I was reading your blog tonight and you have some really interesting stories and anecdotes. None of which are surprising, I’ve only been on like two sets in my life…but I can imagine how hectic and crazy things might get.
I just had a quick question for you.
You mention that a memo was passed around the office the other day. I guess I am confused, since you PA mostly, doesn’t that mean you freelance and therefore don’t work out of the office? Or is that like a second job.
Sorry if this sounds like a silly question, I’m really trying to break in to the industry and get started and maybe do some more work, but all I’ve done is a few short PA gigs that either paid nothing or basically nothing.
It’s not silly. I can see how you might be confused. There are really two kinds of production assistants: Office PAs and Set PAs.
It sounds like you’ve worked as a set PA. They’re the guys who help the ADs keep things moving. They shuttle actors to and fro, they lock up the set, they distribute paperwork that the office sends them.
An office PA, on the other hand, helps the production coordinator. Their job is to keep the office running smoothly. They answer phones, make copies, do runs. Smaller movies may not need (or be able to afford) office PAs, but every TV show has them. The writers write so many scripts, it’d be impossible to copy everything without a PA dedicated to the office.
Of course, there are production companies where you’ll serve the same basic function as an office PA when they’re shooting. That sort of job is more permanent than freelancing as either a set or office PA.
Why would you want one job or the other? It depends on where you ultimately want your career to go. Being a set PA is a basic requirement for joining the DGA as a 2nd AD. It’s also a great way to meet the crew, like grips, sound mixers, camermen, and the like. You can learn from them and network, and eventually move into one of those fields.
Conversely, office PAs have a pretty straight path to being a coordinator. They also interact with departments that spend more time around the office, like art, or the writers.
In the end, whichever you path choose, networking is the real goal of a PA.