From Theater to TV/Film-Part II
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
I had thought about trying something els earlier in 2018. Most people don’t know that there is actually a lot of working restrictions for foreigners who hold work permit and/or work visa in this country. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the intention of protecting your citizens. I only point that out here to clear misunderstandings that people have against foreign workers. Take me as an example, my visa was approved because of my lighting specially, I can not take up any work that is not related to my specialty field. It did not matter if I was starving, I would get deported taking a part time job at Starbucks.
From 2010 to 2017, I could see how my yearly income was increasing, from way under poverty line to almost equal to poverty line. That was a slow growth and it was surly not enough for me to have any plans for my future. It was extremely frustrating. The exhaustion finally out weighted my passion for theater. I didn’t want myself turning into a designer that is always bitter and jealous of others. Plus that stupid contract negotiating incident, I decided I should find a new stage and enjoy some fresh sceneries before I become someone that I would despise.
It was a lot of pain, tears and debates. Lighting design was all I knew and I was so scared to step out of my comfort zone marching onto a new path. Beggars can’t be choosers. When you really hit the rock hard bottom and drowning in the shit pool, any chance of getting out alive is worth trying. I did not come this far to just come this far. With all my hesitation, still, I pushed on and started the inquiries about how to get my foot in the TV/Film industry.
I was, and still am really grateful for all the supports I got through out that difficult transition period. A good friend of mine who had jumped form theater to TV years ago, methodically became friends with the electric rigging gaffer on her production, just to connect me with her. Later I learned, this female gaffer was the very first asian female immigrant that joined TV/Film technician union. Our first meeting, she gave me a full tour of their studio sets and explained all the thing they do. She was very kind and caring. Our conversation boosted my confidence moving forward.
It was a systematical process to start my new journey. After getting in touch with the hall, passing first screening, there are some certificates you have to get. Then you can finally be listed on the “available list,” which is like an official backup worker list. When the hall runs out of members, whoever are on the list have priority over other non-union workers. From all the stories I heard, it could possibly take months even a year till the hall send you out on your first job after listed. Also, if you want to join the union, you have to get on the list first to earn your qualification to apply. But they only accept applications when they need people, it doesn’t necessarily open up every year.
2018 was probably the very first time in my career that I felt the universe was in my favor. Not only that I got on the available list successfully in late may, I also caught the application opening sending in my resume for screening early June. Only weeks later in mid July, I got my very first phone call and went on my very first TV job. I was extremely fortunate comparing to a lot of others that have been trying their best to joining the union.
I knew that was only the beginning but never had I anticipated the shock and doubts.