This post wasn’t scheduled. This wasn’t part of my blog calendar or even something that I thought I would write about at all but I am just so floored by the lack of professionalism that so many people have when applying for jobs on craigslist that I decided this needed to be written. I hire people from Craigslist all the time and I’m going to show you exactly how to book film jobs on Craigslist. In fact, as horrible as Craigslist can be, I have made some of my very BEST contacts in the industry through the platform.
Some people dismiss Craigslist as a site for bottom feeders or desperate people who don’t know how to get “real” work, but let me tell you that it’s also a place for hungry, ambitious filmmakers to staff their crew. Making it in this industry is numbers game, just like any other industry. The more people you know and have a good working relationship with, the better your chances are for growing in your career and Craigslist is a great place to meet lots of people quickly.
Some of my best relationships in the industry come from Craigslist – don’t dismiss it!
I am currently, today, hiring a sound mixer for a short that I’m shooting over the weekend. The short should be a lot of fun. It’s a quick, one-day shoot and it’s starring my whole family. I wrote it for my wife and kids and my DP convinced me to act in it as the main character as well. Partly because he believes in me and partly because we don’t want to go through the SAG paperwork and audition process.
I know that sound mixers are grossly underpaid. I get it. I totally feel for them. But I also know that if filmmakers like me are stuck with a $800 day rate to pay for short films that they would never make short films. I’m tired of asking people to do things for free so I’m offering a very low rate but it is by no means minimum wage (especially if you consider that most of my film shoots wrap at 8 hours).
The email that made me want to write this post
I did, however, get one very angry email from a soundmixer who told me that I’m spending way too much money on camera and thinks I should spend more of it on sound. He went on to tell me he was insulted by the rate and then told me that if I increased it by 250% that he would consider it even though the rate was still horrible. WTF?!!!!
Okay, I understand people sending emails like this anonymously, but this guy sent it from his personal account. I saw his name and he permanently just ended up in the “never hire” pile. First of all, I didn’t contact the guy, he answered a public post – so he has no right to be insulted because I wasn’t offering him the job – I was putting it out there for anyone who wants it.
Don’t assume anything
Secondly, if you’re ever going to make bold suggestions to a filmmaker without knowing the backstory in an email – then take a minute to re-evaluate because you’re making a mistake. The camera for the short is a very expensive camera, but we’re getting it for free. The owner/operator has become a friend because of a feature project we’re working on and we’re just shooting this thing for fun and to test out some lenses – so the soundmixer’s assumption that we’re spending too much on camera is way off. I pointed out to him, in fact, that the sound mixer was the ONLY paid position on the crew.
Okay, I understand people sending emails like this anonymously, but this guy sent it from his personal account. I saw his name and he permanently just ended up in the “never hire” pile.
Third, even if this guy was right, the tone of the email was so aggressive and petty that when he actually asked for more money I laughed. Even if the guy was the Roger Deakins of soundmixers I would never hire him. If there’s going to be attitude in an email – I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like on set with that idiot.
So, angry, horrible, attitude-filled emails aside, what is the best way to get a job from a craigslist posting? I’ve literally been on the receiving end of more than 1,000 applicants for certain jobs and let me tell you it’s very easy to wade through the B.S. when you see that many. Here are some tips for how to get booked from Craigslist as part of a film crew.
How to book film jobs on Craigslist: Focus on one skill set
If you’re looking to become a DP, then keep building out your kit. If you want to pick up work as a DIT, make sure you invest in the highest grade equipment for that job. Don’t do a little bit of everything, specialize in one thing. When it comes to your crew, people who invest in their gear seriously are taken seriously. I will almost always take someone with a Sound Devices mixer over a zoom mixer because one is a couple hundred bucks and one is a few thousand. The person who spent that much money on their kit is taking themselves seriously and I want that kind of attitude on set.
Also, those tools are more expensive because they generally have more capabilities. A DIT with a mid-level laptop isn’t going to be able to offload footage anywhere near as quickly as someone with a $10,000 tower setup. That time is valuable on set. Same goes for just about any crew position – the tools are expensive for a reason. That being said, once you have a relationship with someone you can definitely use cheaper gear when they know your talents will outshine the tools. There are a handful of DPs I have worked with who I would hire again even if it meant shooting on an iPhone – they’re that good – but it took time to build those relationships.
If you have the means to buy the highest grade equipment for multiple positions, I still wouldn’t do it. I would still focus on just one thing and save that money for something else. Once you get known as a sound guy or a drone guy or whatever you’re going to get more work as that role and splitting it up into multiple roles can be confusing for people.
Read every post you are applying to
When you apply for jobs on craigslist it’s obvious who has read the actual post and who hasn’t. Oftentimes I get generic form emails that don’t mention the job, the rate, the location or anything about the posting itself. It’s just a blanket response that they’re sending to every single post they find. I hate those. Even if it is someone with a great kit and great samples, there’s always the chance that they won’t agree to the posted rate because they didn’t even see it. Make sure you read what you’re posting to so you know if it’s really a good fit for you. If the film is shooting on weekend and you don’t want to work weekends, don’t apply. If the project involves travel and you aren’t interested in going more than twenty miles from where you live, don’t apply. You’re just wasting your time as well as the people posting the ad – it’s a lose lose for everyone.
Answer any specific questions the post may ask
I usually ask specific questions in my posting for two reasons
- I want to make sure the person actually read the post
- I usually have specific questions that actually need to be answered
While I don’t trash every email that doesn’t respond to my questions in the post, I definitely answer those last. Usually with the amount of people who actually respond I never get to those people though if I’m being honest. Sometimes the question is quite simple like “tell me a little bit about yourself” and sometimes it’s more involved and has some technical stuff but either way – I want to actually know I’m not getting a form letter.
In fact, even if the post you are replying to doesn’t have any specific questions, I would find SOMETHING in the post to address so the person reading it knows you actually read the thing. One person who just responded put that he lives near the shoot – that was enough to let me know he actually read the thing – it can be that simple.
Don’t include any attachments
As much as you love your resume and how convenient it is to have a pdf of your gear list on your desktop when responding to emails, please don’t include any attachments in the email. It may seem like an innocuous thing to include something that’s half a megabyte but when you’re sorting through 500 email applicants for something it’s an extra click and it’s a pain.
You should list everything anyone needs to know in a plain text email. Don’t paste in any graphics either. Just plain text email is great. That way if I’m looking at it on my phone or a computer everything is just right there in front of me.
Also, if someone is searching for a specific piece of gear in their email search box and your stuff is all in the attachments you won’t come up. There was one shoot where this was a real issue for me. I was hiring someone with the assumption that we were shooting on a C300 – then we had to switch gears and shoot on a GH5 – I went to my inbox, searched for “GH5” and found the seven guys who listed that in their kit and booked the first one who answered my call and didn’t sound like a lunatic (you do still have to screen for crazy – it is Craigslist after all).
Include your gear and portfolio links and keep them really clean and simple
No matter what job you’re applying for and no matter if the posting asks for it or not I think everyone should include their gear and portfolio links at the bottom of the application in a neat little package. I don’t need to see 90 credits unless their studio films – I just need to see 4-6 links of good work. That’s it.
With all that knowledge in mind, here’s what an ideal application for a sound mixer looks like for a post that is listed for a short film about a psychic kid that has a rate of $300/day.
I’d be thrilled to work on your short film. Two of my favorite films are Sixth Sense and Poltergeist and this sounds like it’s right up that alley. Your rate of $300/day works for me. If you’d like to talk out any details feel free to call or text me at my information below.
Name of Boom Mic
Name of Lav Mics (x4)
Name of Sound Mixer/Recorder
Name of Boom Pole
Name of Blimp/DeadCat
Timecode or other accessory
Soundcart or other accessory
Portfolio of Actual Work:
Soundcloud link to production sound
Youtube Link to webseries with great audio
Vimeo link to trailer of a feature
Soundcloud link to another track from a commercial shoot
First and Last Name
Email Address (cause Craigslist uses a relay that is SUPER annoying for follow ups)
Phone Number (don’t even apply if you don’t leave your phone number)
As you can see it’s not complicated to write something like this. It’s just a few lines and a moment of just being human. Find something you like about the project, act excited about it and provide info about your kit and links to show your stuff and ways to contact you. It’s really that simple. Showing some excitement for the film goes a long way with most filmmakers. Everyone wants to think that their crew wants to be there and having someone who sounds genuinely interested is a lot more appealing than an old pro who is great but has a stick up their butt.
You’ll notice that I also didn’t say anything about the price other than it works. If you’re applying on craigslist realize that there are probably going to be a ton of people who are willing to work for the rate posted. You can ask for a little more but I would do it over the phone and explain why you’re worth it via a call and not an email.
If the rate is far off from what you think you’re worth just don’t apply – but don’t ever say “my normal rate is” or “it’s lower than I normally accept but…” it makes the person hiring you (usually a producer) worried that you won’t give it your all. Also, if they want to hire you again, talk about your rates when they rehire you if you want a raise, don’t think that just because you put it in an email when they first hired you that it means anything – it just makes you look bitter and nobody likes that.
By the time I sit down to call someone from my craigslist ads I’m usually ready to hire someone. I’ve already checked out their reels and gear list and really the only reason I’m calling them is to make sure they don’t seem like a jerk. If they’re in a rush on the phone, are impolite, or seem totally cold and hard to work with I find a polite way to end the conversation, otherwise they’re hired. But in order to hire them they have to respond to my call – so be sure to respond fast.
I will typically wait an hour before moving on to someone else. I try to call in the evenings when I know most people are done working. That way if someone is on set on a late shoot they have at least a couple minutes to text back – if a person texts/emails me back within an hour I’ll always give them some extra time. You want someone who is punctual when it comes to film work so how fast they respond to my call is usually a good measuring stick to how they’re going to be to work with.
Don’t be afraid to follow up
If you have a great gear list and samples and you wrote an application similar to what I outlined above don’t be afraid to follow-up. I’ve hired people before just because they’ve followed up with me and their email was in my inbox right as I was about to make my calls.
A follow up email should do a couple things: it should reiterate your excitement for the project and restate that you’re good with the dates and rate. It shouldn’t be more than a couple lines, and it doesn’t hurt to include your gear list and links again so that the person hiring doesn’t have to look for your other email. Here’s an example:
I just wanted to follow up and see if you found a sound mixer for your short film. It sounds like a really fun project. I’m a fan of the genre and would love to be a part of it. I’m still available on your dates at the rate you listed and my gear/links are below just in case you don’t have them handy.
Name, contact info and links go here
One thing you can do to speed up the process by the way is have a template with your contact info, kit list and links ready to go. In Gmail you can use something called canned responses. Here’s an article that explains how to set that up:
With a little bit of effort (and I mean like 45 seconds worth of effort) you can submit the perfect Craigslist application that will stand out from the crowd and help you get hired more than most of your competition. And remember, as your portfolio and network grow and you learn how to land more gigs you can start to increase your rate and only respond to those posts that seem like things you are genuinely interested in. Now go out there and book some work!