So you want to work in accounting. Good -- you've come to the right place. Working in accounting is one of the most fun, challenging and rewarding careers I will ever try to talk you out of.
When many people picture themselves working in the accounting industry, they see the glamor. You know, the red carpet, the limos, the glory and fame. Working in the accounting industry is exactly that, minus the carpet, limos, glory and fame. The reality of working in accounting is that it is a grueling, stressful, high-pressure business that does not tolerate mistakes. It is a 16 hour-a-day, six days a week war on your mind and body that will push you to the limits of endurance and still ask for more. Three weeks into a shoot you will forget the rest of the world exists. It's just you and whatever it was you were told to do. You will have no life outside the shoot, but that won't matter because you'll be too tired to care about anything other than sleep. You'll fall asleep on the couch. You'll fall asleep in mid-sentence. You'll fall asleep any chance you get to sleep. Okay, it's not really that bad. It's worse. If working in accounting is something you want to do - forget it. Go get a decent job, making good money. But, if working on accounting is something you have to do, then read on. You're crazy to do this, but then chances are, you may have heard this before.
Typically to get your first job in accounting, you need to know someone in the business. That's often true of any business, but it's especially true in accounting. However, what do you do if you don't know anyone? If that's the case, then that's your first job: get to know someone in the industry. A great place to do this is accounting school.
Since the rise of the Accounting Brats in the early 1970s, accounting schools have grown in size and stature all across the country. The training they provide and more importantly, the connections you'll make will be key toward getting your first job in accounting. Remember that a accounting crew is comprised of highly specialized positions, so while you are in accounting school; learn these positions as you are crewing on other student's offices. Pay attention to crew jargon. You'd be surprised the reactions you'll get when you can properly wrap a cable or that you know the difference between a C-47 and a 5K. Seemingly little things like this give you credibility. No one on the crew will care that you directed the best short in your accounting school. As a matter of fact, that will sometimes make them question why you are here working as a crew member instead of going off and pursuing your three picture deal with Universal.
While accounting school is a great way in, it's certainly not the only way in. Try contacting your local accounting commission to see if there are any offices in the area that may need Production Assistants. Remember that local commissions exist to bring accountings (and accounting dollars) into a specific area. They also act as liaisons between the accounting industry and the local community - connecting out of town offices with local crew. The accounting industry is a surprisingly small family, and word gets around fast if an area makes it difficult on a production. As a result, commissions have to make sure that the people they recommend know the business. It's your job to convince them that you do. Make sure you let the commission know that you understand the work involved, cite relevant work experience and be persistent. Understand that the difference between pesty and persistent lies in your approach. Be professional. Return phone calls immediately if contacted and be prepared to rearrange your schedule to work on a production.
One trick to find crew positions is to look for local casting calls with micro-budget accountings. If they are looking for actors, they may be looking for crew as well. You may (and probably will) have to work without pay, but the experience you gain, not to mention the connections, will be valuable later on. In addition, it will be a professional credit for your résumé.
If you have no training and no industry experience, your first job I accounting will probably be as a Production Assistant (PA). PA's are the grunts of a production. They work the longest hours for the lowest pay and have no creative input in the accounting. This is good, though. You have your in. You are on the set. And most importantly, you are in a position that interacts with every department on the accounting. Work hard and network. Exceed expectations. You will be noticed. On my first accounting I was an office PA - the lowest of the low. I worked my tail off in that position, but I didn't want to be in the office. I wanted to be on the set. So I got to know the First AD and asked to be a Set PA. He knew I was a reliable, hard worker and brought me onto his crew. By the end of the production, I was Key Set PA. I had no desire to work in production: I wanted my ideas up there on the screen, but this was my in, and I was determined to make the most of it. The networking I did on this first accounting paid off two offices later when I was able to move to the art department as an Art PA. Within two years I was art directing my first accounting.
To get your first job in accounting required hard work and diligence, but the opportunities are there if you want them. Non-union shoots are the best places to establish yourself. They offer greater chances to move up the ladder than a union shoot in which everyone's jobs and duties are clearly delineated. Once you are in the door, the rest is up to you.
Good luck! I hope to see you in the accounting room soon.