Does Age Matter? – II

Adam writes in with another age-related question:

How old are most office and set production assistants?  I mean, ignoring the happenstance of Hollywood, not to mention just finding those first few jobs, isn’t one looking at a commitment of several years just as PA before even the possibility of moving to a position higher up shows on the horizon?

And speaking of finding those first few jobs–I doubt any tv show or movie will hire someone with no volunteer-PA experience, correct?  Or is that at all plausible?  Of all my questions this is the worst.

Have you befriended any other PAs or is there really no opportunity to?

How much has networking on the set helped you find other jobs?

Lotsa questions there.

Almost all PAs are in their twenties.  I’ve met a few older ones, and they were either people who waited a long time to decide on their path in life, or people who just failed at life generally.  A thirty-five year old PA is a sad sight.

That being said, it can (and does, in my case) require years of work to be promoted.

Due to various labor laws, you can’t work on a show for free.  You can, however, intern in exchange for school credit.

Of course I’ve made friends with other PAs.  It’d be kinda weird if you didn’t make friends at work, right?

But that kind of networking doesn’t tend to lead to jobs.  Since just about anybody can be a PA, just about everybody knows someone who wants to do it.  When a set PA spot opened recently on my show, I asked the AD if I recommend a friend.  He said, “Sure, but there are about thirty other people who also have recommendations.”

And all thirty of those people outranked me.

You’re not going to get a job by networking with your peers.  (At least, not anytime soon.  If I make it as a writer, and one of my friends becomes a studio executive, then I suppose he can get me a job.)  You also need to network with your superiors– ADs, coordinators, even producers.  They’re the ones who make the decisions that actually affect your job.

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5 Responses

  1. Just a quick question. First, I’ve just discovered this site and haven’t read through everything in depth yet, but just wanted to throw this out quickly.
    If there’s nothig sadder than a 37 year old p.a., then I was wondering, is there ANY kind of position for an older person to get involved with production?
    I’m 47, and yes I’ve done some p.a. work as recently as 4 years ago. However, I’m in Kentucky which certainly isn’t the film capital of the world, and I’m unable to uproot and move to another market.
    Should I give up on the idea of getting on another crew as a p.a. when a shoot comes through, or what other “entry level” positions could one realisticaly hope to apply for?

  2. Going to school is almost always a good idea in a general sense — education is good, and more is usually better — but I’m not sure it helps much in the trenches of Hollywood. In my experience, the skills, hustle, and attitude you bring to any production mean infinitely more than where you went to school or what you studied.

    Put your film school experience on your resume? Sure, just don’t talk about it unless asked. A film school credential won’t hurt you unless you’re dumb enough to go around bragging about that shiny new degree from BFDU Cinema. Such behavior will serve only to broadcast your extreme lack of real-world experience to everyone within earshot, and is likely to piss off a few of them who wanted to, but couldn’t afford to attend a film school. First impressions matter, so try not to make a habit of pissing people off unnecessarily.

    It’s a different story if you’re contacting an alumni of your school who has already clawed his/her way up the shit-stained ladder of Industry Success. Then your pedigree might help — but only to get you in the door. If you can’t actually walk the walk, talking the film school talk won’t take you very far.

    If you have the interest and can afford it, by all means go to film school. You’ll learn a lot and meet some interesting (and interestingly neurotic) people, some of whom you’ll stay in touch with throughout your career. But if your main reason for going to film school is to learn how to make it in Hollywood (or any other vortex of the film biz), then save your money.

    By the time all that film school knowledge actually does come in handy — say, while discussing the editing dynamics of “Battleship Potemkin” over cigars and brandy — you’ll have already made it in Hollywood. Until that fat and happy day, learning proper walkie-talkie protocol — and how/when/where to drain the craft service coolers — will do a lot more to further your career than any film school degree.

  3. I’ve heard the same thing about film school as well, and I’m in a similar situation. I’m at the point were I have to decide on a major, and it’s down to either communications or cinema/tv arts.
    Ultimately I think I’d like to do something in production, and no matter what I’d like to have a degree to fall back on. I’m starting to lean towards communications… mainly because it doesn’t seem like a film degree would really help me out all that much. Good choice, or no? I’m definitely open to advice…

  4. I’ve never personally heard of anyone getting turned down because they went to film school but I suppose anything’s possible.

    But as for film school being *necessary* it DEFINITELY is not. You can learn stuff there, and get your hands on gear, which is good. Especially if you’re shooting to be a DP or something and want to build up a reel but don’t have equipment. But if you want to work as anything in production or even a grip/electric, school isn’t going to do much for you.
    -3 years of film school, dropped out two years ago, haven’t regretted it yet.

  5. Does it hurt your chances of making it in the industry if you go to film school? I’ve heard that they look for PA’s that know nothing about it and that they brush off those that have furthered their education. I want to attend film school, but if it’s not necessary, I could just pocket the $10K a year.

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