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How a Recent Grad Working in the Film Industry Shops

And how she dresses on often male-dominated sets.

An illustration of a coin being dropped into a piggy bank.

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Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email alanna@racked.com.

This week we spoke with Alyssa Briddes, 22, a freelance video editor living in Hoboken, New Jersey. After graduating from film school in Pittsburgh, she interned at a media company and began freelancing. She now does a little bit of everything, from working on set at documentary shoots to editing comedy footage.


What’s your average salary?

I make about $3,000 a month, so whatever that works out to. I’m horrible at math; if I was good at math, I probably wouldn’t do filmmaking!

I usually set aside 30 percent of each paycheck because I like to have that buffer. Whenever I make a budget, I always add $100 and call that the “Alyssa’s bad at math” tax.

What’s your rent and living costs?

The total rent is $2,575 and I pay half of that.

Groceries are $60 every week, I’m pretty consistent with that. Utilities, internet, all that usually comes out to about $150 a month.

Does anyone help you out with your expenses?

No, it’s usually all my freelance money. When I first moved my parents helped me out a little bit, but now I’ve actually been able to (thank God) take care of things myself, which has been nice. I still don’t feel like a real adult, but I’m trying.

Tell me about how you dress for your job.

I always really loved getting dressed and putting on cute outfits, and even when I was younger I felt weird about the fact that there weren’t many women on set that I could look to [for guidance]. I’ve been wanting to do film since I was so little and it was always this masculine look, this idea that you had to trade in your femininity for a spot on set, and I always thought that was so ridiculous.

Then I got to film school and I met all these other girls who were like me, who like dressing in cute skirts and having cute shoes. I have a younger friend who’s trying to break into film, and she called me, kind of hesitant. She said, “I’m really concerned. What am I supposed to wear? Is it bad that I care about this?” I said, “Absolutely not. You’re totally allowed to care about this.” Like, please, you shouldn’t feel like just because you’re in a very male-dominated industry that you’re no longer allowed to care about how you look or else be perceived as vain. No, that’s a facet of your personality! I personally feel a huge confidence boost on set if I like what I’m wearing. You can totally be fashionable and feminine, but you have to make sure that you can move.

What kinds of clothes does that entail?

My big thing is wearing high-waisted jeans on set. I recently started wearing these Levi’s 311 Shaping Jeans. They are super comfy and super durable. I try not to spend too much money on things, but probably one time a month I will buy a nice thing where I’m like, “I’ll wear it on set.” Sometimes that’s just an excuse!

I need my stuff to be indestructible, so my favorite shoes in the world for set are these Timberland shoes. I got them on Amazon; they were on sale for $95 and I had a gift card for $65, so I only spent $30 on these shoes and I’ve had them now for four years. They’re leather, waterproof, anti-fatigue, you name it. I really valued everything my professors would say to me, and my one professor — she’s a genius and a total G — she once said to us that there are two things you need to do to ensure that your short films are going to go well. She goes, “You need to hire the best crew money can buy and wear comfortable shoes.”

Timberland Women’s Ankle Boots
Timberland Women’s Ankle Boots, from $62

As a freshman I was like, “Oh sure, I’ll wear my Converse, those are super comfy,” and being on set teaches you very fast that whatever shoes you think are comfy are actually not. After I got waterlogged wearing Converse for a night shoot at two in the morning, I went home and I bought my Timberlands.

What about other products?

I always have black winged eyeliner. I’ve been doing it since my senior year of high school, so I can do it with my eyes closed on a moving bus (which I have actually done before). I use Wet n Wild eyeliner — it’s so shitty — but I do spend money on the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. I do not leave for set with makeup on without spraying that on my face because that will ensure that that is not moving anywhere.

I also spend money on my lipsticks because I'm a very big lipstick person. I use MAC Ruby Woo and All Fired Up Retro Matte. I really love those because they stay on really long, and usually I’ll put Nars Cruella Velvet Matte Lipstick underneath, because that will ensure that shit’s not moving. I’m not about to put down a clipboard so I can go reapply my lipstick.

Any other tips for on or off set?

Don’t wear dangly earrings on set because noise can be picked up. Also, wear comfy socks if it’s going to be hot. If it’s going to be cold out, make sure you have a really good jacket and layers, so that way you can alternate.

I do this thing for my alma mater where they’ll come to the city for a high school/college fair, and they’ll pay me to come and be like, “Look, I’m a girl and I do film!” essentially. And I get free pizza. It’s bitching.

But I genuinely like doing it, just because I like talking to these girls. I’m only 22 — I'm nowhere near where I guess I should be yet — but I’m talking to these young girls, telling them, “Listen, this is what I wear on set, it’s totally okay if you want to wear lipstick. It’s not a problem.”