Let this entry be the first of many more to come.
As a Set Production Assistant, working in the industry, it only seems fair to share some useful tips that first-time PAs may find helpful. I recall walking in on the first day of the first job I landed, not so long ago, and not knowing a single thing. Sure, you can read a little here and there about what the job entails but, just like all careers, nothing serves as better educator than experience. I had been on plenty of sets before I started my first PA gig, so I fully expected to work long, hard weeks. To me, this meant working five days a week for roughly twelve hours a day, constantly being on my feet, and inevitably being out in the cold and rain, or maybe even the snow. Well, I may have underestimated things, to say the least…
To start this series off, I am going to outline a few BASIC TIPS that every PA needs to know.
Wear Comfortable Shoes: This may seem like a no-brainer, but seriously, forego style and fashion if need-be. When they say long hours, they mean long hours. Twelve hours can easily turn into fourteen or sixteen hour days, and you may not sit down even once. Your feet are going to hurt for the first few days. I know mine did. No matter if you run or you are athletic, the only thing that will prepare your feet for standing all day, is to stand all day. Just power through it, and you they will get conditioned before you know it.
Check the Weather: Day-in, and day-out, you never know exactly what you will get asked to do. Even if you are shooting at an interior location, your particular responsibility may require being outdoors doing lock-ups, or ITC (more on those in a later post). The job continues rain or shine. We are not Lifeguards. If it is forecast to rain, bring rain boots and a water-proof jacket. If it might get cold, wear more layers than you think are necessary, you can always take them off. If it is sunny, definitely ask the on-set medic for some sunblock, or bring your own. No one, except yourself, is responsible for telling you how to dress. Be prepared.
Watch Where You Are Going: A set is a very busy and hectic environment. Lots of people are going every which way at any given moment, and it sounds silly, but always be aware of your surroundings. The G&E guys are constantly moving heavy equipment and if you are not on your toes, you could be right in their way. Trust me, they do not like when people are not paying attention. You certainly do not want to block the way of a principal actor getting to or from set either. On the other end of the spectrum, you can earn bonus points if you are alert and helping to clear a path for people who are working hard. Also, keep your eyes forward. There are a lot of danger zones on a set and if you get ahead of yourself, you could wind up with a nasty laceration on your head from a condor arm. Again, trust me, it is easier to do than it may sound.
When working on a professional set for the first time, you are most likely going to learn a lot of things that you did not know you needed to know. It is a tough job that really throws you a curve ball with each new day. It will get stressful and tiresome but you just have to learn how react quickly and be adaptable (more on that later, too).
However, to me, no matter what a production may bring, I would still happily do it all for free, simply to have the privilege of being on-set.
*But shhh, don’t tell anyone, I have bills to pay!*