipment extension and, to go a step further, license agreements from LucasFilms, Manolo Bhlanik, Universal and Apple.  There was even a free bird! Yes, a real live one! 
These short films were not something these PGA members did in their spare time.  This was honest work in something we all want and desire to do: produce.  Carrie has a motto for her short films, "Produce with the heart of a feature”; these short films are no exception.  You can see the results for yourselves as Carrie, Melissa, Tom, Mark and Giselle will screen their short films at the festival, which will be held in Pasadena over the last week of July.

As far as the crew is concerned, you get what you pay for… right?
Over 170 people, including cast, crew, special effects artists, editors, color correctionists, sound mixers, composers and any other position you can think of, all came on board, donating their time and services. There was a large range of experience, from eager students to Telly, Oscar and Emmy award winners. There were no stops un-pulled to make these films come to life.


(from left) PGA member and director/producer Carrie Certa, PGA member and co-producer Melissa Friedman, bird wrangler Majed "Magic” Dakdouk, and actor Rick Steadman on the set of Undisconnected with Lucky, the bird (center)
The beauty of this project was that it provided opportunities for people that they weren;t able to find anywhere else.  Producers were able to write, direct and even act in some cases.  Because there was no budget, everyone had to get creative to make things happen.  Because of PGA connections the production designers were amazing!  One of the projects called for an after party in a hot club.  Well our hot club fell through cracks so our art department made a Church social hall look like the newest Hollywood hotspot.  In one of the shorts, they needed empty pill bottles as set dressing; this being Hollywood, everyone was able to kick in some of their current medications! 

Did these 8 shorts come with problems?  Of course.  This is production; there are always problems. Second, there was no budget, so of course there were many more roadblocks to get through.  In this situation it was a great learning experience for even the most experienced crew members.  But the happy ending to this story is the success of job placement. In order to help ourselves, we need to help others.  This way of thinking has been borne out by the success of this production series, contacts from which have helped to find jobs for no fewer than 25 people since October.  

The point of the story is that just as we all can work together to produce some amazing stories for all to enjoy, through these work experiences we also can help one another to find jobs.  As the saying goes, ‘it’s all in who you know.’  So get to know someone and put in some work, because you never know… it just may lead to your next job.