Tips for a PA: On Set for the First Time?

I haven’t answered any reader questions in a while. Sorry. Here’s one —

I just got my first pa job on a tv show and it’s coming up this weekend. It’ll be my first time on a “real” set and though i’m excited, I really nervous as well! I’ve been reading through your posts and they’re super helpful, but is there anything I should know going into this for the first time? I’ve only ever been on set in film school, unfortunately, and I really scared I’m going to look like and idiot! – Jessica

I got this email a while ago — so I hope it all ended up okay. For the sake of this post, I’m going to act like I just got this email.

—–

Well, Jessica — here’s the thing. You are going to look like an idiot. BUT THAT IS OKAY! Because you’re new. Unless you lied to the person who hired you, they know you’re new as well. So, Relax, it will be fine. Just keep your ears open, always pay attention, and be willing to learn and do anything.

You WILL be put into positions where you have no idea how to proceed.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find another PA who looks like he/she knows what they’re doing, introduce yourself, and take their lead.  You’ll pick it up fast. If you screw up and the AD yells at you over the walkie — you’re not alone. Happens to everyone at least once.

Don’t, however, ask questions over the walkie. If someone tells you to do something and you have no idea what they’re talking about, say “copy that!” and then run to your closest PA buddy and ask them what the hell the AD was talking about.

Quick tip: ALWAYS know where the actors in the scene are. They tend to wander off set. If the A.D. asks something along the lines of  “Anyone have eyes on ACTOR X” — a quick response from you could mean brownie points.  (I had an A.D. who would randomly ask me where a certain actor was even if she knew where he was, just to make sure I knew where he was…. )

Hopefully you aren’t put in charge of locking up the area where the grips hang out. They will most likely not listen to you when you’re telling them to be quiet. And then you just feel like an asshole.

If the A.D. yells cut — YOU YELL CUT. If the A.D. yells rolling — YOU YELL ROLLING. That’s one of the P.A.s main jobs. It’s called “echoing” and you do it during “lock-up”. This is so EVERYONE on set knows to shut the fuck up.  If you don’t do this, any respectable AD will yell at you.  And the grip who just walked into the shot will yell at you because the A.D. just yelled at him for walking in the shot.

I’m sure there are a million other things I could tell you, but they’re not coming to me.

Anyway — I hope you enjoyed your first day on set. If you read this, leave a comment on how it went! And share your tips!

2014 Award Season PDF Screenplay Downloads: For Your Consideration

It’s the beginning of award season and studios are already putting screenplays online.  I’ll update this list periodically. Be sure to check out GITS’s list for any you cannot find here. Good reading!

[UPDATED 12/09/14]

Cool Stuff! Writer Emergency Pack!

Hey Guys. Check out this cool deck of cards that the crew over at johnaugust.com are making.

Writer Emergency Pack is a deck full of useful ideas to help get your story back on track.

Go grab yourself one! Or two… like I did. They make good gifts!

Quote from Stephen King’s “On Writing”

I’m reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, and I stumbled across this motivational quote I wanted to share:

I had written three other novels before Carrie — Rage, The Long Walk, and The Running Man were later published. Rage is the most troubling of them. The Long Walk may be the best of them. But none of them taught me the things I learned from Carrie White. The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

I am very familiar with the feeling of shoveling shit. It’s nice to hear a big time author like Stephen King feels the same.

Kill Your Babies

After months of breaking story, meticulous research, and countless hours spent hunched over my computer — I finished the first draft on one of the pilots my writing partner and I are working on. I should be happy! But I’m not. It just isn’t working. Some parts are great, and exactly what we had in mind when breaking the story — but other story arcs and characters didn’t make any sense. Something needed to change. Something big.

Over this past weekend my writing partner and I sat down with a blank cork board, a stack of notecards, and a sharpie.  By Sunday evening we had re-boarded the entire pilot. We kept most of the last 4 acts in tact, but completely changed the first act — getting rid of a lot of lengthy, unnecessary and boring exposition. But perhaps the biggest change — we killed our main character. Not in a story sense… we actually cut him out of the entire script completely.

We finally came to the conclusion that the majority of confusion in the script stemmed from the central character. There wasn’t enough motivation and dramatic need surrounding him — and anything we tried to throw in seemed forced. We discovered one of the minor characters had better dramatic potential within the story, and as an exercise, we ran through the story with him as the lead. Everything started to make a lot more sense.

So there you go. I’m about to start rewriting this entire script from another person’s perspective.

If it helps the story –kill your baby.

And we’re back … kind of

Server is still having problems — website runs at varying speeds.

My writing partner and I finished 1st drafts on two pilots over the weekend. Very exciting. I love that feeling when you set a goal and actually complete it. This week is going to be extremely busy for me, so I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post — or write.

I need a writing vacation. A writecation.

 

The Weekend!

No post yesterday. I’ve been running into a ton of website problems. I can’t tell if it has to do with this site or if it’s server-side. All I know is this website has been running slow as shit and it’s stressing me out. I’ll have to tackle it again on Monday — Hopefully it starts working better over the weekend.

I’m almost done with the first draft of my next pilot! I’m going to finish it this weekend. That’s the goal at least…

Everyone have a great weekend!

Video: “In Focus: Screenwriting”

Another great BAFTA Guru video.

Because the truth is, if you write a great script, they’ll find you. They’re aching for good writers. So, it’s the ability to be ready when the door opens.  It’s not about which door you knock on first… it’s about… getting the job as an assistant, keeping yourself in there, continuing to work on it, and waiting. — You will get your chance… and then the question is — are you ready?

A blog for aspiring screenwriters and those seeking to break into the film industry.