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

Joining the DGA

Madeline writes in:

I have a lot of questions and they relate to DGA so I apologise if they aren’t the right questions for this blog. I did try to do my own DGA research but I’m very confused.

Once your in the DGA, are you allowed to have multiple titles? e.g be a UMP on one show and a 2nd AD on another?

Do you need to join the DGA if your end goal is to be a 2nd 2nd AD?

What are the requirement for a “day”?

Do you always have to take the same position in production for it to count towards your days?

How do you know if the production your being hired on is eligible to count as a day? And if you need to ask, what are the right questions to ask without being an annoying?

Can you collect your days as a PA or do you basically need to be a 2nd AD on a project that flips?

We’re open to all types of PAs here at TAPA. Doesn’t matter if you’re a set PA, post PA, office PA, or some other kind of 0f PA, we’re here to help. Let’s tackle your questions one at a time.

Almost everyone in the film business has many titles. I’ve been all of the above listed PAs, and more. I believe each title has its own specific initiation fee to join the guild in that position, but there’s nothing wrong with being available for more than one type of job. You might be a great 1st AD on a small show, but on a bigger show, they need a more experienced 1st; it’s smart if you’re open to being their 2nd.

Of course, you don’t have to be in the DGA to be an assistant director. However, if you want to work on union (i.e. large budget) shows, then you have to join.

I think you need to get 600 days as a PA to join as a 2nd 2nd AD. There’s also requirements about some of those days occurring outside the studio zone, although I can’t seem to find the specifics on the DGA site.

What counts as a “day”? Mostly, it has to be a legitimate, professional production. This means you have to be paid, and you need paystubs and callsheets to prove it. Whatever work you did that day (art PA, camera PA, etc) is what that day counts towards.1

Of course, having your show “flipped” is an easier way to join. This means the show starts as non-union, but decides to become a union show for one reason or another mid-shoot. When this happens, they don’t just fire all their non-union employees; as long as the crew member pays their dues, they get to join the union.

Check with the DGA for more detailed information.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Commenters pointed out that this is unclear. Only set PA days count towards the DGA. PAing in other departments count towards those departments.
Posted in The Industry | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Should You Leave a Series Mid-Season?

Gary writes in:

I’ve been a PA for over a year and thankfully have had some long runs on shows. I recently started a show for a 3 month run, but I was just offered a position on a feature film in another state that I have been trying extremely hard to get on. My question is, in your opinion how bad does it look to leave a show early?

Is there a graceful way to leave and still leave a semi good impression? I’m prepared to stick with the show just because my morals know that I should always stick out a show but this is also a once in a lifetime opportunity Id like to take. What do you think?

You leave a show mid-season for a another production, that bridge is well and truly burned.

Pictured above: you.You’ll never work for that AD or coordinator ever again. You’ll be on the shit list for the 2nd AD or APOC, too. If you made any kind of impression on anyone else, they’ll ask where you went; when they hear you quit for another show, they’ll probably not recommend you the next time an opening comes up on another show.

So, the reason you’re leaving better be a darn good one. For instance, if it’s a big promotion. If you don’t want to be in production, and you landed a gig as a costumer or assistant editor or whatever, great! You weren’t planning on going back over that bridge anyway.

But don’t make a lateral move because you think the other show is “cooler” for some reason. Remember, as a PA, you have no real effect on the show, anyway. A shitty show is still a job, and no one think less of you by association.

And, honestly, don’t work on a show you like. It never ends well. Just enjoy watching it after working on your crappy show all day.

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

New York Entertainment Assistant Networking Event

You asked for it, you got it! The very first TAPA mixer in New York is happening on May 21st. Mark you calendar.

It will be happening at Gallow Green at the McKittrick Hotel. It’s a bar nestled in a lovely rooftop garden, or so I’m told by reader Nathalie, who recommended the place.1 It’s located at 530 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001.

We start at 5:00pm on Saturday, 5/21, after the brunch crowd will have cleared. Let them know you’re there with the Anonymous Production Assistant party, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Here’s the Facebook event page, if you want to RSVP and invite friends.

Now, I’ll in Los Angeles, attending the LA version of the TAPArty, so I won’t be able to attend. Please let me know how it goes, and if there’s anything I can do from a remote location to make things better.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Whether you’re in New York or LA, if you know a good place for a TAPArty, let me know.
Posted in TAPA Meetup | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to Get Your First Job as a Hollywood Assistant

I recently discovered the website Any Possibility, mostly because they linked to TAPA on a recent post.

It’s written by Sam Wilson, an experienced assistant at several literary1 agencies. I know of lot of readers, like me, want to be represented by one of those agencies some day. She offers a very insiders view of what it’s like on the other side of the table.

But more relevant to the majority of my readers, she recently wrote a post about how she got her first job as an assistant.

“But TAPA, I don’t want to be an assistant. I want to be a set PA!” Listen up, hypothetical reader I just made up, because Sam has some news for you–

Don’t waste time, or hold out, for your dream job. GET A JOB. Any job. Because you’ll hold out and hold out and hold out, then a year will have gone by that you could have been working and building your resume, but you were worried about getting stuck somewhere you didn’t want to be.

I recommend reading the entire post.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. This is Hollywood-speak that means they represent screenwriters.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood Assistant Networking Event

It’s time for another networking event!

This month, we’ll be at the Red Dragon Cafe, downtown. They’ve got breakfast all day, which, honestly, is all I ever wanted.

They’re moving locations next week, so don’t go searching Google maps; it’ll give you the old address. The correct location is 4350 Normal Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029

The meetup starts at 2:00pm, and will go as long as people want. Here’s the Facebook invite, which helps give us a headcount. Also, you can invite friends!

There’s been a lot of requests for a TAPArty in New York, and I’m trying to accommodate. So far, I haven’t gotten replies from venues in NYC, but I’m still trying. I’m hoping we can make this a bi-coastal event.

Posted in TAPA Meetup | 2 Comments

Open Crew Calls

Steph writes in:

I was wondering if it was a bad idea to submit an Office PA resume/cover letter to an open crew call that says all positions welcome to apply. Or are they only wanting Set PA, Art PA inquiries? Keep up the amazing blog!

Truth be told, when you see an open call for “any” position, it’s probably a low budget production. A big production will hire experienced department heads who have a Rolodex1 full of crew they’ve worked with in the past. A lot of people have to be busy before the department heads start asking for resumes willy-nilly. And even then, it’s unlikely that every department will be on the hunt.

So, you’re almost certainly looking at an independent movie, maybe even a short film. If you have no experience, that’s probably fine. Just know what you’re getting into.

The hours will be long, because the director and producers will almost certainly screw up something important. The production will be understaffed, underfunded, and under equiped. You might not get overtime; you might not get paid at all.

This is what’s known as “paying your dues.”

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Okay, cell phone.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Anonymous Production Assistant Book

The Anonymous Production Assistant has been around for eight years. Eight years. That means, if you’re graduating from film school now, this blog has been going since you were in junior high.

In that time, there has been over a thousand blog posts, hundreds of answered questions, two score podcast episodes, a half-dozen TAPAs, and a few pointless internet feuds.

That’s a fairly large back catalogue for the hypothetical PA just starting out. I’ve started to notice a lot of repeated questions appear in my inbox. I don’t really blame them; it’s a pretty big haystack.

Sure, it seems easy to find now.

The best way to resolve this, I think, is to write a book. A beginner’s guide to Hollywood, starting from film school (or not), through your first job, and ultimately moving on from PAing altogether.

This is a big project; it won’t just be a re-print of old blog posts. Some of it’s dated, and it’s massively disorganized. Instead, the old posts will serve as a foundation that I will build on, re-work, and update with new material.

My current show has been cancelled (sad face), which means now’s a perfect time to take on a project like this. But it also means putting off looking for my next show, which is why I’m asking for your help.

That’s right, I’ve started a Patreon page.

If you’re unfamiliar, Patreon is an on-going crowd funding campaign for writers and artists. Typically, patrons pay by the item (like, for each video produced). But I blog too regularly (several times a week) for that to make sense. Instead, I’ve set up a monthly subscription.

Don’t worry! The blog isn’t going anywhere. It is and will remain free. But if you’re a backer, you’ll receive special perks, like an advance copy of the book, or early access to job notices that appear on the site.

Subscriptions start as low as $1 a month. Surely the 10 to 12 articles you get from TAPA are worth that.

Of course, I understand that my readers are often young and broke. I’ve been there. Like I said, the blog isn’t going anywhere; I don’t want anybody to feel like they have to skip lunch to get their TAPA fix.

To balance that out a little, I’m also putting out a corporate sponsor level.1 tens of thousands of readers visit TAPA every week. It’s a very specific, entertainment industry audience. If that’s your target demographic, why not support TAPA and get the word out about your business?

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Any sponsored content will be clearly labeled. I’m not The Atlantic.
Posted in About Me, Finding a Job, On the Job, The Industry, Writing | Leave a comment

Kit Fee, Kit Rental, Box Rental

Dwayne writes in:

I’ve just been hired to do crafty for a set where there might be 100 people on the heaviest days.

My instructions are:

  • we could have 100 people at our heaviest days
  • 21 day shoot (maybe 20)
  • there is a $50/day Kit Fee
  • your budget is small for crafty – just keep that in mind
  • you’ll get a day of prep
  • no meals and/or second meals
  • You’ll be strictly craft services. Snack, drinks, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, the usual (gum, etc.)
  • You won’t have a PA to help with tables, setup, etc…just a head’s up.

So my questions are:

  • What would should the Kit Fee include? Large Coffee urn? water dispenser? What else?
  • What is proper etiquette for Kit fee? If I have extra monies from this can I use it towards special treats, etc? for crew?
  • Any tips or ideas or general info for me to do a good job?

“Kit fees,” “kit rentals,” and “box rentals” are all basically the same thing. The production is paying you for wear and tear on equipment that you own, which you use on the shoot. It’s cheaper for them, because they don’t have to rent that gear, and a nice tax-free bonus1 for you.

This doesn’t come up for PAs very much, because PAs don’t need all that much. And what they do need, the production often pays for, anyway. Still, here’s a list of useful items you might want to get.

The most likely thing you’ll get a kit fee for is your computer. That usually runs $30-$50 per week, depending on the show.

If you’re moving into crafty, Dwayne has the right idea. Coffee urn, water dispenser are a good start. Also, the crafty table; baskets to keep the snacks organized; maybe a nice table cloth (rather than a plastic one you throw away at the end of the day); containers for smaller items like sugar and stirrers, etc. A hot plate or microwave if you want to serve hot things occasionally. Any money of the kit fee you don’t spend is yours to keep.

But you shouldn’t be buying edibles (food) or expendables (cups) with your kit fee. Those are from the crafty budget. This is true for office PAs who are sent to buy crafty for the office.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Similar to mileage.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , | Leave a comment