Unlike most of the crew, office production assistants don’t really need a kit. Occasionally, they have to bring their personal computer for work, but that’s about it. The production pays for everything else an office PA might need.
One of the responsibilities that usually falls on office PAs is ordering office supplies. One of the perks is, you can basically order whatever you want1 and no one will say anything.
Set PAs have no such luxury, and yet, they actually need more stuff than office PAs. It’s completely unfair.
For those of you just starting out, here’s some things that you really ought to have an hand when you’re PAing on set:
First, you’ll need a belt pouch to hold all your stuff. Nothing too big, but you’re going to want to have pens, pencils, sharpies, highlighters, notepads, etc. all at hand. Unless you wear cargo shorts every day, this can be a bit of a pain.
Now, what do you want to keep in your handy-dandy pouch? First, metal pens. Why not just a regular Bic or something like that? Because you’re on set! You’re out in the world, running around, getting dusty and dirty, climbing over things. Plastic pens break, and you don’t want ink getting everywhere.
Other useful writing implements: highlighters (not for you; it’s more likely the cast will ask you for a highlighter than you’ll actually use it yourself). I’d recommend getting a variety of colors. Also, twin tip Sharpies; they’re more useful than the regular ones, because the pen-side can write basically anywhere. Multiple colors are useful for these, too.
You should always have a notepad on hand. When someone gives you complicated instructions, always write them down. Plus, if you need to pass someone a note silently, you always have paper on hand, rather than tearing pages out of your sides.
A totally random but completely useful addition: binder clips. As a starting point, use a binderclip to hold your sides on your pouch, so they’re easily available. But also, while you may not handle as much paperwork distro as the office PAs, you’ll still have quite a bit. Keeping things organized and neat is much easier with binder clips.
Next, you need a really, really bright flashlight. This is an area you might feel like going cheap on. Don’t. When it’s 3:00am and you’re in the hills on the edge of of the studio zone, walking a cast member from basecamp to set through a fake forest that is specifically designed to be frightening, a keychain flashlight just isn’t going to cut it. Many ACs I know recommend Scorpion brand,2 but there’s plenty of good brands out there. Just make sure it’s bright.
You’ll need gloves. There’s a company out there called SetWear, and as much as I enjoy CamelCase, I don’t recommend them. You’re basically paying a 50% markup for the word “set.”3 I bought the least expensive pair of gloves they sold, and wore through them in about two weeks. I called the company to complain, and they told me those gloves weren’t for “heavy duty” work, such as… moving card tables. Seriously, what are they for, then? Keeping my hands warm?
Then, an experienced electrician told me to just buy gloves at half the price at a hardware store. I’ve had my CLC gloves for 5 years now, and they still work fine. If you plan on moving into one of the heavy-lifting departments, welding gloves work great. You’ll never burn your hands on even the hottest lamps.
Not for every day use, but you’ll want to have a big, floppy sun hat. It gets hot out here in Los Angeles. In the valley, it gets up to 100 degrees probably every other day in August. Along with keeping yourself hydrated, a hat is a very good idea. Likewise, a small tube of sunscreen, which can hopefully fit in the pouch you bought eight paragraphs ago.
Remember, It Never Rains in Southern California:
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Full disclosure on this post: in an effort to make a little bit of money on the side with this website, I signed up for the Amazon Affiliate program. Basically, if someone buys something after clicking on an ad on my site, Amazon gives me a cut (at no cost to the consumer).
I looked in to how to make this pay off, and several websites suggested writing product reviews and things like that to get people to buy things you recommend. But that’s not really the kind of site this is; if I became a shill, you guys would stop reading.
But I give advice. Letting you know what you need in your kit fits within that. You might be able to get the production to buy some of these items for you (the pens, the highlighters); others are less likely (the gloves, the flashlight).
By all means, you should shop around, look for the best deal for you. You’ll be investing in your own future comfort and usefulness.
- Within budgetary constraints.↩
- They use flashlights to light up the slate in otherwise dark situations, sometimes from great distances. They know from good flashlights.↩
- This is not exclusively an issue for SetWear, to be fair. Anything that’s said to be “for production use” is going to be more costly than in the real world. Buy Dust-Off from the office supply store, not Film Tools.↩