Who Needs a Car?

Reader Jeff writes in:

I’ve been interested in film for so long, however after graduating from college as an English/Film major, I still don’t really have a production skill I’ve mastered, so I think my best resort is to start out as a PA.  Of course, I want to move out to California where all of my fellow film friends have already gone to, but what’s been holing me back is not having a drivers license.  I hate driving, but after such a long wait, I finally got my license last week.  So now I plan on moving out soon.  But I still don’t own a car, and at 23 years old, I’m pretty much a first time driver.

So my question is, will I be able to become a PA out in CA if I don’t have a car / am not a very reliable driver?


Driving is an important part of living in Los Angeles, period.  Los Angeles was the first American city to be built after the invention of the automobile.  It was suddenly possible to have a home miles from your place of work.  We are a polycentric city.

For someone in the film business, a car is vital.  You will be working in different places all the time, even on the same show.  One day you’ll be shooting in Culver City, the next in Sherman Oaks.  You can’t plan on living near work.  Our public transportation system is horrible, and taxis are ludicrously expensive.

For a PA, a car is a job requirement.  Someone once told me, “Every PA should have three things: a computer, a car, and a cell phone.”  (Note the conspicuous absence of “a brain.”)

Runs are a part of the job.  A large part.  You’ll be putting a lot of miles on your car, and you’ll be burning a lot of gas.  (Make sure you get reimbursed for mileage!)

On a real show, with teamsters and stuff, you’ll at least be delivering scripts, and picking up incidentals.  On a low-budget production, you’ll probably be picking up equipment and props, too.

Kate offered this little anecdote a while ago:

PAs who “aren’t good with directions” quickly become unemployed. Google maps and a GPS make life a ton easier.

I once worked on a series where the UPM hired a runner who didn’t have a car, but he did have a bus pass. Guess who got fired? That’s right–both of ‘em.

Get used to driving.  Find stations with music you like.  Start listening to NPR.  Take your wallet out of your back pocket.  Get a headset, and call your friends back east; they’re getting done with work while you’re still in the middle of your day.  Buy a Thomas Guide.

Learn to love your car.

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19 Responses

  1. Does anyone have experience being a PA in London? I’m assuming/hoping it’s similar to NYC, where it won’t ruin you not to have a car, but I’d love input from anyone who knows. Thanks!

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  3. If you’re concerned about not having a car (and money for insurance, gas, repairs, etc, etc, etc!!!) You should definitely look into being a PA in NYC. You don’t necessarily need a license out here (although it will give you a huge advantage), plus taking the subway most places is relatively convenient and cheap.

  4. It’s funny because it’s the opposite here (NYC), they tell me I shouldn’t use a car because half the time I won’t need it and it can give me a delay. I have decided to keep it. My mom lives upstate new york. I can completely understand why a PA would be useless in Cali though. Kinda makes me feel bad for them, tell them to come over here, there’s plenty of work for the bus pass users lol.


  5. I’ve heard the same thing about L.A being the city of cars, too. Is it true that you can even get arrested for WALKING in Beverly Hills at night? So many Bev Hill’ers told me so, but I wasn’t sure if they were joking (FYI, I don’t live in California).

    yeah, NYC and Chicago are better because you really don’t need to drive there as much. I’d also count DC as well, DC has a real excellent subway system.

    by the way, I don’t drive and I refuse to own a car, so I’m a big advocate for public transportation.

  6. And if you decide to try NY, you may not need to own a car, but you sure as hell better know how to drive one…and a van…and a 15-passenger van…and a 14′ cube truck.

    Same as L.A., NY P.A.’s make their life making runs. Not being able to drive all of those vehicles is a distinct disadvantage (to the point where you’ll probably eliminate yourself from 50% of the possible jobs you run across).

    Oh, and producers hate it when you hit stuff. Really.

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