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?

9 thoughts on “Tips for a PA: Hard Work and No Pay”

  1. 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 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.

  2. @Sam

    Great advice Sam! Yeah, never sitting down is a very important one. That coincides with wearing really comfortable shoes! You’re feet are going to feel like a piece of shit either way.
    Thanks for the great post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *