Category Archives: On the Job

Life Update: Befriend the Bitches

After not having work for 4 weeks, and then getting a brutal job and spending a week in severe pain, and then working a commercial shoot were I experienced some bitching, I got offered a crazy job that lasted me a week and a half. It was hell, and irritating, and awesome all at the same time.

Something happened on that shoot, that I’ve noticed on other shoots since then. When some people are under extreme amounts of stress, they can be highly volatile and hard to be around. In fact, one may say that they become downright horrible to be around. When encountering these unfavorable people, it is man’s first instinct to react to unfriendly/bitchy behavior with equal or greater unfriendly/bitchy behavior. I suggest a new approach. Be friendly/stay out of their way.

When you’re a friend to the unfriendly, you could soon become “the only person that bitch likes”. People will warm up to you eventually — in most cases. Also, as I have experienced, when you meet them in a less stressful situation, E.g. The Wrap Party, they can be quite pleasant and surprisingly fun to be around.

In a nutshell, Don’t judge a book by its — 6am “I haven’t had my coffee we have to shoot way more coverage than we have daylight and my in-laws are staying at my house” — cover.

Also. Happy 4th of motherfucking July! Meat, Beer, and Fireworks. America!

Life Update: Keep in Shape

A little while back I wrote an article on not having work for 4 weeks. I was going crazy. I sent out a shit ton of emails letting people know I was available. Nothing was coming up… until. BAM! I got a job. It was a one day gig. If I only knew what I had just booked…

Arrived on set at 10am. On a beach. “Alright” I said, “This could be interesting”. Interesting indeed. I worked my ass off harder than I’ve ever worked in my entire life. It was fucking brutal. I got in my car to drive home at 6am. That’s right. 10am-6am with two 30 min meal breaks. 20 hours on set. Welcome to Hollywood.

The worst part was that I had just gone 4 weeks doing absolutely nothing. Sitting in my computer chair working on websites, writing, and playing video games. That’s like, 4 weeks of atrophy, to running on the beach for 20 hours. I really hurt myself. Bad idea. When I got out of the car after driving home I literally couldn’t walk without locking my knees. Climbing up stairs wasn’t accomplished without searing pain. The next week was spent sleeping for 12 hours a day and overloading on pain killers. It was bad. To this day, 7 weeks later, my knees are still a little fucked. After a long day on set I can really start to feel the pain again.

So my first bit of advice. Keep in shape. I don’t care what you have to do. Go for walks, go jogging once or twice a week. Just keep your legs in good shape so you don’t do something stupid like I did. Now I’m just hoping I don’t have chronic knee pain for the rest of my life.

Don’t Be a Bitch Part II: Coffee Run Woes

Make sure you check out part 1 of the Dont Be a Bitch series.

If you see the Director or Producers walking around with a special cup of coffee, that means there was a coffee run and YOU WEREN’T INCLUDED. So fucking deal with it. Don’t bitch about it. Even if bitching will eventually get you your special brew, you’re still that guy who was bitching on set. But “it’s not fair!” Yeah, OK, you know what else isn’t fair? The producers day rate compared to yours. He probably secured the budget that got him that coffee in the first place. Now you’re the guy making him spend more money so that your below-the-line ass can have a double machiato frapawhataver. You also take up the AD’s time to send a lucky PA(me) on another coffee run. You see that brown box on the craft service table? That’s called a traveler. That’s what you drink out of. When you decide to become a producer or director, you can have special coffee also.

Lesson? Don’t be a bitch.

Don’t Be a Bitch Part I: Lock-Up Woes


Today, while on “Lock-up”, I was reminded of when I played baseball in grade school. Way out in right field on a sunny day with nothing to do but watch the other kids play. So bored that I eventually sat down and picked at the grass — and when the ball was finally hit to me — I didn’t catch it because I wasn’t paying any attention. Except now the ball is a really bitchy woman who resembles someone you might see on a show called The Real Housewives of Hell.

I understand that it’s annoying when a production takes over your apartment complex or local park. I understand that no one told you we were going to be here. I understand you don’t have anywhere to park now, and that you pay your taxes, and that you “come here everyday to walk your dog at 5:00pm”. What I don’t understand is why you have to be a bitch.

I am paid an insulting amount of money to stand around all day with the sole purpose of keeping you from parking in crew parking or walking your dog right into the middle of the shot. So when I ask you very politely to move, why do you have to be a fucking bitch about it? I’m just trying to let you know that in about 2 minutes a giant police escorted “shot-maker” truck pulling a classic Chevy  Camaro is about to drive right into where your idling your vehicle. If you’re that pissed off, take it up with the manager or park service who allowed us to use this property for an ungodly amount of money in the first place.

It’s not like you live in Norman, OK — You live in fucking Los Angeles. We shoot stuff here. Get used to it already. I mean, god damn it, you live in the Hollywood Towers! Productions are bound to be around. Does your life suck so much that the only way you can make yourself feel better is by causing those around you to be miserable? I am a 24-year-old with a low paying job and more student loan debt then I can handle. You pay $2500 a month for a one bedroom in Hollywood without batting an eye. I am the one who should be bitching.

Production Assistant Job Description and Duties [Updated]


For those out on the world wide web who don’t know what a Production Assistant is:

What is a Production Assistant?

A Production Assistant, also known as a PA, is a entry level position in the entertainment industry.  No education is required, but you must be a hard worker, responsible, and willing to learn. That’s right, you DON’T need to go to film school to become a PA. Who knew? If you work hard as a Production Assistant, people will notice. It’s not a glamorous job by any means — and you mostly get shit on — but many leading industry professionals once started out as PAs. It’s a entry level position that, if worked right, can launch you into any part of the industry.

There is no “age-limit” for being a PA, but it’s basically low-pay grunt work for those looking to break into the industry — primarily occupied by people in their early to mid 20’s. Work hours vary, but usually fall into 12-16 hour days — depending on the shoot. Pay can range anywhere from $100-$250 a day — also depending on the shoot. Film and TV usually falls closer to the $100-$125 side of things. Commercials and photo shoots can move closer towards $200-$250.

Production Assistant Job Duties.

A PA’s job duties can vary depending on what the budget is, or what department you are working in. Different types of PAs include Office PAs, Set PAs, Art PAs, Writer’s PAs, Wardrobe PAs… etc. Basically every department could have a PA working in it.

An Office PA works in the production office, and has job duties that include things like answering phones, going on runs (picking up/dropping off everything from equipment to payroll), taking lunch orders, picking up and distributing lunch, running copies, paperwork distro, maintaining office craft service, maintaining office supplies, etc…

A Set PA works on set, and job duties include things like “lock up” (making sure no one walks into the shot) and echo-ing “Cut” and “Rolling” as they come across the radio.  They could be “running talent” or background, distributing paperwork and walkies, picking up trash, managing the craft service table, going on coffee runs, ..etc.  The list of what a set PA ends up doing is… endless… and can even include picking up dog shit and used condoms off the side of the road. I wish I was joking.

[Updated 10/29/13: Just made some minor updates]

Also check out:

Tips for a Production Assistant: Set Lingo

Walk onto a film set for the first time and you will quickly realize there is an entirely different language you must learn, in order to communicate effectively with those around you. Here is a list of general set lingo. Be sure to check out Walkie Lingo as well.

Above-the-Line: Producers, Directors, Actors, Screenwriters and all the people who have “creative” input.

A.D.: Short for Assistant Director. If you’re a set P.A., he or she will probably be your boss. For more info go here.

Apple Box: A wooden box used for many different things.  Sizes include;  full apple, half apple, quarter apple, and pancake.

Base Camp: Sometimes located away from set. This is where the trailers, parking, and meals are usually located.

Below the Line: Everyone not “Above-the-Line”.  This is the crew and makes up most of the production.  (Interesting Note: I think the budget for “Below-the-Line” and “Above-the-Line” usually evens out to about the same. Which is depressing.)

Bogies: Unwanted people in the shot, usually pedestrians, are called “Bogies”.

C-47 or Bullet: A wooden clothes pin.

Camera Op or C.O.: Short for Camera Operator – For more info go here.

Crafty: Nickname for the craft services table.  This is where all the snacks and drinks are.

Crossing: It’s polite to say this to the Camera Op if you’re crossing his frame.

Cube Trucks: Large white trucks with lifts that look like cubes. Each department usually has their own. E.g. The Production Cube.

Day for Night: When planning on shooting a night scene, during the day on stage.

D.P.: Short for Director of Photography or Cinematographer.  For more info go here.

Honeywagon: Portable trailer with bathrooms and dressing rooms.

Hot Points: If someone yells this, move out of their way. They are probably carrying something pointy and/or sharp.

Genny: Short for the generator which supplies power.  Usually on a truck.

Lanyard: The thing around your neck that says you’re part of the production, and have permission to be on set.

Last Looks: Usually yelled by the A.D. to Hair, Make-up, and Wardrobe to hurry the eff up with the talent.  Shooting NOW!

Layout Board: Large strips of cardboard or other type board used to protect floors on location.  Sometimes people use carpeted mats as well.

Locations: Short for Locations Managers. See more here.

Lockdown: Term for standing around making sure people don’t walk onto set during takes

Abby Singer: Aka “The Abby” — Term from the second to last shot of the day.

Martini Shot: Aka “Martini” – Term for the last shot of the day.

Pass Van: Short for Passenger Van.  These vans drive people where they need to go.

Pictures Up: A warning that they’re ready, and the camera is about to start rolling.

Pop-Up: Short for the Pop-Up tents all around set.  Usually, each department will have one to shade people and equipment.

Production or the P.O.: Short for the Production Office. This is where you will find the Production Manager and the Coordinators for various departments…usually.  Also where you fill out paperwork and time cards… etc.

Props: Any item on set that is touched by an actor, in accordance with what is written in the script.  Otherwise it is a set decoration.

Rolling: When footage is actually being shot.

Settle in: See “Pictures Up.”

Show: Whether it be TV or a Feature, everything is called a “Show”.

Talent: Actors, Models, Musicians — People being filmed on camera.

Transpo: Short for transportation.  These are the guys who drive everything.

Travelling: If someone is outside of the location, or walking to set, they are “traveling”.

Video Village: A camp of monitors and chairs.  This is where the video feed from the camera goes so that producers, directors, and other above-the-line people can watch what is being shot.

Hot Brick:Term used for a charged walkie battery.

Cold Brick:Term used for a dead/dying walkie battery.

I will update this list periodically. Feel free to comment and add more lingo!  I will put it up on the list.

Also check out:

Tips for a Production Assistant: Working for No Pay Part 2

“The Slave Ship” by J.M.W. Turner – The practice of eighteenth century slave traders who would throw the dead and dying slaves overboard during the middle passage in the Atlantic Ocean in order that they might claim the insurance for drowning.

I did a post a little while back about Working for No Pay. I still think this could benefit you IF you think there is an opportunity to work with great people who could possibly help you get PAID in the future. I did it, and it worked well for me. However, there are people in the industry who don’t give a shit about you. I was just on Mandy.com and I ran across a this:

All interested PA must reply with a resume and picture.

Are you kidding me?  Since when does a Production Assistant need head shots? Oh yeah… since RACISM and SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

All PA’s must be available both dates and must possess the following qualities: Reliable, Dependable, Enthused with with productions, Must have transportation to and from the facilit, Ability to work well in a fast pace invironment

OK! Where to begin?  First, notice their complete lack of ability in spelling words. Second, I’m not entirely sure there is a difference between being reliable and dependable. Third, even though these are traits that any good Production Assistant should have, I find it a little insulting to be demanding these things of someone that you’re NOT PAYING!

All PA’s will be required to sign an agreement confirming their committment to the project.

Yes. Let me get right on that. Idiot. Also, despite what you may think, not everyone jumps at the opportunity for IMDB credit and free food. Last time I checked, Nationwide wasn’t accepting leftover chocolate covered espresso beans or roasted seaweed snacks as payment for my premium car insurance.

Just be careful out there when accepting any lo/no/deferred jobs is all I’m trying to say.

Tips for a PA: Advice from Sam

One of my readers, Sam, has added some valuable advice for a new PA, on my previous post Tips for a PA: Hard Work and No Pay. Here is what he had to say:

I’ve been a PA on some smaller TV shows and I was an unpaid intern on a big, 50 million dollar Hollywood project, and I can say that it is not easy.  My tips are as follows:

– Never sit down:  If a Producer sees you sitting without some sort of paperwork in front of you, they assume you are not working at all. Wait until lunchtime to sit down.  If your legs get tired, then lean on something.

– Never stand near another PA during set-up, wrap time:  Those times are the busiest, if a Producer or Chief PA or Second Second AD sees you, they assume you are being unproductive.

– Live and die by the walkie talkie:  If you are lucky enough to have a radio, keep it attached to your ear at all times, and do not speak unless you absolutely need somebody/something. Before long, the sound the walkie talkie will be easy to listen to, even during multitasking, like an internal monologue. When you do speak, make sure you don’t “step-on” someone who was already talking. Always lower the volume before a take. This brings me to the most obvious thing which is:

– Never ruin a take, ever: This seems obvious, but I’m always surprised to see how volatile even the most controlled of studio environments can be. For this reason, I recommend that you overcompensate by being basically motionless and utterly silent during takes, with your phone shut off, no matter where you are. There will be exceptions to this rule, but get in the habit of being the most silent, most still person on set each and every take.

– Wear a name tag on your first day. Introduce yourself briefly. Make them feel comfortable coming to you for help with anything.

For extra credit: bring nice cigarettes and share, you’ll get bonding points from the smokers.

Great advice Sam!

Also check out:

Tips for a PA: Sweetened or Unsweetened?

This tip is a short one, but it will save you a lot of time and energy.

When I order a coffee, I usually get… a coffee.  If I’m feeling crazy,  I might get an iced coffee. Apparently, coffee comes in many different combinations and flavors. As a PA, you will often be tasked with getting people their caffeinated liquid of choice.  This is when your handy dandy notebook comes into play.

When someone asks you to fetch their “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” make sure they specify whether they want their “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” sweetened, or unsweetened! The last thing you want, after parking a mile a way (there is never a place to park near a coffee house in LA), and standing in line forever (there are always 900 people in line brandishing iPads, and sporting trendy blazers), is to have the barista ask, “Sweetened?” …and you have no idea. Saying, “Well, she’s a chick, so she probably wants it sweetened.” is the wrong answer. Then, once you find a way to fit all of that coffee on your body, somehow survive the mile back to your car, and drive all the way back to set, you will learn that she actually wanted it unsweetened.  Now, you get to go back to “Coffee House X” and fetch her an unsweetened “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” before she snaps, and kills the locations guy.

People are very particular about their coffee. Get every detail right! Sugar or “Sweet n’ Low”?  One packet or two? Milk, 2%, or soy? Sweetened or unsweetened? Now, do this with 6 different orders. You are NOT going to remember. Write it down. Be detailed. Be Awesome! Get everyone’s name as you’re taking their orders. Make sure the barista writes the names on every cup.

People can be bitches without their coffee. Become awesome at it, and you will turn into “that guy who’s awesome at everything”!!

Any PAs out there have crazy coffee run stories?

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Tips for a PA: Walkie Talkie Lingo

A PA without a walkie is a talking sandbag. – Unknown AD

As a PA, you are going to be on the walkie a lot. You will quickly find that there is a certain walkie lingo that you must learn, if you don’t want to look and sound like a complete retard. Let me attempt to explain how some of this works. It’s pretty straightforward. Also be sure to check out Set Lingo.

When you first get your walkie: If you are given a headset, plug it in. Turn the walkie on. You do this by turning the nob on top. Make sure you are on the right channel. Usually, you will be on channel 1, but be sure to check with your supervisor to confirm this. Hit the talk button and say: “Radio Check” or “Walkie Check” . Someone will then respond: “Good Check”.  This means everything is working properly. If no one responds, something probably isn’t working.

Channels: Different departments can be on different channels, but the main channel will most likely be channel 1. Channel 2 is usually left open for one-on-one conversation. If you need to have a private conversation, or a conversation that lasts more than a few seconds, you should issue (or will be issued) the following instruction:  “Switch to 2” Then, you (or the person you’re speaking with) should respond with: “Switching”, or, “Copy, Switching to 2”.  When the private conversation is over, one of you should issue the term: “Back to 1″ to which the other person should respond with: “Copy that, switching back to 1” The reason it’s done this way, is because only one person can be speaking on a channel, at a time. You don’t want to be jamming up a main channel that people need, and you don’t want to annoy people with conversations that they don’t want to hear.

(Also, on that note – No goofing off over the walkie. Unless you want the AD to take it away from you, and make you look like a child in front of the whole crew.)

Frequently check to make sure you are on the right channel, and that your walkie is still working properly. If you don’t hear anything over the radio for a long time, you should probably do a walkie check.

Remember to keep fresh batteries on you or somewhere close – at all times!

“Does anyone have eyes on _____” – Term used when trying to find someone who doesn’t have a walkie.

“____ to ____” – Term used when requesting someone’s attention: “John to Bill”

“Go for _____” – Term used when acknowledging a request: “Go for Bill”

Copy/Copy That – Term used to indicate that you understand the instructions, or tasks you’ve been given. Make sure to respond EVERY TIME, that way people know you actually heard them.

“10-1” – Term used when someone is in the restroom: “Going 10-1” or, “Where is Mary?“, “10-1“.

“What’s your 20?” Term used when attempting to locate someone: “Bill, what’s your 20?

“Flying In” – Term used when bringing someone, or something, to the set. The someone/something “flies in”.

These are some of the more frequently used “walkie lingo” terms.

If anyone else has more on set walkie lingo let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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