Work in any industry is always at least somewhat unpredictable. In the film industry, at least in the beginning of a career, this is especially true. Unlike other entry-level jobs, Production Assistants in film have no long-term contract or even a company to say they work for. Your job is only really secure for half a year at most, and even then, Production Assistants are hired and fired all the time (though, if you do a good job, the firing part shouldn’t be part of your career).
Thus, its vitally important for every Production Assistant and every wannabe Production Assistant to have a safety net in case things go wrong. This is especially important for those who don’t have health insurance/aren’t covered by their parents’ health insurance. Thankfully, I’m covered, so that’s an expense I don’t have to worry about.
When people talk about safety nets, they usually say you should have enough to cover 3-6months of normal expenses. This amount always seemed like kind of a stretch to me, until now.
Let me start off by saying that I consider myself a financially savvy person. Now, that doesn’t mean I have a bunch of investments (though I’m getting there) or things like that, but I keep a detailed Excel spreadsheet with my budget per semester, and for this job, I’m doing it month by month. Basically, I keep my budget in terms of each saving period. So for school, I only need to spend a lot of money twice a year (before fall and spring semester), as I lived in the residence halls freshman-junior year. Now that I have an apartment where big expenses occur each month, I’ve set it up that way. I like doing this for multiple reasons:
One, the peace of mind is great. I can see how much I’ve saved up so far, and how much I still need to make to meet my goals. There’s no guesswork involved. It also allows me to see exactly how much spending money I have, so I can’t overspend unless I consciously do it (and that does happen sometimes, I will admit).
Having this budget also allows me to see and plan for my future expenses, like rent, car payments, etc. and put money in my savings in the event of unexpected expenses.
For me, my unexpected expenses came in the form of a job offer in Georgia. With a little over a month’s notice, I had to find and apartment, get a car, and move 600 miles from Columbus to Atlanta.
Without the savings buffer I built myself, I don’t think I would have been able to make the move. Little expenses kept piling up—everything from plungers to mattress toppers. There is always something that comes up that I need to buy, and I won’t get my first paycheck for two weeks. Also, this gives me a buffer for the beginning of the month, when I have to pay the majority of July’s expenses on the first of July.
Long story short, make sure you’re saving. A little bit goes a long way, and someday when you need to dig into those savings, you’ll be glad you did. My savings buffer will be enough to get me through three months pf expenses with a bit of wiggle room if I need it. Had I not been putting money aside every paycheck, I definitely wouldn’t have had enough to be where I am today.