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For many, our struggle is not just to gain a foothold, but a constant fight to stay in the country. First, let me thank you for our tenacity and say good things will come. This is not an easy industry to break into and it has never been one that is tolerant of immigrants. There are many reasons to be discouraged, but far more reasons to be encouraged. We are keeping them in mind as we forge our way to a new beginning. And slowly but surely, the work is coming in.

I feel like I'm making a bit of progress on the work front these days, and anyone who has had to move countries and continents and zip codes as I have, has the getting-started lessons I learned at their disposal at all times — and not in a pretty way, but in a pretty piecemeal way, actually.

But it works:

Step 1: Play the numbers game

Message everyone. Use every social media platform you have. Find a movie, music video, or short film that you love. Then go to the credits and find everyone who worked on it. Message everyone and ask (politely) if they have time to talk. Next, find their other projects and reach out to everyone on those projects. This will lead you to other projects, so message everyone who is also on those projects. I would message 50 people a day. Of those 50 people, 15 will read your message. Of those 15, 5 will reply. Of those 5, 3 will call. And of those 3, maybe one of them will invite you to a future set.

Step 2: It doesn't matter how big the job is

Once you step on the set, the rest is smooth sailing. Don't be embarrassed if you have to start again as a PA. You have to earn a living and there's nothing wrong with that. Introduce yourself as the person you want to be, regardless of the size of your role. For example, I'm a writer-producer. And say, “Hi, I'm Sneha, a writer-producer but today I'm working as a PA.” Crews reward smart workers with more and more opportunities to work together. The more you are part of a crew, the more filmmakers you'll meet.

Step 3: Everyone loves the learners

Once you are on set, you will either be extraordinary or irreplaceable. We all know that you can't become extraordinary overnight unless you're a genius, but filmmakers want to invest in your potential. Learn, ask for room and tolerance to learn. People are forgiving of mistakes as long as they know you're going to grow. Talk to all departments, study them. Most people are happy to teach you and are very patient as long as you are willing to learn. Accumulate knowledge that you can use to advance your career. And move forward.

Sneha Mendes

Step 4: Define your intentions

You have big dreams. So do I. The great thing about film is that we are a community and we need each other to make things happen. So let everyone know about the script you're working on or the genre you'd like to direct in. It's a numbers game and eventually something will work out and someone will chime in. We all need each other at some point. It's only a matter of time before someone needs you. Remember that you add value to every project you're involved in. Keep that in mind and work with intention.

Step 5: Tunnel Vision Baby

There will be times when you have no money, your body will hurt like crazy, your mind will be sore. But it's okay to take a break, cry in the shower, or give up. Only you know if it's worth it, because you're putting a lot of strain on your body. But if you stay awake and are determined to become a filmmaker, the hardest thing you have to do is keep the faith. Things will work out because you're working hard. And hard work doesn't go unnoticed. For every “yes” that gives you the opportunity you want, you'll meet five “nos.” But trust me when I say, those “yes” are worth it and are what will drive you forward.

So friends, that is my whole secret. It's nothing big, just resilience. Money will come, networks will be built, connections will be made, if you have the guts to start this journey, you are already ready for it.

And finally, to all of you out there just starting out, especially those of you who are relocating, I am always happy to lend a listening ear, a shoulder, or some advice if you need it.

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