Tag Archives: Los Angeles

ONE YEAR IN LA and HAPPY BIRTHDAY 12ptCourier.com!

I’ve been in LA for a year today! They say if you make it in LA for a year, you’re in. I guess I’m here for good! Next step… profit?

ALSO

12ptCourier.com turns 2 years old this month! The first post was on April 1, 2010. OHhhhhhh look how we’ve grown. ūüôā

What Kind of Jobs Do You Get From Being a PA?

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. My most humble apologies. Things have been crazy. Trying to find work. Moving into a new apartment. Trying to pay my bills. Surviving my crazy move to LA. I’ve been here for a little over 4 months now and I am slowly settling in. It’s been an adventure so far, and I promise I’ll continue my life updates shortly! But for now here is my once a month post… ūüôĀ

A reader has a question.

Reader Question:

Hey, I’m a senior year in college pursuing a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Entertainment Studies. As of now I have yet to decide which area of the Film Industry I’d like to work in and in research came across your blog & had a few questions if you don’t mind. First, I have many interests in the field & have been trying to find one to focus my efforts into. My front runner right now is Casting & I was wondering if you knew anything about how Casting is ran or any tips on getting into that area? My other question is about P.A.’s, & what are the different career paths they lead to? Also, how long do most people work as a P.A. before moving on to something else? Would you recommend working as a P.A.?
Thanks for your time!

 

-Keri

Thanks for the question Keri!

I honestly don’t know much about the casting department. As I said in my last article on PA’s, you can be a Set PA, and Art PA, an Office PA, a Writer’s PA, and yes, even a Casting PA. ¬†Just about every department can have a PA depending on how big the show is. If you want to get into casting I suggest learning as much about it as possible, and trying really hard to get in contact with a Casting Director or Agency and ask about becoming an assistant in that department. Again, it’s all about who you know. Make some contacts in that department and let everyone know what job you want, and eventually someone will (hopefully) hire you. You have to be proactive.

What kind of Career path’s do PA’s go into? It all depends on what department you WANT to go into. If you want to be an AD (assistant director) you can work your ass off as a Set PA and learn as much as possible about being an AD. Eventually you can start getting jobs as a non-union 2nd 2nd AD, then a 2nd AD, then a 1st AD. Once you have enough days on set you can get into the DGA and make the big bucks.

Basically, a PA doesn’t get you any job. Being a PA just helps you learn about the industry by working IN it. It’s an entry-level position. What you do WHILE working as a PA is what counts. You want to work in the Art Department and become Props or a Set Dresser? Meet the art department on set as a PA and let them know. Then work your ass off and stay in contact with them. Maybe they’ll call you to be an Art PA. Then eventually you can start doing Set Dressing with them once you’ve learned enough about the Art Department by being a PA.

You want to be a Grip? While working as a PA talk to the grip guys and let them know. You want to work in Camera? Meet camera people. A PA only becomes what they want to become, and what they work hard to become. It’s not a position that naturally gets promoted into another position.

How long does someone stay as a PA? That also depends on the person. There are PA’s out there who are PA’s FOREVER. You only get promoted when you actively try to learn other departments and move into another position. I’ve been working as a PA for 4 months and every time I’m on set I let the 2nd AD know that I’ve run talent before and worked as a 2nd 2nd before, so they give me more responsibility. I’ve already done a non-union commercial out here as a 2nd AD. But if I want to join the DGA, I could be working as a PA or Non-Union AD for years before that happens.

The short answer. While working as a PA find what department you want to work in and let everyone know. Meet and stay in contact with as many people in that department until they give you a job.

Would I recommend working as a PA? Only if you’re serious about working in the Industry. Being a PA honestly sucks ass. It’s not a fun job. You’re on set before everyone else, and you’re the last to leave. You’re the last to eat lunch. You’re usually working non stop for 12-16 hours. If you sit down you get yelled at. Don’t dare use your phone while working. You are a machine that does what you’re told without question. The only reason I’m doing this is because I love the field I’m working in, and I have a strong desire to move up. Nobody likes being a PA, but it’s necessary to get where you want to go.

Now I have to go to bed because I have another 12 hour day tomorrow.

Until next time…

Reader Question: Moving to LA with Nothing

Right after I posted the last article about not having work for 4 weeks I got a gig. Holy shit did I get a gig. I ended up working 10am-6am straight. The lord answered my prayers for work… and then almost killed me. I’ll write more on that experience later. For now, I got a reader question.

Tiffany writes:

I am a PA in Detroit, who just happened to come across your blog. I’m very interested in your entries.. I see that you moved to LA, and said that you had the gas to get there, and your GPS. How’s it been going for you so far? Have you really had to sleep in your car? The past few months I’ve been trying to figure out a plan to get out of Michigan, and get to LA (I have a friend there that is taunting me to get there sooner, also). I am hoping my friend will be able set me up with a job when I get out there, but he’s not sure he will be able to.. Just wondering how realistic it is to head out there with practically nothing. Hope to hear back from you.

You’re right, I did basically come out here with nothing. Honestly I would not advise anyone to move to LA without a plan and some cash. I know that I came out here on a whim, and I’ve survived so far, but I knew that I had a couple couches to sleep on, and I had at least one person willing to set me up with some work. I came out here with about $1000. I spent roughly $300 on gas and a couple nights in a cheap hotel. The rest is already gone. Luckily I’ve gotten a few jobs since I arrived to help pay bills.

If you don’t have couches to sleep on, I would recommend saving up three months of living expenses minimum before you come out here. I’ve even heard of people not landing a paying gig for 6 months. It’s really hard getting work without knowing people.

How have I been surviving on such little work? I find places to sleep for free. I sleep on floors and couches. I eat PB&J and Ramen Noodles. I don’t drive unless I have to. I’ve been doing this for two months. Hopefully I will start getting enough work soon to be able to get a little more situated. Kiss your social life goodbye.

If you plan on coming out here without a lot of savings, be prepared to live like a bum. You have to be a little bit crazy to live this life. A ton of people come out here to do exactly what I am doing right now, most of them end up going back home.  As Josh Dobkin says,

It’s outlast and outshine out here. ¬†If you really want it bad enough, put the time in and don’t cave under the harsh environment like everyone else, you’ll rise above the muck.

It can be done. People do it every year. Most of them end up going home. If you want it bad enough, you’ll survive.

Production Assistant Pay [Updated]

The only thing a PA is missing is the Y – Anonymous

How much does a Production Assistant get paid? — seems to be a recurring question, so I’ll answer it: NOT MUCH!

PAs don’t get paid hourly. ¬†A PA gets paid on a “per-day” day rate, based on a 12 hour day. ¬†Day rates depend on the type of show you’re working on. On average, in Los Angeles, the PA day rate is around $125 a day. A day rate is good, because if you work 6 hours instead of 12, you will still get paid for a full day. Those days are rare, and you will more likely be working over 12 hours, most of the time. For more information on how a day rate works, check out TAPAs post on the subject.

Commercials and Music Video’s tend to pay more than Movies and TV, but you don’t work as long. I’ve been a PA on a couple photo shoots that pay a day rate of $250, but the shoots only last 1-2 days. ¬†I’ve also worked as a PA on a couple commercials that pay a day rate of $200, but those shoots were only a few days long as well. ¬†If you’re on a movie or TV show, you could be getting paid $125 a day for a few months. This is what I am currently trying to do… ¬†and it’s a pain in the ass.

You’ll find that most industry jobs don’t do “pay by the hour”. ¬†It’s either by the day, week, or job.

Ask any questions in the comments section, and I’ll be glad to answer them to the best of my ability.

[UPDATE]

So I just recently worked on a feature and figured out a little more on how we’re paid.

On this feature I was making $112 a day, with a guaranteed 12 hour day. So even if I only worked 10 hours instead of 12, I would still get paid for the full 12 hours.

Now on paper this breaks down to $8/hr for the first 8 hours. After 8 hours you get time and a half for the next 4 hours. So I’d be getting paid $8/hr for 8 hours and $12/hr for 4 hours. That makes the $112/12 day rate. Anything I work after 12 hours is double time, which would be $16 an hour.

Now on this feature I was working 6 day weeks. So my “6th day” rate is time and a half for every hour. So I would make $12/hr for the first 12 hours and then $16/hr for anything after 12.

I also got one $7 meal penalty per day. Basically you have to be fed 6 hours after your call time.¬†Because I am a PA, I always have a pre-call. Which means If the call time for crew is at 8am, I’ll probably have a call time for 7am. When we break for lunch at 2pm, it’s been 7 hours of work for me before lunch… which means I get a meal penalty. It’s not much… but on a 6 day week that’s $42 extra in the bank.

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?

My L.A. Road Trip

Saturday evening I said goodbye to my middle-of-nowhere Tennessee town, got into my freshly oil changed ’94 Honda Accord, and left my old life behind. Around 11:00 pm I started my road trip. Two days, 7 states, and 2100 miles later… I am now officially in the greater Los Angeles area.

Besides the high gas prices, the trip couldn’t have gone any more smoothly. I had no car problems, no traffic, and no tickets the entire way here. I got out of Tennessee and into Arkansas my first night, and stopped to get some sleep around 6:00 am. Woke up around 11:00 am and started again.

The worst part of the trip was driving through Oklahoma. Holy crap that place sucks! It was basically just a one lane highway, and road construction – all the way to Oklahoma City! After Oklahoma City things got better. The roads cleared up and the scenery was easier on the eyes. I even got to see one of those giant wind turbine farms! The weather was nice, so the windows were down, and the music loud.

The drive through Texas was basically the color brown + cows. I have seen a lot of cows in my life. My house in Tennessee had cow fields on two sides. But I have NEVER seen more cows then I did in Texas! There must have been a million in the field I saw! That’s all I can say about my Texas adventure. Although, the last stretch of Texas just before hitting New Mexico was kinda nice. It became more “deserty” and less “brown fieldy”. The sun was setting in front of me, the windows were down once again, and classic rock was blaring out of my speakers. It was about an hour of pure road trip perfection.

It started to get dark when I hit New Mexico. New Mexico and Nevada have 75 mph speed limits instead of 70 mph. That was a plus. Driving through Albuquerque at night was really interesting. Everything in that city lights up in different colors. I felt like I was driving through Disney World/one giant Indian casino/modern art museum.

On the Indian note… starting in Oklahoma, and going all the way through Arizona, is nothing but Native American Tourists traps EVERYWHERE. It’s kind of sad really.

I stopped somewhere in New Mexico around 11:00 pm their time. It was snowing. It was over 90 degrees a couple of hours earlier in Texas, and now it was snowing in New Mexico. The hotel woman must have thought I was high as shit! When I got in my room and looked in the mirror my eyes were SUPER red. I also think I was hallucinating a little. Driving long distances does amazing things to the eyes/brain. I immediately took a hot shower and passed the fuck out. The sleep was amazing! I slept for about 8 hours, and then started again.

Arizona was a pretty awesome drive. They have cool towns with names like, “Two Guns” and “Twin Arrows”. Stopped in Flagstaff for some gas. Held the door open for an old woman, and then continued my drive.¬†(OLD PEOPLE LOVE ARIZONA) It was kinda chilly outside but the scenery was pretty. The last stretch of Arizona includes a drastic elevation drop that is fun to drive down really fast.

After driving through Arizona (forever) I finally hit California, and the Mojave Desert. As soon as I crossed the Cali/Arizona border, it felt like the temperature rose 30 degrees. Then the song Born to be Wild came on the radio. After I told the border guard that I wasn’t harboring any fruits or vegetables, I started driving through The Desert. The Mojave is a beautiful place. I had already shed my high elevation driving clothes by now, and was applying sunscreen to my left arm (It already had a nice sunburn from earlier Oklahoma driving). I set the cruise control at 80 mph (Cali goes back to 70 mph speed limits) and I don’t think I had to touch the break/gas pedal for over an hour. Very beautiful, relaxing drive.

The drive continued to be awesome until I started coming up on Barstow California… then it just got shitty, real fast. All of a sudden the hot desert wind didn’t feel good. It felt like I just walked into a hot port-o-potty. I paid for my $4-a-gallon gas, and headed up towards Riverside/Loma Linda. And that’s where I am now, staying with some friends/family.

Overall, I’d say the trip was a positive experience, but one I wouldn’t like to do again anytime soon.

Keep checking back as I update you on my existence. I just became a small fish, in a VERY big pond.

I think I’m going to do my next script review on Everything Must Go.¬†Possibly… Maybe.

What’s the longest Road Trip you’ve taken?

I’m Moving to L.A.

Basically, if your life’s dream is to become a giant Hollywood screenwriter, then you need to live in Hollywood. – John August

If you want to be next to writers, you need to be close to producers. And that means either being a PA on a production, or finding work at a production company… which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! – Joshua Dobkin

What the fuck are you trying to do in Atlanta?  COME OUT HERE! РMy friend in L.A.

I had a plan. I was going to work in Atlanta for a few years, write some specs, and save money. Then I was going to make the jump to L.A. with a couple scripts under my belt and work my ass off. My plan for Atlanta isn’t working for a multitude of reasons, and after some recent advice from a friend working in L.A. — I’m jumping in and taking the risk!

I will be packing my ’94 Honda Accord (that just hit 200,000 miles yesterday!) with everything I need to live, and will drive from Tennessee to Los Angeles, California in the next week/week and a half. I will be sleeping on couches (or in my car if I have to) and will be taking every job I can possibly get. I need work, I crave work, anything even related to film will do. I have 5 different resumes made up, enough money to get out there, and a TomTom GPS.

Speaking of work. If any of my readers could put my sweat and tears to good use in L.A. shoot me an email. Preferably with a production company doing something in development, screenwriter’s assistant, or a writer’s P.A. But like I said, I’ll be Kevin Smith’s oil boy if It will get me in the door.

Honestly, I wish I would have done this months ago. ¬†I only have a couple months before my massive student loans start coming in. On THAT note, don’t go to film school on student loans… bad… bad……very bad idea. Can’t change the past so I must look towards the future.

So… if chapter one of this blog was film school, chapter two will be moving to L.A. and working my ass off trying to get someone to let me work my ass off.

So let the madness begin. What do you think about moving to LA? Bad idea or a fucking awesome idea?

Great Article on Moving to LA

Hey guys,

I’ve been doing a lot of everything and a lot of nothing. Preparing for my 6 weeks in Israel, playing Starcraft 2 beta, working, reading, and writing papers.

I promise to write a nice little post before I leave.

In the mean time I would like to share a great article I just read about moving to L.A. Something I plan on doing within the next couple years.

http://johnaugust.com/archives/2010/moving-to-hollywoo

Read it.