A few years ago I went to interview for a tv pilot with a company I hadn’t worked for before. We were meeting in a fairly busy coffee shop and as I was rather early, I grabbed a coffee and read my book while waiting, clocking the interviews several tables over. When the interviewee left bang on time, I approached the table and introduced myself. Unfortunately so did another candidate. The producer had double booked. Rather than asking one candidate to wait, the producer decided to conduct a double interview. Both eager for the work, we agreed and sat down awkwardly at the table.
The producer started with the other candidate, asking the first question on her list, then she turned to me and posed the same query. I began to reply and was abruptly cut short as the producer decided to give me feedback on my answer, highlighting that the other candidate’s response was more appropriate and eloquently worded. Feeling remarkably embarrassed, I flushed a deep red and was further mortified as she continued to give me such tips throughout the remainder of the interview. I was so flustered by the end that I could barely think straight, so it was with a deep sense of rejection that I returned home to lick my wounds.
‘We’ll be in touch by Tuesday,’ the producer had said, but truth be told I was quite relieved to hear nothing more from them. I got a few other projects on the go and was happily plodding along until about a month later. After an evening in the pub, I was merrily chilling out with friends and an episode of Family Guy when the phone rang at a quarter to midnight. The aforesaid producer was on the line asking me if I could come in tomorrow, that they needed an extra person at short notice. Through my slightly tipsy haze I could work out the essentials – ‘Could you be in Birmingham tomorrow at 8am? We need a runner. There’s no pay.’ I had originally interviewed at a higher grade, which I was qualified for, and there was a small payment initially offered. I politely declined and tried to get off the phone for the next ten minutes as she became increasingly insistent. Eventually she gave up, although she contacted me again several months later with a similar request.
Interview etiquette is really important. Not only with how the interview is conducted, but with the aftermath. If there’s a promise to get back to someone by Tuesday, it’s important to get back to the candidate – they may really want that job and be keeping themselves free in the hopes of landing it. There’s nothing more frustrating than eagerly waiting to hear back on a project, then casually finding out someone else has got the job, through Facebook, Twitter or even by seeing the job re-advertised.
Someone may pull out – a very real problem if wages are very low or non-existent and someone gets offered a fully paid project – and the producer may be forced to ring the second, third or even fourth choice to see who’s still available. It’s a small industry and even if everything goes according to plan, the chances of running into each other again are fairly high. I realise most producers are hugely overloaded in terms of workload, and it is quite simply the least important thing in a very long and urgent to do list. But it is important too and crew will be more willing to pull favours if they feel valued as people – and pulling favours is sadly what a lot of low budget filmmaking is all about.