The "Boss Lady" of Inertia Films Opens Up About Life After Corporate America
"We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance."
- Harrison Ford
Allyn James is one of the reasons I have a career in Film and TV at all...
I met her when my friend Tommy requested me as his AC for "Being Bobby Brown".
Allyn was the Production Manager for that show through Inertia Films.
She got me work as a PA and AC the entire first year of my career. And since I transitioned into being strictly a Media Management Company, she still refers me for work...
She's also a wonderful person who cares about her crews and is dedicated to helping newbies get film work experience...
We were very fortunate to have her sit on our RTS Panel and give great advice to our Subscribers (and all the other lucky folks that were in the house).
And she is the perfect person to answer this question from Aja, one of our Rule The Set Members.
So I gave Allyn a call... and this is how it went...
(This is for you Aja ;))
Allyn: This is Allyn.
Afrika: Good morning Allyn!
How's your day going?
Allyn: So far so good, how about yours?
Afrika: It's going really well. I know how we love to talk... but I actually called you this time to ask you some questions.
Afrika: So, first of all, will you tell me the story of how you got into the business?
Allyn: Sure, well actually, back in 2008 there was a downturn in the economy and the company I worked for for a long time had a lay off.
I was not involved in that layoff.
I was actually laid off in 2011, first of the year. And at that time I just wanted to take some time off.
Later that year, a friend of mine who had left my previous company about four or five years earlier, found out I was being laid off.
She contacted me because her friend that had a production company needed some production management assistance, as well as accounting and office management type work.
So, I spoke with her and then spoke with him... That's how I got started in the film industry.
Afrika: So, you came from Corporate America before the film industry?
Allyn: I had been in corporate for about 20 plus years, pretty much all my career was spent in Corporate America. Accounting, Office Management and just general business management and department management.
So yes, that had been my career prior to coming into the film industry.
Afrika: Now you work with Inertia Films in Atlanta. Are you promoting any projects or working on anything now?
Allyn: Well the type of position I have is with a small company and in most small companies you play various roles.
I am a production manager, the office manager. I am the accountant... just numerous things.
But, specifically in the production portion of it, we just released a documentary "Liberty and Slavery" earlier last year. And so right now we're promoting that project.
Afrika: What is it like doing a film and promoting a film?
Allyn: Well quite frankly I've not been in that aspect of it. The producer i.e. filmmaker is one that primarily has been involved with most of the promoting piece of it. I handle more of the financial end.
Allyn: I handle more of the financial end.
Making sure that the DVD purchases go out and go out correctly. I monitor and track sales and do different things on the financial end of it.
I was in the film but don't really do anything as far as promoting other than going to various screenings and working in the business portion of it.
Afrika: And you were in the film, Allyn! What was that like being in front of the camera as opposed to being behind the camera?
Allyn: Actually it was enjoyable, but because I'm not an in front of the camera type of person, I've always been more on the back end of most projects throughout my career.
That's one reason why I'm in the back handling the finance piece of it.
But to speak to your question; It was interesting being in the film. I enjoyed it.
...But I could tell that it's just not something that I would want to do on a regular basis.
Afrika: I understand. I'm the same way too.
Allyn: Are you?
Allyn: I can see you in front of it though... but for me, I get most of my enjoyment from looking at what everybody else is doing. And from a budgetary standpoint and organization standpoint... maybe organizing a particular shoot from beginning to end.
Again on the backend and making sure that from a financial perspective everything is managed properly.
And then once everything is done I make sure everybody gets paid. I make sure the clients are happy when it comes to customer service.
I make sure everything went well, and the bottom line is, I like looking at the financial statements and seeing how much money we made.
Allyn: That's the fun part. That's why I don't necessarily have to be in front of the camera. What really matters is, "OK! What did we make off this project?"
Allyn: Was it profitable? And what changes do we need to make for the next one so that if this one wasn't as profitable as we wanted it to be what kind of adjustments can we do to make sure the next one is.
Afrika: That's so interesting. It's like I’ve know you for a while but I never knew that...
Afrika: That a big part of your passion is the financial part.
Allyn: Oh yeah... I mean people think it's boring but, from my perspective, that's where it starts.
Allyn: I mean you've got to negotiate properly up front. Talk with the client.
It requires good interpersonal skills, good negotiation skills, you've got to be able to listen to see what they want...
So that's the first part of it when a client calls in and says I want this. I have this project and I'm looking for someone who can work with me on it and they tell you exactly what their expectation is what their end result is.
So you work with them on that and you want to be beneficial to them as well as, I mean, we are a for profit company...
So you do that first and then you try to make sure you get the right people so that their project goes smoothly and, at the end of the day, you don't have to deal with complaints.
Allyn: And again, the most exciting part for me, is one of the reasons I was in corporate America, why I chose accounting as my field because I like looking at the numbers seeing "How did we do"?
Did we make some money off this project?
And again the primary thing, I'm able to provide reports to management or to the producers or whoever is in charge of the next project to help them make wise decisions so they can stay in business.
Afrika: Nice... OK.
Well we have a question from one of our Rule The Set Members because we've actually started a membership for Rule The Set where they get special information and VIP access to resources and major discounts and things like that.
So, this is from our Rule The Set Member Aja and her question is:
A person coming into film production from corporate America brings a ton of experience and knowledge that one wouldn't have if coming directly out of school. How can those experiences be utilized and translated to help someone.
1. Get started in the business?
2. Succeed in film and television?
Allyn: Well I would certainly say that working in corporate America helped prep me for what I do now on multiple levels.
In any position you've got to be able to talk to people. You've got to be able to listen and understand exactly what they're looking for.
And even beyond that, you've got to be able to speak with them in a way to make them comfortable.
So your interpersonal skills are important in whatever job or career you're in. I gather that after 15 plus years in one company and overall 30 years in corporate America.
And so that's one of the most important skills you can have and that helped me to transition into this position.
Your ability to understand numbers is important. Also the ability to negotiate, that's another skill that helped me.
Also organizational skills are very important. I mean even if you're a freelancer, you need to be able to organize your schedule to make sure that you don't overbook yourself.
You need to be able to organize yourself, especially, if you're a freelancer, so you're able to manage your money because you may not know when that next job is coming.
Does that answer your question?
What advice do you have for her just coming out of our PA class on how to get PA jobs?
Allyn: Well, what people mostly do typically even those coming straight out of college with a communication degree or with an arts degree specifically targeted at this field.
You basically do some research, depending on your location, see what type of film production companies are in Atlanta or whatever area you're in and start making some phone calls start sending out and e-mail resumes to those particular companies.
I mean she could put on her resume what she does what she has been doing, you know and I would list the Rule The Set PA Class she just took...
And again, target some film production companies. Target people that she may be networking with. Target some film and TV networks.
Just start making some connections that way and hopefully she'll meet someone that will help her get a foot in the door.
Because all production assistant positions are not the same. Some production companies just want someone to help lift some gear or to order some meals or something of that nature.
She can get in it in something that's not necessarily the top end production assistant just get her foot in the door. I think that that will be optimal just to get a good start.
And then once she gets in there and makes a good impression it can go from there. That's what I would suggest to just start putting her feelers out and connecting with anyone she can.
Afrika: That's wonderful! Thank you Allyn.
Allyn: You're welcome! That's it?
Afrika: Absolutely! That's it.
Allyn: I hope I was helpful.
Afrika: Very helpful! That's exactly the kind of information that she can use.
Allyn: Thank you.
Afrika: You are welcome! Love you.
Now, we’d love to hear from you.