Resume Categories

Gina writes in:

I’ve been looking up production resumes and I was wondering whether it’s best to organize my jobs by type (film, tv, commercial, etc) or position (pa, designer, director, etc)?

Love your website, thanks for being so diligent in updating.

To start, no resume should list both “production assistant” and “director.” If you were really a director, you wouldn’t be applying for a PA job; if you’re an experienced PA, you’d know that directing a student film doesn’t really count for anything.

Almost everyone works in a variety departments while they’re still trying to figure out what to do with themselves, which is totally fine. But if you have three credits in each department, it looks like you’re floundering. It’s okay to have a little variety, but your resume should predominately feature the department you’re applying for.

But what if you’re just starting out? Eh… fudge it. Especially if you’re a production assistant, you can just add “PA” to the end of the department: post PA, camera PA, costume PA, etc.

While we’re skirting the truth, it’s worth noting that there are, broadly, two categories of PA’s: Set PA’s (who answer to the AD) and Office PA’s (who answer to the production coordinator). If your goal is a job that works on set, like camera or grip, make sure your resume has a lot of Set PA credits. If you want to work in the writers’ room or post or art, Office PA is the way to go.

Then, I sort my resume roughly in reverse-chronological order, with the newest stuff at the top. But then I re-sort the credits so more recognizable productions are towards the top. Also, the more relevant positions (set vs. office, tec) go higher, too.

But you can’t go too crazy with this. If you put Breaking Bad at the top of your resume, everyone knows that finished a while ago. It looks like you haven’t worked in three years.

I realize those instructions are kinda vague; you really have to feel it out and see what it looks like on a case-by-case basis. If you’re really unsure, you could try my resume editing service, and I’ll help you out.

When it comes to the type of production, it’s usually okay to mix film and television, since a lot of the expectations for PA’s are similar. I think it’s a good idea to separate commercials from narrative, though, because those are radically different. Plus, you’ll probably have more of those credits if you spent any time in the commercial world.

Student films can also be included, if you don’t have enough credits otherwise, as long as they’re in a different section. As long as it’s clearly labeled as a student film section, you can include your directing and producing credits. Just understand it’s not going to help you get anything better than a PA gig.

Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged | 3 Comments

Why Won’t He Call Me Back?

Ellis writes in:

Newly minted PA here and I need some help with networking. Several crew members have given me their numbers and encouraged me to reach out and stay in touch.

Here is the problem: Some respond and others don’t. For those that don’t respond, do I continue to reach out and stay in touch? Do I take them off my contact list?

Why give me their number if they don’t intend to respond? How do I navigate this?

If you’re a newly minted PA, you’re probably a newly minted adult, too.1 You’re still getting used to the idea that you and everyone you know have a million responsibilities, from child care to paying bills to changing the oil in your car. You’re probably feeling overwhelmed by all of these duties, but don’t worry… that’s perfectly natural and will never go away.

Pictured above: me, right now, forever.

So you should understand that important things come up all the time. They could be on the job, or in the hospital or on vacation in an exotic land where their cell phone doesn’t work. Or maybe they don’t like you.

The other possibility is that you’ve contacted them without giving them any sort of motivation to return the call. Are you asking for a job? If they don’t have one for you, there’s no reason to call/text/email you back.

Instead, maybe try asking if they want to meet for coffee or drinks or lunch. (Make sure this sounds super platonic. (Unless that’s what you’re going for.))

If you’ve texted three times (over the course of three months or so, hopefully), and never heard back, then stop bothering. Whatever the cause is, they’re just not that into you.

That being said, never, ever delete someone from your contacts. You never know when their email or phone number might come in handy. Save every crew list you ever get. I even hang onto cast lists when I get them.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. I know you think you became a grown up when you turned 18, but four years of film school suggest otherwise.
Posted in On the Job, The Industry | Tagged | 3 Comments

Super Secret Blog Post

This whole Patreon thing seems to be working out. More than 50 patrons are supporting TAPA! They’re contributing well over $400 per month to keep the site going. Thanks so much, you guys!

One of the reasons I started writing for The Anonymous Production Assistant was because of the anonymous part. It’s allowed me to talk about all kinds of things I’m not supposed to bring up in polite company.

But even with all that anonymity, there are some things I won’t write about here. It might involve slander, or tips and tricks that only work if just a few people know them (like how to sneak onto studio lots).

So, as a way to share all of this extra super secret information, I’ve decided to add it to my Patreon campaign. Once I reach $500/month (which should happen very soon at this rate), I’ll begin sharing some privileged information in the for-patrons-only blog on Patreon.

If you want to get in on that action, contribute here.

Posted in On the Job | 2 Comments

Who Do You Work For?

Judging by the comments on last week’s post, I’ve been a little too cute when discussing the question of who you work for. The truth is, there are several valid answers, depending on what you really want to know.

Working on a film or television production is not really the same as working for the studio or production company. You don’t have a fixed schedule; you don’t work at the same location every day. Your employment is for as long as the show is filming. If it gets cancelled, you’re out of a job.

This isn’t how it used to be, back when movies were made under the studio system. That was long term employment. If the movie you were working on wrapped on a Tuesday, you’d be assigned to a different production on Wednesday.

Now, everyone is freelance. Even the show is a free agent, in a way. You could work on a Fox movie that’s filming on the Universal backlot one week, the Disney Ranch the next. You could be hired on a CBS series and not once set foot on either CBS lot.

This is what I mean when I say, you work for the show, not the studio. When you’re looking for production assistant jobs, you won’t find them on the recruitment pages of the major studios. Hiring decisions are made by your direct supervisors– the production coordinators and assistant directors. Which is why networking is so important.

So, in a broad sense, you’re working for a given studio/network; that’s the info you put on your resume. More specifically, you work for a show. But legally? That’s something else entirely.

Your employer of record is the payroll company. They’re the ones you put on your tax forms in April, and the ones you put on the unemployment forms every hiatus.

When someone asks who do you work for, you’ve got three answers, now. Hurray!

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does a Criminal Record Affect Your Job Prospects?

Ellie writes in:

I love your blog! It’s a great source of information and so entertaining.

I’m interested in becoming a PA (I’m sure you hear that alot). However, I made some bad choices in my past (6-8 years ago). I now have a criminal record. Not that there’s any excuse but I was going through a bad time and obviously acted out stupidly. The offenses are 2 misdemeanors and. here’s the kicker, a felony. I’ve turned my life around, and because of this, I actually work harder and appreciate jobs way more. I have a degree and  previous working experience in theatre.

I’m not afraid to be upfront and honest about my past (without going into too much detail) if I have to. Should I even bother trying to get into the business with my record? Am I damned to a life as a waitress? Help!

First off, let’s start with the law. In California1:

Employers can consider criminal convictions only if it’s relevant to the job. Employers in California can review job applicant arrest records ONLY if (i) the arrest(s) resulted in a conviction, or (ii) if the applicant is out of jail but pending trial. Otherwise, arrest records are off-limits. Felonies, misdemeanors and arrests are reportable for 7 years. [Cal. Civil Code §1785.13]. Employers in California can NOT inquire about marijuana convictions that are more than 2 years old. Juvenile criminal records are also off-limits to employers.

So, six years ago, they can ask you about your record. Eight years? Nope.

That being said, I’ve never once been asked about whether or not I even have a criminal record, much less what I did. Maybe I just have an innocent face. Or maybe this is the industry that gave a child rapist a standing ovation at their highest award ceremony.

Either way, I wouldn’t worry too much about. Even if the question comes up, unless you committed an especially heinous crime, I doubt anyone will care.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Check your own state for details.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Company Car

Carl responded to Friday’s post:

Fine for commuting if the PA wants, but if I were the UPM or Producer of the show, there would be a rule that a motorcycle could not be used for company runs at any time. The high incidence of motorcycle accidents, you point out, puts the company at significant insurance risk.

Felicia replied:

Carl – Don’t PAs have to use their own vehicle for company runs? Is it common for the production company to have a designated car for runs and stuff, or are you suggesting that motorcycle commuters also have a car handy?

Since this is my blog, I’ll step in and clear things up. The UPM or producer probably aren’t involved in directly hiring the PAs. However, as Carl said, he may set a policy that no runs are to be made on a motorcycle. This includes not just office PAs, but set dressing and costume buyers, and maybe even location scouting.

When the coordinator is interviewing PAs, she’ll most likely ask what kind of vehicle you have. If you say you only have a motorcycle, you’ve just disqualified yourself from Carl’s show.

To answer Felicia’s question, first of all, you don’t work for a production company. You work for the show. This is an important distinction that will save you a bunch of embarrassment later on.

Most shows have trucks and trailers for the transpo department. (If your production doesn’t at least have a camera truck, you’re working on a very small show.) But those are for the teamsters to drive, not the PAs.

Every once in a while, a production will rent a vehicle specifically for the office PAs, but it’s extremely rare. I think I’ve seen it on one show.

You can pretty much count on using your own vehicle for runs. Unless it’s a motorcycle, in which case, you can count on looking for a different job.

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Can a PA Ride a Motorcycle?

Felicia writes in:

I have a vehicle question. I understand that the aspiring P.A. absolutely must have a set of wheels. My question is: on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being “god’s own chariot,” 10 being “the bus,” how much will it count against me if my only set of wheels sits under a motorcycle (equipped with compartments and saddlebags for coffee, food, props, scripts, etc.)?

Thank you in advance and I hope you have a stellar day.

A motorcycle is probably a 9, as far as office PA vehicles go.1

Every day, an office PA has to pick up lunch. At least once a week, one of the office PAs has to shop for crafty. Unless you’re talking about one of those huge motorcycles that look like a car without a roof, you’re not going to be able to do those runs.

A motorcycle is, technically, better than nothing, but a 94 LeBaron would serve you better.

For set PAs, on the other hand, a motorcycle is probably a great idea. It gets good mileage, you can ride between lanes in a traffic jam, you look cool riding it.

Aaaaayyyyyyyy!

I mean, the fatality rate of motorcycle riders is 26 times that of cars, so there’s that. Please wear a helmet, at least. Don’t be like Fonzie.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Isn’t this scale backwards? Shouldn’t God’s Own Chariot be a 10?
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Negotiating Your Rate

Brie writes in:

Would you consider trying to negotiate a higher pay rate for a full-time PA gig?

The backstory: I’m interviewing with a prod. co here in NYC — they’re offering $150 a day (which is pretty good by any standard for a PA) but I’ve got 1 year+ of Assistant experience, 4 years of working of experience in total. I was wondering if it would be sensible to ask for a higher rate. This higher rate would also cover my commuting expenses and health benefits (assuming the company does not provide a stipend/access to healthcare which are big ifs).

With those in mind, I was thinking of asking for $185-200 a day rate, and GLADLY settling with those #s or $175 a day. Wondering what you think? Would this make sense or would it make sense to negotiate a rate increase after 3 or 6 months? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Honestly, one year of experience is still basically entry level. I wouldn’t push it until after a year on the job.

One of the worst ways to sour a relationship with your employer is to ask for too much too soon. First, prove yourself invaluable, then ask for a paycheck that reflects that. I’d say you should be working for someone about a year before you ask for a raise.

“But TAPA,” you might say, “Unlike Brie, I’m a freelance PA. I never work for anyone for over a year.”

That’s very true. But if you work for the same coordinator on three lengthy projects (say, four weeks or more), it’s okay to ask for a raise on the fourth one.

Once you’ve been out in the real world for two years, then you’re in a position to say to a new employer that you’d like a little more than their initial offer. Point to your long list of credits, and assure them that you’re not some greenie they’ll have to train on the job. You are worth more than a kid fresh out of film school, because you can anticipate needs, prevent problems before they even start, and make a mean cup of coffee.

Just make sure that’s all true before you start bragging about it.

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I Fucked Up

Originally, this post was going to be titled “Lessons Learned,” but that was going too easy on myself. I fucked up, and I apologize.

That’s hard to admit when you’re the supposed “expert” that people write to for advice. But instead of ignoring the issue or making excuses, I’m going to try and make this a learning experience for both you and me.

If you weren’t aware, there was supposed to be a TAPA networking event at the Red Dragon Cafe on Saturday. But when my readers arrived, the place was closed!

Here’s the situation. When I contacted Red Dragon a few weeks ago, they told me they were moving to a new, larger location. They were, in fact, very excited to have a large group of PAs show up on a Saturday afternoon to their new digs.

I knew this would cause a problem with Google Maps; they don’t always update right away. That’s why I was very particular about telling people to go to the address provided, not the address you find on Google Maps.

But this was my first mistake. At the very least, a few people were going to go to the wrong address. But any time you try and get people to do something different than their habit, something’s going to go wrong.

Lesson 1: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The other issue is that, while Red Dragon assured me they’d be ready for us on Saturday, any number of things can go wrong when you’re moving a business, even if only a couple of blocks (as was the case here). I don’t know what went wrong in this case, but I do wish they had let me know they weren’t going to be open for business. I could’ve found a new venue, or at least cancelled with enough notice that poor Noah wouldn’t have to waste an Uber ride. They probably didn’t call because whatever they were dealing with was more important to them than me and my readers.

And this was entirely predictable. I didn’t know they wouldn’t be open; they assured me they would be. But I could’ve known events aren’t entirely in their control. I should’ve said, “Thanks, but we’ll try another venue. Maybe after you guts are settled in.”

You can’t plan for every eventuality, but you can try your best to keep in mind Murphy’s Law–

Lesson 2: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Luckily, as August put it, “coordinating alternative locations and going with the flow and shit is basically our job anyways.” So a bunch of them decided to move to the 50s diner across the street. It looks like they still managed to ave a good time–

photo by Amanda Toledo

Lesson 3: I have the best readers.

Even after all that, several people asked when the next TAPArty will be. I’m glad you guys have such faith in me!

Do you have a particular bar/cafe/restaurant that you think would make a good venue for a PA networking event? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to arrange another, better one soon.

Posted in On the Job, TAPA Meetup, The Industry | Tagged | 1 Comment

I Got It

People on set are busy. If they’re not trying to get a shot, they’re packing up and moving on, turning around, setting up for the next shot. Everyone’s in a big damn hurry.

And that’s fine, because time is money and all that. But sometimes you have to take just a sec to be sure you’re doing your job right. Even the smallest task.

I learned this on the couple of occasions I was a camera assistant. The 1st would ask me for a lens, I’d bring it to her. When I handed it off, she would look me dead in the eye and say, “Got it.”

Then she’d remove the glass that was on the camera, put it in my hand, and say, “Got it?” And she wouldn’t let go until I acknowledged that I did have it.

Eventually, I realized she wanted me to say “Got it” the moment I, you know, had it. She didn’t want to ask; she wanted me to take responsibility for the $4,000 lens so she could get on with mounting the new lens the DP had asked for as quickly as possible.

I’ve carried this over into my work generally. I carry this over into PAing, now. When someone hands me anything, I say “Got it,” so they know they can let go, literally and metaphorically.

Even if it’s not a massively expensive cinema lens, it’s a sensible thing to do. Have you ever handed over a pile of callsheets to the set PA, and thought they had it, but didn’t? You’ll be finding Day 3 of 8’s sheets until day 9.1

There’s a verbal equivalent to this. One someone gives you a message or instructions, repeat it back in the simplest, fastest terms. “Can you run down to set and get this callsheet approved by the UPM before we start running them?”

“Callsheet approved. Got it.”

One out of a hundred times, you’ll misunderstand what you’re being told. By repeating it, hopefully your boss will catch the mistake before you get too far down the line.

On a personal note, the number of times I wrote “Go tit” instead of “Got it” while writing this post is downright embarrassing.

 * * *

Don’t forget, there are two TAPA events tomorrow, one in New York, and one in Los Angeles. See you there! Maybe!

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. There’s always a Day 9 of 8 on my show.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment