“We’d need you to work as a local.”


I don’t complain about much. I’m good with long hours, I don’t mind working a little harder to get a show in good shape and turned in on time.  I can even handle parking blocks or even miles from a location and cramming into a shuttle with 7-23 other people to get to set.

Being asked to work as a local states away from home, however, bugs me.

What that means is finding (and paying for) a place to stay when you’re many hours from home, sometimes out of state or even the country working on a project.  It’s not uncommon in reality’s non-union universe, as it saves the production company money on their most tightly-budgeted shows.

Of course, for most people, it means shelling out for rent or hotel out of their own pocket. That is, unless they happen to have an accommodating friend or relative near location who’s willing to put them up for weeks or months as goodwill slowly wanes after too many nights of rattling keys in the lock at two in the morning.

I actually enjoy the road, though I’ve become fairly post-production-centric as the years have rolled by.  I live on the edge of Los Angeles, but have been put up on location over the years in great places like New York, Northern California, Vancouver, Nashville and even Texas on shows that not only provided me with a roof over my head during production, but usually a polite per diem (usually $30-40/day) to cover the cost of eating and purchasing incidentals.

It can be a lot of fun to be away from your hometown, but unless you’re able to secure a rate that makes it worth it to you, working as a local is, in my opinion, best left to the actual locals.

Reality friends: Have you had great or tough experiences working as a local or hiring people willing to work as locals?

 

 

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3 thoughts on ““We’d need you to work as a local.”

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  1. Hey Troy, didn’t know where to respond to your post so hope you don’t mind if I do it here. Working as a local is a great topic. I thought I’d share my experience. I’ve done it many times and have found it to be a fantastic experience. Now back in the old days production would actually pay for hotel expenses, and per diem. Today there are some shows that shoot on location willing pay for lodging, food and a per diem but that’s rare.

    I have friends who work in the corporate world where flight, hotel, and expensing such things as meals and transportation costs are the norm. They find it strange, if not shocking, whenever I tell them production companies won’t pay for food and lodging. They think I’m kidding. I tell them, no I’m not kidding. Production companies are too cheap to pay what they take for granted when traveling for work in Corporate America.

    If you work as a local you have to weigh the pros and cons. On the one hand, it’s going to cost you money to work in another city. On the other hand, you get to experience life a different city. And I can tell you there’s nothing more exciting than working and living in another city, be it six weeks or three months. I look at it like this: It takes money to make money. And why not have fun while you’re at it.

    You have to be smart about it though. If the math works for you, I say do it. I love to travel so working and living in another city is right up my alley. Ask yourself if it’s something you can do and if it will fit into your lifestyle. I’m single and I don’t have kids or pets, so for me to book a gig in another city is not going to cause any major disruptions in my life.

    Then there are the economics. If you accept a gig @ $2,500 per week, how much will you be out of pocket before it becomes profitable? If it’s a long-term gig, you can make a profit. If it’s less than a few weeks, you may end up in the red. I usually get the production company to pay for airfare. This way, if they extend you, and ask you to stay longer, you won’t have to incur airline change fees. I also request the airline of my choice, and give them my frequent miles number to collect the miles. We all know they won’t pay for business but I usually have enough miles to upgrade. Whenever I arrive to a city to do a show I know I’m arriving in style. United has non-stop Premium Service from LA to New York on newly refurbished 757s with easy upgrades. I always choose the flight number, the departure time and even choose the type of aircraft I’ll fly on. (I’m a airplane geek). Give them your prefered airline. Don’t let them book you on American or some other crappy airline where you will be miserable. It’s not worth it.

    As far as lodging goes, what I do is list my place on Airbnb @ $130 per night plus $30 for an additional person. I vet them carefully and pay a friend to clean and greet guests while I’m gone. And then I will rent a room from a friend in the city I’m working in, (I know a lot of people), or go to a site called Production Crash Pads. I’ve sofa surfed, and have also done Airbnb temporarily, until I could find a more permanent place while working in another city. The big challenges is the time crunch. Production companies usually hire at the very last minute. If you do book a gig in New York you’re going to have to put on your travel agent cap and make fast arrangements to find a place to live for 17 weeks. It’s always been my experience that they hire at the last minute. I once did a show in Miami where I met with the Executive Producer at a Starbucks in Studio City on a Saturday morning and was on a plane for Miami the following Monday.

    I once worked three months in Seattle on a show for TLC. In this case, I sublet my apartment for the entire three months and rented a room from good friends for dirt cheap who live in Edmonds, about 40 minutes north of Seattle. I took the sound transit express bus to work each morning — those double decker buses. I sat upstairs and enjoyed an amazing view coming into downtown Seattle each morning. It was so exciting. While everyone else on the bus were grouchy and grumpy about going to work, I was busy snapping selfies. It felt like I was on vacation. I used to work for The Walt Disney Company. One of the perks was 45% off anywhere United flies in the world. So I used to fly up to Seattle on weekends to hang out with my best friend Mark. I have a lot of friends in Seattle so working there gave me the opportunity to catch up with friends and explore all of the wonderful sites and amazing restaurants Seattle has to offer on my days off. I love hanging out in the Capitol Hill area and on days off spent time writing at the secret Starbucks.

    Unlike LA, the production company I worked for in Seattle was kick back and casual. Everyone was gone by 4:30. It was during the summer where the sun stays up until 9:00 pm. In Seattle, the winters are cold and dark so they take full advantage of the long summer days. I did so much that summer. Boating on Lake Union. Summer Barbecues with friends, buying fresh-cut flowers and fresh Salmon at Pike Place Market. I even treated myself to a weekend trip on the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, British Columbia. I have nothing but wonderful memories of working as a local in Seattle. TLC canceled the show after the third episode, but who cares. I got to live and work in Seattle!

    I’ve worked several times in New York. Talk about amazing. First and foremost, production companies in New York pay a much better rate than they do here in Los Angeles. In LA, they’re always trying to nickel and dime you into taking less money, and crying the blues about how they are on a tight budget. Whereas in New York, paying a good rate is never an issue. There seems to be more work in New York. In fact, reality TV is thriving in New York compared to LA. I’ve worked for Lion, Eastern, Jarrett Creative and Big Fish. They always seem to be looking to hire in New York. Getting hired is not as political in New York like it is here in LA. They hire based on your credits and references, so if you’re not a card toting member of “the white boy club” you will find gainful employment in New York. I have worked with more women and people of color in New York than I have in my entire career in Los Angeles where I’m usually the only black guy in the story department. Save your attacks Facebook. The truth is the truth. To that end, production companies in New York aren’t trigger happy like they are here in LA. In other words, you’re not going to get fired or get blamed for something you had nothing to do with. There’s a more professional vibe in New York and greater respect for their workers. And if things don’t work out, they will compensate you and not just throw you under the bus. I once did a show for Lion. The show was canceled before I started but I was already in New York and I had already sublet a place in Harlem. Don’t worry, it was in a newly gentrified area of Harlem so it was nice. The production company paid for my flight home, and gave me two weeks pay. That would never happen in LA. I made the best of it and spent a week in New York seeing the sites. In fact, each time I work in New York I make it a point to book my return flight home a week after I exit so I can enjoy a full week off exploring Manhattan.

    When I did Love & Hip Hop in New York I rented a room from friends in Astoria. I listed my place on Airbnb and got lucky because I had several bookings while I was in New York. I took the subway to work each morning as I do each time I work in New York. Working weekends in New York is unheard of, and I was able to explore Manhattan on my days off. Including one of my favorite places to eat, Fraunces Tavern in the Wall Street District. They have the best chicken pot pie on Earth! It’s one of the oldest buildings in New York and was once the headquarters for George Washington.

    I saw a few Broadway shows, and enjoyed some fantastic meals with friends at some amazing restaurants. Sometimes I would take the bus home so I could see the sites. You can’t really see much on the subway, plus the subway in New York is nasty. The buses are much cleaner and nicer. And heated. (I was there during winter). I also enjoyed taking the train to Montreal one weekend. It was during the fall, so I got to see the leaves changing color and it was my first time to Montreal where I enjoyed some nice restaurants, hanging out at Starbucks and I even stumbled upon a zombie festival. And while you do have the normal rush of addressing network notes, and last minute changes to cuts where everyone is running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to meet deadlines, you get to enjoy the perks of New York on your days off.

    When I directed Model Latina: South Beach, the production company was generous. I got a $50 daily per diem while filming in South Beach, plus they paid for hotel. And it was a nice hotel with a view in Coconut Grove The show posted here in Glendale so I was only in Miami for two weeks during filming. Again, I found myself enjoying South Beach not only during filming but on days off. We shot all over South Beach, the Seaquarium, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and one episode took place on a yacht where we spend the entire day filming in Biscayne Bay. Talk about fun! The EP rented a jetski and after filming we all took turns spinning around the bay. I will always look back on that time as a positive experience.

    So if you see a posting that asks, “Can you work as a local,” click yes. Because the odds are, they are not going to pay for your lodging because that’s money they can put into their own pockets. But if you can arrange your own accommodations and make a profit doing so, I would highly recommend working as a local. There have been times where I’ve turned down gigs only because they were either too long or too short. I don’t like being away from home for more than three months. And also, I really do love LA and I especially love the weather here. If you work in New York during the winter you are going to freeze your butt off. But if you time it out just right, you will enjoy an amazing experience working in the big apple or any other city in America. I have yet to work overseas but if the opportunity came up I would accept an offer to work overseas in a heartbeat!

  2. Hadn’t heard of Production Pads until now, but it sounds like an interesting resource. Also, it sounds like AirBNB has worked out well for you in offsetting costs. Thanks for sharing!

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