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” or “Check”.  This means everything is working properly.  If you hear nothing, something 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 t0 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.

“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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15 thoughts on “Tips for a PA: Walkie Talkie Lingo”

  1. Love the quote at the top of the page — and it’s dead-on. Life on the walkie is simpler for grip and electric — we stay on our own channel for the most part, and thus don’t have to worry about the protocols of switching back and forth. It’s harder for PA’s, who must never be out of touch with production, yet often have to help serve the needs of various other departments. Such is the nature of the gig, though, and one more reason being a good PA isn’t easy.

    The only thing I’d add is to drop the notion of broadcasting a”10-200.” That comes under the heading of Too Much Information. Granted, a 10-2 takes longer than a 10-1 — paperwork is always such a time-consuming affair — but there are some things nobody else really wants (or needs) to know. Just broadcast a “10-100″ and leave the rest to their imaginations — then when you’re back on set, let your department know.

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  4. Well… if you’re on channel two you would say something along the lines of “Copy, back to one(channel 1)”

    If you’re tasked something on the radio it could look like, AD: “M.Sargent” YOU: “Go for M.Sargent” AD: “Hey M, I need help on set moving a pop-up.” You:”Copy that, flying to you”.

    In pretty much every conversation you basically just reply Copy that, and whatever you’ve been tasked to do. That’s basically the end of the conversation.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Do not do a walkie check. Ever.

    It falls under the list of pet peeves for a lot of ADs so, you’re running a big risk of pissing them off. Sure, some don’t mind, but it’s better to air on the side of caution with this one. Sometimes an AD will do a walkie check because they’re pissed off that no one is copying them on walkie. They’re throwing out a hint that they need to be copied.

  6. Although, I’ll add “86″. It means, “never mind”.

    Or I’ve been hearing “Flag on the play” recently. It usually follows if the gate wasn’t good and we have to go back and shoot, or there was an announcement that they have to go back on.

  7. I’ll disagree with you on this one. If you’re working on a very big set with many, many, many people, it could be a good idea to do a walkie check with someone else on a private channel E.g. channel 2 as to not tie up channel 1. But you should always do one. Headsets and Surveillance pieces tend to be a piece of shit sometimes and you could be the dumbass walking around keying out or not responding to an AD on walkie because your earpiece isn’t working. Save yourself the embarrassment and do a simple walkie check.

    That said I have NEVER worked with an AD that has a walkie check “Pet Peeve”… and I’ve worked for many AD’s. Also. PA’s usually have a pre call… so when you get your walkie and do your walkie check, there is hardly anyone on set yet.

    Although I will agree with you — AD’s will throw out a walkie check out because they’re tired of hearing “crickets”.

  8. I just moved here from Sydney, where I’ve been working in film for only the past year. I’ve produced my short films and coordinated a feature. Now, I’m looking for work as a PA in LA. Our Crews in Sydney hardly ever used these terms. This site has been a great help to me. I wouldn’t want to walk onto my 1st PA job, responding over the walkie with, “hold on mate, I’m taking a piss”!
    Thanks for the posts. It’ll be my lingo bible.

  9. Never been on a set where a Walkie Check was noticeably a pet peeve. It’s better to check your walkie, in my experience, than to go all day having people call you over walkie, and you don’t respond. AD’s or whomever is trying to speak to you will either think you’re A.) Ignoring them…not good, and/or B.) Think you’re a bit dim b/c you haven’t heard anything over the walkie for hours, yet didn’t think there’s perhaps a problem w/ your walkie, or that anyone needed your assistance…?? You’re a PA…you’re almost always needed.

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