Many years ago I worked in television for a bit and, like everyone else, started out at the bottom.
I was a runner/gopher for over a year. That meant I had to feed the crews, get lunches, run errands, etc. Some people may think that would be a waste of time or “below me,” but nothing was further from the truth.
After I worked out an efficient system for performing my primary functions at the studio, I realized that being the guy who got lunches was like having a skeleton key to the building. An editor can’t sit in on a live broadcast in the directing booth, but a runner can if he gets to the building 15 minutes early in order to take lunch orders. A costume designer can’t sit in a writers conference, but a runner can if they are there to pick up scripts for delivery to the cast and crew.
Being a runner gave me immediate access to almost every level of the studio. If I was interested in how editors edited, I’d go early, tell them they get to pick the restaurant from which I’m picking up lunches, and they’d love me for it. I’d sit and chat and watch them work, asking questions while not interfering with them getting the job done.
I did this in the make-up department, the audio editing department, the aforementioned writers department, directing booth, wardrobe, special effects, lighting, etc. I used my job as the lowest guy on the totem pole as a school where I got paid and ate free meals two times a day.
The hours sucked and the pay was laughable, but the experience and knowledge gained were invaluable.
My father always taught me to do your best at all you do because it is a reflection of who you are. I took that belief into that entry level job as a runner and learned more in one year than any film school could teach me in four.
Don’t waste opportunities. They don’t come along everyday. When they do, don’t think about where you are today, but where you want to be in five years. No matter how insignificant your job may be. If it is in a field in which you are interested, it could be the best way to forge a path to bigger and better things.
They may lead you to be a story teller and years later, even a novelist.