Category Archives: On the Job

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!

Also check out:

Tips for a PA: Clothing and Accessories [UPDATED]

There are many different things people will tell you to bring on set with you as a PA. I’m just going to include the things that I, personally, have found useful. This list will definitely be be updated as I get more work.

  • GOOD SHOES. You will be running around all day, and your feet are going to hurt. Try to get some comfortable shoes.  Spend the big bucks if you have to.  Some brands that have been recommended to me are; Merrell and Keen. I wear Merrell, but it’s all about personal preference.  I would also recommend getting some good Gel Inserts as well. Also, make sure your shoes can breathe. Steel-toe is not really necessary as a PA. [UPDATE: I actually pretty quickly switched from my Merrell’s to a pair of Nike Running Shoes. They were my favorite on set shoes. They’ll run anywhere from $100 to $150… but they’re def worth it. They come in different types of comfort vs lightness… so try them on and get what works for you. Plus they look good. Always good to get shoe compliments on set.]
  • WEAR LAYERS. Always check your call sheet for weather conditions, but I still recommend wearing layered clothing.  It could be cold in the morning, hot during the day, and then freezing cold at night. If you’re stuck standing outside, making sure no weirdos get on set all night, and it’s chilly –  you will want a jacket! If you know it’s going to be warm for the whole shoot, you can wear some cargo shorts (pockets are your friend), but I would still recommend jeans, or something similar.
  • KNIFE. Just in case a homeless person tries to rape you, or a bunch of little kids threaten to trample you, because they heard Justin Bieber was on set. But more practically, someone will always need a knife.  When that happens, you will always come to the rescue. [UPDATE: I always carried around a Husky Utility Knife
  • Lighter – Even if you don’t smoke, someone else will!  If they need a lighter, you’ll become a “Godsend”.
  • Sharpie — Always carry a black sharpie on your person, at all times. You WILL use it.
  • EXTRA “BRICKS”. A “brick” is a walkie battery. Someone always needs one, and it’s your job as a PA to get it for them. It will also save you time, and energy, if you carry a couple fresh “bricks” on your belt.
  • HAT, SUNGLASSES, & SUNSCREEN. The sun is your enemy when you’re outside for 14 hours. Protect yourself! You don’t want some dermatologist scraping melanoma off your face with an exact-o-knife in 20 years.
  • Camera – Don’t run around taking pictures of everything on set. But, if you happen to be working with the art department, they will love you for taking continuity pictures of the set(s), before they tear the place apart.  Then they will need you when it’s time to put everything back in its place.  Also, it’s probably a good idea to take a picture of any damaged items on location, BEFORE you begin tearing it apart, so that when they try and sue you later on, you can prove it was already damaged.
  • PEN AND NOTEPAD. As a PA you will be going on runs. They will send you out to get coffee, lunch, ice, 8 different packs of gum, vegan salad dressing, small and large water bottles, straw hats, spray on sunscreen, and just about anything else they can think of. Write this shit down because you will forget.
  • CORKSCREW. Whether it is attached to your knife or not, you will want to have one of these close by. Just the other day I had someone asking me for one because the talent wanted to drink a half a bottle of wine before her photo shoot. Just another way to come to the rescue of those in need.
  • GPS. Whether on your phone, or standalone, you will want some sort of GPS. You will be sent on a lot of runs. You will find that the ability to quickly navigate to the closest Trader Joe’s or StarBucks is instrumental in being a good PA. [UPDATE: My GPS ended up breaking… which turned out to be a good thing because I actually learned how to drive around LA. But I also got a smart phone since I wrote this post… and the maps on that is really all you need.]
  • SCISSORS. Put these in your PA bag as well. I’ve found them useful.
  • DRUGS. Have a good assortment of Advil, Tylenol, etc.

That’s all for now. Check back later for more advice and insights.

Any PA’s out there have something important to add?

Tips for a PA: Hard Work and No Pay

I’ve been in L.A. for a week now, and I’ve already finished my first gig as a Set PA. It was two, hard, 14 hour days of running around, and working my ass off! Luckily, my hard work payed off, and the producer said she would be calling me back for work very soon!

My first bit of advice for those looking to break into the Industry as a PA — Take any job, even if it’s for no pay, and work your ass off.  People really do notice. You wouldn’t believe how many lazy people are out there. Getting in is the hardest part. Once you’re in, and you work hard, you will get more work! If someone asks you where something is, instead of telling them where it is, go get it for them! Always be on the lookout for someone who needs help, and periodically check-in with your supervisor to see if you can make their life easier – in any way possible!

My second bit of advice is:  NO COMPLAINING!  Once you’re on set, you will quickly notice that literally everyone, doesn’t like someone else on set – and they ALL want to tell you about it! My advice: Listen to everyone, repeat nothing! By listening to everyone else bitch-and-moan, you quickly become a trusted confidant.  If you end up bitching and moaning, you’ll just become one of those people who… bitches and moans.

Be friendly! When there is downtime on set, engage people in conversation. Learn about everyone. Relationships are more important than “connections” so work on building them.  People are more willing to hire someone they like to be around, instead of that guy who works really hard, but is also a dick (and there is ALWAYS one of those guys).  Try to have at least one personal conversation, with everyone on set.  It will come in handy later.

Advice #4. Learn everyone’s name. Study the call sheet if you have to! This is really important. As a PA, you will be on the walkie a lot. It’s hard to call someone on the walkie, when you don’t know their name. Plus, calling someone by their first name, makes them feel like they’re actually important to you. That you care actually enough to remember them. Trust me, it goes a long way.

Advice FIVE. Send follow up emails. Bring a call sheet home and email everyone you worked with. Tell them you had a great time working with them, and that you hope you get to work with them again, soon. Make the emails personal. Remember that one personal conversation I told you to have with everyone?  Reference that conversation in your email.  Tell them that you hope their cat starts to feel better, or whatever, and that if they ever need a hard worker, they shouldn’t hesitate to call. Attach your resume for their convenience. People love this. Again, it’s all about building relationships.

These are the 5 basic things you can do to (hopefully) attain more work, and begin building stronger relationships that will (once again, hopefully) further your career.

Have you ever worked for no pay? Did it pay off in the end?