PA Confidential | #5

In my last blog post I mentioned that my first time working as a production assistant (PA) on set was a stressful, yet very eye-opening and informative experience.

This is that story.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, to me there is nothing better than working on set. This is where the words on paper become reality, where dreams are made, where creativity can shine. So you can only imagine my excitement when after one month of phone calls and logistical paperwork, my boss finally tells me that we are ready to shoot. Three days in a row, twelve hours per day. Let’s do it.

Arriving on set, I could barely contain my excitement. I arrived early, but within an hour everything was in full swing as the art department began decorating scenes, make up was being applied to the actors, and the director and cinematographer were going through the first shots of the day.

Being a production assistant on set, I knew that my role was to do anything asked of me, from helping set up a flag, to moving equipment off of the truck, to going on coffee runs for the rest of the crew. I was the extra hand for anyone on set. Despite knowing this, the sheer number of people on set, new equipment I had never seen before, and sheer size of the production was overwhelming to me.

When I was told to put on a walkie for the first time, I just stood there with only vague memories of using walkie-talkies from my childhood. We never needed walkies on set back at Michigan since our crews were so small, all you had to do was yell. When I was told to bring out the rollers for make up I had no idea what out of the truckload of equipment they were referring to.

I was prepared to have to the longest, most confusing (and possibly embarrassing) day of my life, but fortunately for me, there was an experienced PA who came to my rescue. His name was Darren Masters. He told me he has been working on sets in LA for the past year and a half, and that I looked new to sets because he was the same way not too long ago.

Darren showed me the ropes with the walkie-talkies (how to wear them and the language you use to speak into them), gave me a rundown of the equipment and things I should say and do on set, and was always there if I had any questions. I saw my entire first day on set as one large obstacle, and I thank Darren as the main reason I overcame it.

I worked on set around four more times over the course of the internship, and each one I felt more comfortable and more useful on set. But I will never forget how I felt that first day, nay that first hour on a bigger budget set. Hopefully one day I can guide some lost interning college student on the ways of working on set.

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