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To be...or Not To Be...The DGA Trainee

So I get a decent number of mail throughout the year from folks inquiring about the DGPTP - otherwise known as the DGA Trainee Program. I normally take the time to respond to each one individually, but sometimes I get busy - so in effort to head off some of the emails, I'm going to compile a FAQ here and simply address the most asked questions. That said, if you found this helpful please feel free to let me know - or if you have any other questions not answered here - send 'em in.

Let me state for the record that if you're reading this page, you are likely interested in the program to some extent. To me, it is simply the most amazing program of it's kind. Anything I do in this industry from August 2009 to the future will always be a direct result of having been given one chance, one opportunity to work as an Assistant Director.

That said, the program is not for everyone. You've got to want to be an AD. There simply can not be any other desire. There's no room in your life for anything else. It's 110% commitment to learning, applying, contributing as an Assistant Director. If there is any small amount of hesitation - you likely aren't ready. Not necessarily a bad thing. I had known of the program for about 3-4 years before I applied - but when I did, I went full throttle and left nothing to regret. Nothing.

Below is a handful of questions that I have received over the years:

I was wondering if you had any advice for the interview process (New York/LA)

It's a job interview. Treat it as such. I spent two weeks just interviewing myself using a myriad of questions.  I felt like a politician.  I could take basically any question and twist it towards the answer I want - reminding myself to be clear and concise - not to ramble (something I like to do)  

Just be confident and prepared. Those are the keys.  If it's something you really desire, then make sure that point is made in almost every thing you say.  And in the end, leave nothing.  When I left my DGPTP interview, I had no regrets.  I replayed the interview in my head for weeks and weeks after the fact and wouldn't have changed a thing.  I was a bit cocky at times, but confident too; always measured.

You can't fake it though. If it's in your heart and you throw it out there, it'll show.


I was wondering if you'd be open to meeting with me for coffee/lunch/beers to talk about the program?

I get this a lot. And I like the celebrity aspect of the question. ha! But I try to consider myself a busy person (work/play) so the idea of meeting strangers isn't something I toss into my calendar - so likely not - but again...I do usually respond to any and all emails that I receive - some quicker than others - so I will at least entertain that idea. - If I answer your email satisfactorily - I will not turn down a coffee gift card to be used at a later date. ;)

I was hoping to get some insights from you about the process. I am sure you must be really busy, but I would very much appreciate your guidance.

The program is a commitment of almost military proportion (lucky for me, Ooh-Rah!) When you're working, you barely have enough time to sleep/video games/play/watch tv/enjoy life.   Don't worry about experience...  There are trainees who get in every year that have never stepped a day on set. 

In terms of applying, put a lot of work into the application.  I spent literally entire weeks...divided up the application into 8 separate weeks where I focused only on a  portion at a time. (new york application a little different than LA so I hear)    The whole key is basically "do you want to be an AD"?  if you do, the program is Willie Wonka's golden ticket.  But if you have any hesitations, then it's not the best avenue to try to work in movies/tv.  The program is built for Assistant Directors. 

All I can really say about the interview process is prepare.  Prepare prepare prepare.  I would spend 1-2 hours a day for two weeks leading up to the interview just asking myself random 'interview' type questions and then forcing myself to come up with clear, concise answers.  That really helped me. 

Just prepare.  Show them how bad you want it [to be an AD].   I really wanted to be an AD so it was absolute genuine desire.  I'm not 100% everyone who applies and/or gets in has that, but if it's in your blood to AD, then just follow those instincts and give it your best.

I know you are Trainee for now and haven't seen my application..... but what are my chances to get to the interview stage? 

No idea. I've heard the old-man tales about how between LA and New York there are about 1,000 submissions every year. And every year the class sizes are different. In 2009 the New York program took 5 trainees and the Los Angeles program took 9. So 15 out of roughly 900-1000 people.

The entire process from application submission to final acceptance was almost 9 months. Life goes on in the meantime. Just keep on keepin' on and hope for the best.

(personally, while waiting for the final call regarding official acceptance into the program I traveled to Ireland and Norway just to get away. Made a little wish at a wishing stone in rural Ireland (outside Limmerick) - got back to the States and received my "congratulations" phone call. To each their own, but I'll always wonder about that little two-pence I left on a rock during that rainy Irish morning.


Thank you so much! 

You're welcome. I am ever grateful to the program that has opened so many doors for me. Helping future candidates navigate through the murky-is-this-for-me waters is the least I can do. I continually work on projects that hire DGA Trainees. I want strong trainees who showcase our craft and our work in a positive light to follow in my footsteps - much to the same degree that I attempt to carry myself as I follow those before me.