Tag Archives: Tips for a PA

Resumes and Curriculum Vitae (For the PA)

Bad-Resume

This article is going to focus on how to tailor your resume for a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB in film or TV only.

What everyone says about this industry is correct — it really is  “who you know” — most of the time your resume is not going to factor into you getting a job. It is more of a formality, as the interview is what will land you the job… but sometimes the resume will land you the interview. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, let’s start!

I was recently hiring PAs for a production office —  I would say about 2 out of 10 production assistant resumes didn’t immediately go into the trash pile. When hiring a PA, I only care about two things:

#1: Can you do your job.

#2: Can I stand to be around you for the length of this show.

People don’t give a shit about what your goals are. They don’t give a shit if you went to college. They don’t give a shit about your short film. All they want to know is — do you know how to be a PA?

Look at your resume. If any of this shit on there, take it off.

DON’T INCLUDE

  • Student Films
  • Unrelated Work Experience – No one cares if you worked at Starbucks — and don’t argue that it applies because you’re getting people coffee. If it’s not a job in the industry, take it off.)
  • Anything you Directed or DP’d or any High Level Sounding Job – Why the fuck are you applying for a PA position if you’re a director. No one cares.
  • Career Objective – No one cares.
  • Hobbies – Again, no one cares.
  • References – If they want a reference they’ll ask. 99% of the time they heard about you from someone else anyway.
  • Background – Don’t think the person hiring you, who has probably been working in a production office for longer than you’ve been alive, cares about your background. There is plenty of time for this type of conversation after you’re hired.
  • Interests – Definitely Not.
  • That you Wrote a Screenplay – Seriously, I’m looking at a resume right now where a PA lists a feature screenplay in his work experience. Dude, in what way do you think a Prod. Coord. hiring you to go pick up lunch gives a shit if you’ve written a screenplay?

Now, here is what your resume should include.

INCLUDE

  • Name and Contact Info – Email, phone number, home address.
  • Job History – Show Name, Position, Date of job (if you want), Production Company (this is where you can make it a little sexier by adding in WALT DISNEY STUDIOS or something).

That’s it. Anything else on your resume should go below those two things. Your resume should look like a list. Name and contact on top. Below just a list of all the jobs you’ve done.

Chances are you haven’t worked that much. If you need some padding see below:

PADDING

  • Schooling – No one really cares, but it doesn’t take up much room… and why else did you get a film degree if not to do SOMETHING with it… so put it on the resume. At the bottom.
  • Skills – A producer friend of mine says he likes it when skills are listed on a resume. It doesn’t take up much room. But it’s where you can list appropriate skills like Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Suite, Scenechronize, Final Draft, Final Cut, Avid… etc. This is more relevant for a non-set PA job. You can even put MAC and PC… If you know how to hook up network printers on Macs AND PCs you instantly become like a god-figure in the office. Same with knowing the ins and outs of how to use an iPhone ( a lot of technologically impaired people work in production).
  • Internships – Unlike student films and your own shorts, an internship can basically be a non-paid PA job.  Internship is an easily dismissible word, when the experience you gained shouldn’t be dismissed. I would just change the job title “internship” into whatever job you were doing  — Office PA, producer’s assistant, development assistant… Looks better and it’s basically the same exact job, you were just getting school credit instead of being paid.
  • Job Descriptions – You can add this stuff if you’re seriously lacking in things to put on your resume. Just a few bullet points under every job. Try to not be monotonous.

DESIGN

  • Make your resume clear and easy to read – You won’t believe how many people’s resumes look like a jumbled mess of text. Nobody wants to read — they want to SCAN! I should look at your resume and know in 1 second if I’m putting you in the consider pile or the trash. If I have to read too much… sorry buddy. You might now be thinking, “Why is this guy so lazy and disgruntled? He’s going to pass on a qualified applicant just because they have “too much text” on the page?” Dude … when you work in a production office hiring PAs, you literally have about 100 resumes to go through in an hour. I’m not reading your fucking wall of text. If it takes a wall of text for me to realize your talent, you’re doing it wrong. You get a quick glance.
  • Keep your resume ONE PAGE  – You’ve done 40 jobs? Pick the sexiest looking ones. I shouldn’t have to turn the page when looking through your resume. No seriously… keep it one page.
  • Portrait View – Seriously… a landscape resume? Don’t. Ever.
  • Make Font Bigger – A larger font is easier to read, and stands out more. Even just bumping the standard 12pt to 14pt is a nice touch.
  • A Little Color Never Hurt Anyone – Even using greys with black looks better than a simple black text resume, and it’s non-color printer safe.
  • Too Much Color Hurts Everyone – If it looks like a teletubby took a shit on your resume — I will burn it.

IN CLOSING

People in a hiring position only want to know that YOU know what you’re doing. And the best way to persuade them is by showing that you’ve done the job before. So if you’re looking for set PA work — stack your resume with Set PA jobs. They’ll take one look at it and see SET PA, SET PA, SET PA, SET PA. “Great! Bring ’em in for an interview.” If they have to navigate through your resume like pans fucking labyrinth — you’re on a fast track to the trash.

[UPDATE]

Download a simple PA resume template here!

12PTRESUMETEMPLATE082714-page-001Also check out:

TIPS FOR A PA: How to Roll Calls aka Answering Phones for Newbs

screaming-into-phone

One of the main responsibilities of an Office PA is to roll calls. You have a phone on your desk with many buttons (and every fucking phone is different and way more complicated than it needs to be) and it rings all day long. The thought of answering phones when I started office PAing was honestly terrifying. Not only did I have the fear of not knowing what I was doing — I had the fear of  not knowing what I was doing in front of a bunch of people. When you’re in a production office, generally all the PA’s are set up in a bullpen. No cubicle dividers — just a room full of desks. So everyone can hear everything you say.  It was scary… but a completely unjustified fear. Answering phones is one of the easiest things in the world. Suffice to say, I learned fast. So here are some tips.

You’re sitting at your desk. The phones ring. Pick it up as fast as possible. If possible don’t let it ring more than once. Answer. “Production, this is [Insert Name Here].” Some people just answer with “Production”. But I like to let people know who they’re talking to.

One of the first things you should do if you’re on a new phone system is figure out how to transfer a call. Like I said, every phone is different. There are two types of transfers. Blind Transfers and Consult Transfers. A blind transfer simply transfers one call to another phone. A consult transfer transfers you first so you can say, “So and So is on the line, would you like me to put them through?” and they will either say, “Yes”, and you complete the transfer, or, “No, take a message”. You usually only have to do this if it’s someone important… or if you’re transferring out to someone’s cell.  If someone is calling for another department — just blind transfer. No need to consult. 

So someone calls and you answer the phone, person on the other line says, “Hello, can I talk to so and so”. If it’s another department, simply say “Yes, please hold.”  and blind transfer them to the extension on the phone list.  If they’re asking for someone in your department (Apoc, Poc, another PA, etc) you can probably just put them on hold and tell that person what line they’re on. E.g. “Hey, Jess, So and So is on Line 1 for you.”

9000 times out of 10 the person on the other line will say “Hi, can I speak to so and so?” Without giving their name or why they’re calling.  If it’s for another department… just transfer them over. But if it’s for someone in production — you need to find out two things. Who they are, and why they’re calling.

“Yes, may I ask who’s calling please?”  If it’s a name you recognize or know to be important, it’s probably okay to just walk up to the person in your department and be like, “So and So is on the line for you.” But if it’s someone you don’t recognize you need to be all like, “May I ask what the call is regarding.” I had so much trouble with this when I started out. How do you ask someone why they’re calling without sounding like a little shit. You can’t just ask, “Why are you calling?” It just sounds bad. So asking what the call is regarding seems to be the best way to ask that question.

Also if the dude doesn’t have the name John Smith and you’re not exactly sure what he said… a good way to find out what his name is, is by asking “Can you spell your first and last name for me, please?” That why when you tell the producer that Moises Trajicomahetmetet is calling for him, he actually knows who you’re talking about. It’s very important to get names right. Double checking with the person on the phone is way less embarrassing than getting the name wrong while talking to the producer.  DONT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THE PHONE. Get the information down correctly. Get their name spelt right. If the dude on the other end of the phone is an irritated piece of shit, it’s not like they can reach through the phone and strangle you. Remember, you’re just doing your job. Get the name right. Ask what the call is regarding, and then place them on hold.

Same thing for taking messages. Name. Who they’re with. Why they’re calling. Note down the date and time, and ALWAYS ask for a callback number. Unless it’s a person you know is very familiar to the person they’re calling, always ask something along the lines of “And what number can you be reached at?” Even if you know the person you’re giving the message to has their number, you’ll save them the time to look it up.

That’s all I can think of about phones at the moment. There is always 3 way calling and conference calling… but every phone is different so I can’t really tell you how to do that.

I hate phones.

Working for No Pay Part 3

speedup_630

Just stumbled on a new reader question that I feel like addressing in a post.

…what is a reasonable amount of PA work to be doing gratis before you can expect to be paid? I don’t want to shoot down opportunities but at the same feel like I am being used. Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget? I worked 35 hours on a 3 day shoot thinking I was getting paid and then I didnt. I even paid out of pocket for lunch and didnt get reimbursed. They want me to work for them again and say it wont be paid (a pretty decent sized indie studio). I told them I would do it but expect to be paid in the future. Am I out of line? Am I burning bridges? Did I shoot myself in the foot? The whole if you wont do it, someone else will line is getting old. People have to live. People have to pay bills. I cant keep working for free, can I?

– Josh

Okay. So I wrote briefly a while back about DOING free jobs to get noticed. And then a little while later I did a quick follow-up about being WARY of free jobs.  I’m going to go a little deeper.

I would ONLY take free work if you know there is a high possibility that it could get you paid work in the future. I’ve only worked for free 5 times. I will lay them out here.

1. The very first job I took in LA was a non paid 2 day job on a music video. I knew somebody working for a production company out here and they told me “Hey, the production company is super over budget on this music video and are looking for some free labor. I know you just moved out here and are looking for work. These guys do a lot of work. If you work your ass off for free I’m sure you’ll get noticed and get more work.” …or she said something along those lines.  It was my first week in LA and I didn’t know anyone… so what the hell. I took the job, worked my ass off for free, and it TOTALLY paid off. I ended up getting about $900 worth of work from the same producer the next week on two more shoots. Which then led me to getting work with their company doing freelance shoots up until the now. Last shoot I did with them was a few months ago. I also networked my ass off and got work later down the road from the Set Dresser and the Production Designer as an Art PA. So… I did this job because A). I didn’t have anything to lose. B). It was the first and only opportunity I had to get on set. C). My friend who worked there told me there was a good chance I would get paid work if I proved myself.

2. The second free job I did was a 3 day super low-budget TV pilot. I had already been working freelance a bit and another friend I met in the industry shot me an email. Basically he knew an AD that was going into production on a big hour-long network drama in the fall. So he got me in contact with her 2nd AD. The 2nd AD told me they were shooting this low-budget pilot for a friend (they were all working for free… even the ADs.) And if I came and worked on it, it could be like my interview. If I proved myself, I could become a candidate for a PA position on the show. So, of course, I took the free 3 day job. Long story short — They got a few political hires (producer’s nephew or something) and hired another one of the PAs I was working with for free… who was a girl. Girl ADs… wanting to hire Girl PAs… I feel like they stick together in this industry. But in the PAs defense, she was one of the best PAs I’ve ever met. A god damn super PA. You’ll know a super PA when you meet them. They carry like tool belts and shit. You can’t compete with them. Anyway… I didn’t get the job. Months later I got a call from the ADs wanting me to day play a few days on the network drama. So I did that. It was a miserable couple days. And I haven’t heard from them since. BUT! A few months after that, the DIRECTOR of the super low-budget free pilot I worked on called me up. (I had kept in contact with her. NETWORK!) Turns out she was an AD as well… on another big network half hour comedy. So — I got a few day playing days as a SET PA with her… Then one day she called me up because there was an OFFICE PA out sick. So I lied and said that I had been an office PA before (first… and only time I have lied while trying to get work… i just don’t like to do it… but it paid off). So I came in. Was super terrified about answering phones, but got over it quick. (fake it til you make it). Then I became the go-to day playing office PA for the show. (Every time one of their office PAs was sick or had jury duty they would call me to come in). Then the coordinator from that show (who I will call Coord. A) hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. B) who was working on another pilot. I did that show. Then Coord B. hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. C), and I went down to Atlanta and worked on movie with her… and now I’m back in LA working on another pilot with Coord. B.  CANT YOU SEE NOW THAT THIS INDUSTRY IS ALL ABOUT MEETING PEOPLE! Anyway. I guess that free job paid off. It didn’t pay off the way I wanted it to at first… but it definitely paid off in the end. I took that free job because A). There was a chance I could get a PA job on a big network drama.

3. The third free job I took was a First A.D. job for a super small Funny or Die video. No one was getting paid. I did it because a friend asked me to. A friend who had gotten me work in the past. You have to do favors in the industry. You don’t want to be the guy only asking for stuff and never returning.

4. Fourth free job. Also First A.D. on a short film for a friend. Again, favors.

5. Fifth free job. Set PA. Favor. Friend.

So there you have it. Only  take a free job if you think it’s going to help you in the long run. Personally to me… it sounds like these guys are fucking you over. If you feel like you’re getting fucked over… you probably are. Go with your gut man. That’s all I can tell you. But think about your options as well. If they’re not going to pay you… but you have no paid work… are you still willing to work for free to make contacts and get experience? If so, do it. But look for more work in the meantime. And the second some paid work comes in, leave them. Just say, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I have to take this paid job, I’m sure you understand.” And if they don’t understand, fuck ’em. And… unfortunately… if you don’t do it. Someone else will do it. But then they’re the ones getting fucked over.

P.S. — and as far as the “Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget?” 99% of budgets include paying PAs. And yes… it is negotiated beforehand. How you ask? Easy “Is it paid?” You say. “Yes” They say. That’s it. Feel free to ask how much. It will be anywhere from 112-250 a day. Usually more on the 112 side of things.  And if this company led you to believe you were going to be paid… and then didn’t… fuck them. Fuck them forever.

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.

Being Busy Not Being Busy

I haven’t posted in a week.  It’s because I’ve been on an extended period of downtime… and it sucks. It really blows.  I’m one of those “work-a-holic” types, and my patience is being tested. I’m so restless. I sent out 26 resumes last week to countless black holes. An Assistant Editor job I was in the interview process for got put on indefinite hold.  A Set PA gig on a commercial got bumped to next month.  The people I have worked for in the past don’t have anything for me at this point in time.  I needed to find SOMETHING to keep me busy, and feed the work-a-holic inside me — so I started another blog.  I know, I should be writing my feature.  I am doing that as well. That’s one good thing about downtime.  I wrote a new horror logline, I’m developing a treatment for an adventure film, and still switching between writing two features.  I know… I just need to finish one of them and get on with my life.

A couple friends and I have just launched a movie news blog.  It keeps me busy while I’m not working and, an added plus to running a news site, now I know everything happening in the industry.

On a good note, I made a couple new contacts, had a phone interview with a company that may bring me some work, and talked to a 1st A.D. who added me to the interview rotation for a PA job on a TV show. Should hear back from her in about 3 weeks.  Fingers crossed.

Oh… and I discovered MineCraft, Portal 2, and I’ve done some catching up on Parks and Rec.

So I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is, USE YOUR DOWNTIME. Stay busy when you’re not busy, you never know where it might lead you.

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:

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: