It was during my first day of work as a production assistant (PA for short, a.k.a. “gofer”) on the set of a major motion picture that I realized I had almost entirely no idea what I was doing.
Prior to that, I only had experience working on small, independent film and TV sets with crews of a handful of people. I hadn’t received any special training to reach this new level. No one had shared a road map for navigating the entertainment industry with me. Yet somehow, there I was working alongside dozens of veteran crewmembers, celebrities and showbiz bigshots.
Then I thought of what Luke Skywalker said in Star Wars: Episode IV when faced with the seemingly impossible task of destroying the Death Star: “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home!” In other words, you needn’t have already done something in order to be ready to do it. I made plenty of home movies in my backyard as a kid and was an in-demand PA on indie productions, so I was qualified to work in the big leagues.
The same feeling applied to writing my first nonfiction book. Even though I’d never written one before, I had many screenplays and short stories under my belt. Sketch comedy videos I wrote and directed had gained tens of thousands of views on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/DanKidsYouNot). And I’d read shelves full of books by fellow film/TV professionals. How different could creating my own be?
Years of writing, editing and designing later, I used my forced time off from film/TV studios shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic to my advantage. I self-published “Gofers: On the Front Lines of Film and Television” at the end of 2020 and am proud to say that it went on to win the Best Entertainment Nonfiction category at the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Awards (indiereader.com)!
My “why” for becoming an author was to share veteran experiences and lessons learned with those considering the same career path—and retelling some hilarious behind-the-scenes stories from set. In keeping with that spirit of helping others take their first steps in uncharted territory a bit faster, I decided to create a short YouTube series entitled, “How Dan Self-Published His Book” (Youtube link to the series).
In each episode, I share how I navigated my first time self-publishing nonfiction. From querying literary agents and explaining the various types of editing to hiring a cover designer and getting my book on store shelves, I believe there are others out there who could benefit from the lessons I learned the long way. The hours spent researching how to handle interior formatting using Microsoft Word or get your book listed for sale through both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark can be mind-numbing. There’s so much information to sort through, so I did my best to organize the most helpful articles, blogs, websites and social media accounts into each of my video’s descriptions. And you can be that a few link back to other entries here on the helpful Nonfiction Authors Association.
When people ask me to sign their copy of my book—something I’m certainly still getting used to—I write, “Hope to see you on set!” But to sign off here, I wish you well and write, “Hope to see your book on store shelves!”
Daniel Scarpati is author of the award-winning book, “Gofers: On the Front Lines of Film and Television.” (www.passingplanes.com/book). It was an honorable mention in the nonfiction category of the 2021 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. He obtained his B.A. in Film Production and TV/Radio from CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, and now works as a film/TV crewmember and freelance filmmaker through his company, Passing Planes Productions LLC. You can tune into his videos on YouTube at www.youtube.com/c/DanKidsYouNot and keep up-to-date with him through his quarterly newsletter at www.passingplanes.com!
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