Reader Follow Up: ANGRY AT THE SYSTEM?

Angry

Javier had a question on my last angry rant.

“This may come off as petty, but honestly, are you angry about taking the road to get where you are?

This comes up every so often with my fellow PAs: When you get an assistant, will you get a charge out of putting them through the same? Or do you want to re-pave the path, so to speak? I don’t mean baby-ing or hand holding.”

Thanks for the question —

I wouldn’t say I am necessarily angry about the road it takes to move up. I worked with a lot of great people, and there is camaraderie in sludging through the trenches with your fellow production assistants. You will make friends in those tough times that will hopefully pull you through the rest of your career.

Are there bitter people who abuse the system by abusing PAs, simply because “they paid their dues, and now it’s your time” ? Of course there are — but honestly, I learned the most from some of those guys.

I won’t ever “abuse” my future assistants (if I’m lucky enough to need an assistant someday). I don’t think I would get a “charge” out of it. But I will understand that the system works the way it does because it needs to. The film/tv industry is VERY competitive, and as ALL competitive jobs, you need a system where the best of the best rise to the top.  And the only way the best rise to the top is by NOT making it easy for them. Those who conquer and overcome will succeed.  If you recognize talent — foster it. But if you see someone who can’t handle the heat — you can’t make it easy for them, because then you’re not helping anyone.  You’re not helping them, and you’re not helping the production.

My previous rant was not aimed at the system — it was aimed at Film School students who don’t want to put in the work. Or who don’t understand what they’re in for. Students who think they can easily get a job. I am trying to HELP THEM before they waste all their money on a worthless degree and then find out no one is jumping at the opportunity to give them a job. That in reality, they’re a dime a dozen and just getting a simple PA job is super hard. Even though my rant came out overly harsh, I am TRYING TO HELP. If you’re a film student, and not willing to put in the work to get the job, you need to change your degree. For your own sake. For you future family’s sake.

I hope this answered your question!

-12pt

How do You Get Work in the Film Industry? You Have to Fucking WORK.

There is a symptom that plagues film school students and those who want to work in the film industry.

I know this because I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of film students. That vast majority of them don’t want to work. They don’t want to start at the bottom and crawl their way to the top. They want to make art. Let me tell you something, you want-to-be-filmmakers —

YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. YOU. YES. YOU.

You’re going to graduate film school thinking you want to work in the film industry, but end up switching careers with thousands of dollars in student debt, or work at a local TV station making shitty commercials, or film weddings for the rest of your life. And that’s no one’s fault but yours.

How do you not fail? You work you fucking ass off, that’s how.

I have not made it. Far from it. But I’m a lot further along than the lot of you. And you probably want to be where I am right now. I work for a “big-time” guy in the industry. I frequent film sets during production and have the occasional chat with a celebrity. My scripts are being read “around town”, and I have representation courting me. This is shit I DREAMED about having 7 years ago when I started this blog. I’m STILL not happy with where I am, but that’s another story. THIS story is about how none of this is going to happen to you because you’re a lazy piece of shit.

If you want to work in the film industry, you have to be willing to work 18 hours days 6 days a week for minimum wage with an Assistant Director yelling at you over the walkie in front of the entire crew right after you’ve spent the last 2 hours picking up dog shit and used condoms off the side of the road for the art department at 6 in the fucking morning.

If you want to work in the film industry, you have to be willing to leave EVERYTHING behind and move to Los Angeles with no money and sleep on a strangers couch that you met on craigslist who smokes weed every day and watches TV until 1 am not letting you get any sleep before you have to wake up at 4am to get to pre-call on set in the middle of sun valley by 6am.

If you want to work in the film industry, you have to leave every comfort you know, and jump headfirst into a chaotic environment using equipment you’ve never used before for people you’ve never met before, while all the time trying to prove that you’re the hardest worker in the world so that maybe they will hire you again for the next job.

If you want to work in the film industry, you need to be meeting people and spending more time looking for work than actually working because you need to have a job lined up when the current job your working is over.

And then, MAYBE, after you’ve done all this for a few years and find a steady job, you will be able to direct enough shorts or write enough screenplays in your “free time” to get noticed and actually do the shit you really want to be doing out here.

If you’re not willing to do any of this stuff. Then do everyone already working in LA a favor and  GTFO of here so that our commute on these god-forsaken highways is minus one car.

Now get off your lazy piece of shit ass and go do something.

-12pt

Question: Quit Current Job to Take Production Assistant Job?

production assistant

Hello, hope this Christmas season is treating you well! Back when I was working as a production assistant — Christmas was the worst. I was stuck out in California away from my family with nowhere to go. And guess what, the ENTIRE FUCKING INDUSTRY basically grinds to a halt. Which means no work. Which means no money. Which means… blegh.  So, I feel for you production assistants out there. I really do. Hopefully you were able to grab enough work over the past few months to tide you over.

One thing I tried to do every year was find a producer or someone who needed house-sitting over the holidays. A good way to make a little cash over Christmas break. Especially if you’re not going home to visit family or something. But if you CAN go home on your parents dime, DO IT! Free food = the best food when you’re poor.

Anyway — here is a reader question I found in my inbox recently.

Hey, just found your blog and absolutely love it! Anyway I have a big question… I was hired almost 2 months ago at an Agency – I’m finally starting to get everything down and about to hit 2 weeks paid vacation for the holidays. They’ve trained me from being fresh out of college and Pilot season is around the corner. I’m also on REDACTED IMPORTANT PERSON’S desk, which is pretty awesome. The thing is I’ve got a potential job opp for doing what I really want to do, gain experience as a PA on a show. Do I cut and run knowing this opportunity is rare or should I tough it out at the Agency to prevent burning this bridge?
Thanks!

Okay. My first response is DON’T FUCKING LEAVE YOUR JOB. WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY! YOU’RE WORKING A SECURE JOB THAT GIVES YOU PAID, I REPEAT, P-A-I-D, VACATIONS AND YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT LEAVING TO BECOME A SET PA? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK!?

Okay — now with that out-of-the-way.

What you should be asking yourself is — what is your end goal?

Do you want to be an agent? Or do you want to work in production? If you’re not sure what you want to do — maybe talk to some current Production Assistants about production and see if it’s something you really want to do. Or better yet — dip your toes in by offering to work as a PA for free one day — A day that you don’t have to be at your agency job  — just as extra help to get some set experience.

The thing is — Being a PA sucks.

There are some (crazy) people out there that actually love being a production assistant. But most of those people want to become ADs or coordinators. I admit — I REALLY enjoyed being a production assistant for the first year I moved to LA. But after the initial HOLY SHIT I’M WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY FOR REAL wears off — you will realize you’re just a slave at the bottom of a very long totem pole.  You’re a slave at the bottom with the job you have now, but YOU’RE a slave with PAID vacations. Do you get health insurance at your job as well? — because holy Christ if you do DON’T LEAVE.

Every job in the industry is really hard to get

— even the one you have. Working a desk at an agency is super competitive. So if you have ANY desire to become an agent — or hell — even a producer. I would 100% stay at the job you have and milk all the contacts and relationships out of it that you can. Production assistant jobs will come and go. The worst thing (and the most likely thing) to come out of leaving you job for this PA job is — you take the PA job — it lasts what? A few months? Half a year at best? And then you decide you don’t like it. And when the show is over — so is your job. And guess what — there is a new girl sitting at the desk job you used to have. So you’re fucked outta luck, kiddo.

But honestly, if becoming a set production assistant is 100% your hearts desire — do it. I just want you to know the risks you’re taking.

END NOTE:

I assume you’re talking about a set PA position, but my answer applies to all PA positions. Except maybe a writer’s PA position. If you want to be a writer and a writer’s PA position becomes available 100% take it.

Getting a Production Assistant Job (Reader Question Backlog)

 

Getting A Production Assistant Job

The site went down for a couple of weeks. Server-side problems. Sorry about that. All better now. How about a reader question!? I have a backlog.  Lets blow through these.

These questions all seem to be focused around GETTING A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB.

First, a quick one:

What do you think of sites like StaffMeUp and Mandy? – Nick

I’ve honestly never used either.  But it can’t hurt to look. Just beware of all the people asking for non-paid work. Most of the time, getting a production assistant job revolves around meeting people and making connections. More often than not, if someone is posting a need for production assistants on a job website, they probably are NOT going to pay you. I think I wrote some articles on working for free before. ARTICLE ONE, ARTICLE TWO, ARTICLE THREE

Alright, onto the next one.

So I am currently going into my senior year at film school, and am trying to work as a PA in LA this summer. I have some money saved up, and am trying to buy some essential gear to have on set. I just don’t have enough money right now to buy all the essentials I have been compiling. Do you have any suggestions on which are the most important up front? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you. – Shaeden.

I have an article written about production assistant gear here. But when talking about ESSENTIALS… I would say good shoes are #1, followed by sunscreen for day work, followed by warm clothes for night work, and sunglasses. Everything else is just extra. Don’t waste your money on crap you don’t need… until you can afford it. You can slowly build up your PA arsenal over time. Buy a multi-tool on one job… get something else on another job. For now just get yourself some good comfortable shoes to run around in all day and you’ll be well on your way.  Everything else can come later. Save your money for surviving in LA. And you don’t need anything of these things to actually get a production assistant job.

Note that all of this crap is for a Set PA… if you’re going to be in the office you’ll need different stuff. Like #1 would be a laptop. #2 would be a car.

Next one.

“Hello, my name is Stevie and I am film school right now at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida.  I came across your blog and find it very helpful.  I even take notes, its always good to keep those things in mind.  I am in a program where I will have my bachelors in 20 months.  I am in my 10th month right now so I will graduate in 10 months.  I am starting to feel the stress of wondering how I’m going to break into the business.  I read that you packed up and headed to LA which is what I plan to do.  I was just wondering if you had any advice for a film student getting ready to try to break into the PA world.  Thanks. – Stevie.”

Hi Stevie. If you go through the archives of this website you’ll find a bunch of good advice on getting a production assistant job. I would, if you can, try to lock down some work or make as many connections out here as you can NOW before moving out here. If you can afford to take a summer internship for no pay out here while still in school, do it. But if you can’t do any of that, just save up as much money as you can, come out here, find a place to stay, and start calling up ANYONE you know who works out here and asking them for a job, or if they know of anyone who can give you a job. Then take ANY job you’re offered. You just need to worry about getting your foot in the door. Even if it’s a job you don’t really want to stay in…. doesn’t matter. Take it.

While you’re on that job meet everyone and make connections and when the job is over start bothering everyone you met about getting another job. Rinse and repeat until you have enough contacts that know you’re a kick ass worker who will call you up on the reg for work.

Alright. That’s all we have time for today. I’ve been working non-stop. Writing a lot. Still trying to get a manager. See you in another 6 months with an update.

First Time On Set? | Tips for a Production Assistant

First Time On Set

I haven’t answered any reader questions in a while. Sorry. Here’s one —

QUESTION ABOUT YOUR FIRST TIME ON SET AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

I just got my first pa job on a tv show and it’s coming up this weekend. It’ll be my first time on set and though i’m excited, I really nervous as well! I’ve been reading through your posts and they’re super helpful, but is there anything I should know going into this for the first time? I’ve only ever been on set in film school, unfortunately, and I really scared I’m going to look like and idiot! – Jessica

—–

FIRST TIME ON SET

Well, Jessica, here’s the thing. If this is your first time on set, you are going to look like an idiot. BUT THAT IS OKAY! Because you’re new. Unless you lied to the person who hired you, they know you’re a new production assistant as well. So, relax, it will be fine. Just keep your ears open, always pay attention, and be willing to learn and do anything.

Since this is your first time on set, you WILL be put into positions where you have no idea how to proceed. The best advice I can give you is:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS!

Find another production assistant who looks like he/she knows what they’re doing. Introduce yourself. Ask questions and take their lead.  You’ll pick it up fast. If you screw up, and the AD yells at you over the walkie — you’re not alone. It happens to everyone at least once. By the end of a day or two, you’ll have your sea-legs. Don’t fret. Everyone has been there. Everyone working in the film/tv industry has had their first day on set.

SOME TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST TIME ON SET AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Don’t ask questions over the walkie. If someone tells you to do something and you have no idea what they’re talking about, say “copy that!” (as if you know what you’re doing) and then run to your closest PA buddy and ask them what the hell the AD was talking about.

A couple of things to watch out for. There is no such thing as Kino Fluid. If the AD or anyone asks you for Kino Fluid, they are hazing you. There are a few other common hazing tricks people pull on new production assistants, but I can’t remember them right now. It’s just part of becoming a production assistant.

ALWAYS know where the actors in the scene are. They tend to wander off set. If the A.D. asks something along the lines of  “Anyone have eyes on ACTOR X?” — a quick response from you could mean brownie points.  (I had an A.D. who would randomly ask me where a certain actor was even if she knew where he was, just to make sure I knew where he was…. )

Hopefully, you aren’t put in charge of locking up the area where the grips hang out. Grips don’t listen when production assistants tell them to be quiet. Then you just have to stand there like an asshole while the AD asks why the grips aren’t “locked up” during filming.

If the A.D. yells cut — YOU YELL CUT. If the A.D. yells rolling — YOU YELL ROLLING. That’s one of a production assistant’s primary jobs. It’s called “echoing” and you do it during “lock-up.” This is, so EVERYONE on set knows to shut the fuck up.  If you don’t do this, any respectable AD will yell at you.  And the grip who just walked into the shot will yell at you because the A.D. just yelled at him for walking in the shot while YOU should have been “locking” up the set.

Also, ALWAYS reply when the AD asks a question over the walkie. One of the ADs I used to work for would get IRATE if she asked a question over the walkie and no one responded. She called it “crickets” and it was the bane of her existence. Always respond, “Copy” and then repeat the order given to you. Even if you’re doing what the AD told you over the walkie, they don’t know that you heard them unless you reply.

ALSO, CHECK OUT THESE HELPFUL ARTICLES:

WALKIE TALKIE LINGO
SET LINGO
HOW TO GET A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB WITH NO EXPERIENCE

I’m sure there are a million other things I could tell you, but they’re not coming to me.

Anyway — I hope you enjoyed your first day on set. If you read this, leave a comment on how it went! And share your tips!

Production Assistant Resume Template PDF

production assistant resume template

[Post Updated August 7, 2018]

Below you will find a sample production assistant resume template.

I wrote an article a few months back on what a production assistant resume should look like. You can find that article here. Today for some reason, I decided to quickly whip up a production assistant resume template for you guys. Yay! Here is what it looks like:

production assistant resume templateIt’s not pretty. But it does the job. Your name, address, phone number, and email addy are right up at the top. Followed by the only thing that matters — work experience.

Feel free to mess with it and customize it to your needs. I will in no way be offering tech support. If you can’t get it to work. I apologize. However, if the download link doesn’t work, let me know, and I’ll try and fix that. I also included a pdf file of the production assistant resume template if you just want to see what it looks like.

DOWNLOAD LINKS:

DOC FILE

PDF FILE

Tips for a PA: How to Make a “To-Do” List

idreamed

You’re probably thinking, “How to make a “To-Do” list? Really? That’s the type of unique content this guy puts on his site?” Trust me. This changed my life.

Everyone has their own way to do a To-Do list. Some people prefer digital lists, others like to write them down. I prefer written lists. My current template was given to me by a former Agent’s Assistant, and it’s my favorite one yet. It’s very simple, yet super effective. Set PA’s don’t really use To-Do lists much… so this article is aimed more towards the office PA or office assistant.

1. First off, you need a lined paper notebook. One where you can turn the pages. Like this one. 

2. The next step is to get out a ruler and draw a straight line right down the middle of the paper, like so:

finishedline

 

3. Next put the date up at the top. Wherever you think best. I tend to forget the date — so I find this very useful.

finisheddate

4. Next you write “TO DO:” on one side and “TO CALL:” on the other side. The former agent’s assistant would use “TO DO:” and “TO SEND:” or something, because she would constantly be sending out scripts to people. I don’t have things to send, but I have a lot of people to call — so I  have a “To Call” column.

finishedColumns

5. Now, throughout your day, you will be given a multitude of never-ending tasks. Please do not rely on your memory — it WILL fail you. Write everything you need to do down, even if you think you will remember it. Put things in their respective columns like so:

finishedtasks

6. Here is the important part. When you’re done with a task. You HIGHLIGHT IT. Do not cross it out. Highlighting lets you easily see all the tasks you’ve completed. So when your boss comes to you and was like, “Did you do that thing I told you to do last week?” And you have no idea what he’s talking about because there are a million things on your mind — You simply scroll back in your notebook to the date and look and see if you highlighted that task.

finishedlist

7. At the end of the day you should have all your completed tasks highlighted. Now turn the page, and create the next days list by adding all the tasks you didn’t complete today. And continue on doing this never-ending list of bullshit that is your job while you slowly die in a fluorescent bathed cubicle of hell.

That’s it! Hope this helps all you office people get shit done.

Also check out:

How to Roll Calls: Tips for a Production Assistant

how to roll calls

[Post Updated August 8, 2018]

One of the primary responsibilities of an office production assistant is to answer phones. So let’s learn how to roll calls.

First of all: What does “Roll Calls” mean?

It’s pretty simple. Rolling Calls involves answering phones, connecting calls, transferring calls to appropriate parties, setting up conference calls, and things of that nature. You basically just sit at a desk all day and press buttons.

For and office production assistant, the majority of “rolling calls” involves answering and transferring.

The thought of learning how to roll calls when I got my first office production assistant job was honestly terrifying. Not only did I have a fear of not knowing what I was doing — I had a 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 production assistants are set up in a bullpen. No cubicle dividers — just a room full of desks. So everyone can hear everything you say. 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.  It was scary… but an unjustified fear. Rolling calls is one of the most natural things in the world. Suffice to say, I learned fast. So here are some tips on how to roll calls.

Pick up the phone on the first ring.

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 (you can get in a friendly competition with the other office PAs and see who can answer the phone the fastest).

Answer. “Production, this is [Insert Name Here].” Some people just answer with “Production.” But I like to let people know who they’re talking with.

One of the first things you should do if you’re on a new phone system is to figure out how to transfer a call. Transfering calls IS how you “roll calls”.

Like I said, every phone is different. But generally, 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 that you can inform the person on the other line who is calling, e.g., “So and So is on the line, would you like me to put them through?” and the person you’re talking to will either say, “Yes,” and you will complete the transfer, or, “No, take a message.” In which case you don’t complete the transfer, but return to the caller and take a message.

You usually only have to do a “consult transfer” it’s someone important… or if you’re transferring to a person’s cell.  Like I said before, if someone calls the production office for someone in a different department (such as ART or HAIR or LOCATIONS), just say “Yes, please hold.” And then blind transfer them to that department. No need to consult. (You will be given a phone list with department extensions, keep this taped to the desk or the wall near your phone.)  If the person on the phone is asking for someone in YOUR department (Apoc [assistant production cooridnator], Poc [prodouction cooridnator], another PA, etc..), you can 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.”

Get the right information.

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

Start off with, “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 a name 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 first 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?” That just sounds bad. Asking what the call is regarding seems to be the best way to ask that question.

Always get the correct name.

Also, if the person on the line doesn’t have an easy to understand name, like John Smith, and you’re not exactly sure what they said their name was… (Hello, my name is Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele) an excellent way to find out is by asking “Can you spell your first and last name for me, please?” That way, when you tell the producer that Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff is calling for him, the producer actually knows who is calling, instead of just handing them a message note with a bunch of scribbled writing on it.

It’s very important to get the caller names right when you roll calls.

Double checking with the person on the phone is way less embarrassing than getting the name wrong while talking to the producer. Nothing is worse than telling a producer someone called for them, and not being able to tell them who it was or give them the wrong last name.

DONT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THE PHONE.

Get the information down correctly. Get their name spelled 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 and transfer them (or however your overly-complicated mess of machinery works).

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 the caller is a person you know to be very familiar with the person they’re calling for, always ask something along the lines of “And what is the best number to reach you at?”. Even if you know the person you’re giving the message to has the caller’s number, you’ll save them the time to look it up. Which makes your boss like you. Which makes your boss more likely to hire you in the future.

So that’s how you roll calls!

There is always three-way calling and conference calling and connect to an outside line — but every phone is different, so I can’t tell you how to do that. All I can tell you is, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask another PA or APOC to teach you how to use the phone system.

Don’t be afraid to fuck up. I dropped a lot of important calls when I started out. It happens to everyone.

I hate phones. Fuck phones. I love lamp.

DRESSINGS and VINEGARS

bv

People in LA love salads. They love salads more than anything. Actually… I’m not sure if they love salads. They might hate salads — but they feel so guilty eating anything else they’re forced to choke down variants of lettuce mixed with other things for lunch.

Every day .

Either way, if you’re working in a production office make sure you add a few different kinds of salad dressings to the crafty buy list. And if someone important asks you to run to the commissary and pick up some balsamic vinaigrette for their salad, and you run over there and all they have is a couple different glass bottles filled with oils and vinegars… Balsamic Vinaigrette is traditionally 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. 

Lesson learned.

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.