Katy Finch, "Made in NY" PA Training Program
March 1, 2012 - As the program director of the “Made in NY” Production Training Program, Katy Finch has helped change the lives of the hundreds of diverse men and women, offering them access to jobs in the local entertainment industry. The program, which was developed in partnership between the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment and Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, was first established in 2006.
Describe your role at Brooklyn Workforce Innovations.
I lead a team of people that recruits, selects, trains and connects to production jobs people who don’t have access to the traditional entry points into the industry. I create the curriculum for the PA training. I schedule the guest instructors, field trips, the day to day classes and class locations, and I teach the introductory skills segments. In a sense I AD the class.
What goes into a cycle of the “Made in NY” PA Training Program?
We recruit for approximately six to eight weeks for each class, which means holding weekly open houses, reviewing applications and conducting first and second interviews. Then the candidates are invited for a day of tryouts, which involves some classroom time and also some field work. Those who get through all of that are offered a spot in our class. We typically accept seven to eight percent of those who apply; last year we received 800 applications and enrolled 67 people.
The training lasts four and a half weeks. The first week focuses on basic PA and workplace readiness skills; the second week is focused on set PA skills like walkie drills, trucks, G&E equipment, talent and locations paperwork and problem solving on set. The third week we focus on production office skills and resumes, and we visit some sets and stages. The fourth week students are placed on week-long internships, and then they return to the classroom for two days to update their resumes and cover letters, practice interviewing, and then they have graduation.
Then the work really begins. Our office also serves as a hub for productions to hire trained production staff. Our phone is on 24/7, and we continually work with television shows, commercials and film productions to help match their needs with the skills and experiences we know exist in our ever-growing pool of training graduates.
What are some of your most memorable moments from the program?
Bumping into alumni when passing productions on the streets of New York, seeing past students’ names in the credits on some of my favorite movies and TV shows and having wonderful guest speakers visit us such as David Picker and Michael Pinkney.
What would you like productions filming in the City to know about the program? How can they get involved?
Our graduates are rigorously selected and screened. All of the training is done by people who have worked and continue to work in the business. We do not train budding filmmakers, or give people passes because they need a break. We graduate people who have been trained to be fifteen minutes early, always have a pad and a pen, to never sit down and that there’s always something to do. If someone does not live up to that standard, we will stop recommending them until they are able to gain references from other supervisors.
As I mentioned, we have a 24 hour cell phone because we want producers and ADs to call us when it’s 5am and their camera truck PA just cancelled and they need someone to pick up the truck in 45 minutes. I like to think of us as the emergency PA help line, and I hope people utilize our service in that way as well as for dayplayers and staff PAs.
Because we have been training people for six years, many of our grads from the first couple of years are now working on the camera department, grip & electric, as POCs, APs, ADs, art department coordinators, wardrobe coordinators, (and more). We currently have eight graduates in production unions, and I expect that number to grow exponentially over the years.
Passing on our contact info and encouraging people to call us when they are looking for good PAs is the best way to support us. I know that a recommendation from a trusted colleague is the key to getting someone new an opportunity.
What’s next for BWI?
We have a new program called NYDrives at BWI that accepts people as young as 18, which provides job readiness skills and also free driving lessons – we know this to be a huge need among the people we train. The goal is to get young people driver’s licenses. Graduates of NYDrives are then eligible to apply for our PA Program because we require a license.
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