How I Worked for Directors at Age 17 (With No One Else's Help but My Own)
The Power of Reaching out via Social Media
Last summer, I decided to spend the day in bed and watch a variety of music videos on YouTube. I stumbled upon a brand new music video for an up-and-coming band I liked that I had seen in concert twice. The video blew me away, and, naturally, I scrolled down to the description and wondered who had directed it. To my liking, I found that the creator of the video was a female director– exactly what I hope to be one day.
I looked up her name, found her website, and further looked into other projects she had worked on, some of which were major business campaign commercials shown all throughout the UK. She also had one or two short films under her belt and an exquisite photography portfolio as well, but nothing major (no work involving TV or movies). Enticed by the vision she portrayed in her work, I decided to reach out to her not through her management company's email, but through her Instagram direct messages. Young, up-and-coming directors tend to not have large followings on social media, and, therefore, it is a lot easier to get their attention on social media rather than through countless back-and-forths with their management team. This method is also a great leg-up for anyone young (like me) because management may not take you as seriously as they would take an experienced adult.
Here is the message I wrote to her on Instagram Direct Message:
Hi ______! My name is Gracie. I'm 17, from LA, and I just watched your music video for "________________", which led me to look at your other work. Your films are truly incredible and I think it's so inspiring that you're such a creative and talented female director. If you ever are looking for an intern or shadow, I have experience from shadowing at Paramount and would love to learn from you or help out in any way possible!
That same summer, I shadowed for just a week at Paramount by reaching out to a neighbor of mine.
Anyway, she wrote back a week or so later and asked to meet up and grab coffee once she returned to LA from London that coming October (it was July when I sent the DM).
Fast-forward to October, and we were chatting over coffee in Santa Monica, CA. Sure enough, her hard work had been taken to heart by Netflix, and she had just finished wrapping work on directing half of the episodes for Netflix's The End of the Fucking World.
She was heading back home to London to work on a brand new TV show she was directing and had a strong amount of creative control over, so she let me remote intern for her during pre-production! My unpaid, uncredited (but more than happy to do for the experience) job was that I looked up stills from other films and television shows to serve as references for art direction, the director of photography, etc.
Although it was a small job and was done all the way from the other side of the world, I still made an amazing connection, got experience, and contributed (even in a minuscule amount) to helping make an up-and-coming, professional television series.
After working for her, I met another female director at Paramount in the editing room and got her email and such. I reached out and asked if she ever wanted any shadows, and, now, I have shadowed during various stages of production of a pilot for ABC (that is now being picked up!) and will be going on set to shadow her in Hawaii this upcoming January (at age 19)!
Just by sending a simple message, I was able to open doors to gain real-world experience in the film industry that helped me gain credentials to eventually work my way up to one day hopefully achieving my dreams of becoming a director.