No Experience Necessary! (Some Experience Required)

Leala writes:

Ok, I keep reading “no experience” needed to PA. So why it so hard to land a PA job?

I actually have some experience -film school, student projects, independent projects, game show pilot, award shows, major network webisode and even dayplayed in the production office of a network TV show.

I get Production Weekly and PRS, contact the offices and fax/email resume, make sure it’s received and follow up til I get “we’re currently crewed up”. I’ve tried pilots, shows already on air, award shows, films and nothing. I’ve even offered to work for free just for the experience but since I’m currently not a student that doesn’t help.

I’m still working on independent projects but how do you make that leap from those to features/tv? Obviously I’m doing something wrong. Any ideas?

I must admit, I am being a little cheeky when I say things like, “A monkey could do my job.”  PAs get fired all the time, for slacking off, for screwing up, for having the gall to speak to a producer when he’s having a bad day.

There is a certain amount of skill involved, even if the main skill is simply being able to stick to it long enough to get promoted.  Not everyone has that skill.

That being said, a lot of people do have that skill, or at least think they do.  On my show, we get at least three PA resumes a day, and we’re in the middle of the season!  At the beginning of the season, we could fill a binder with resumes.

This is also why, by the way, PAs get paid so little (as I explained in a post a few weeks ago).  While there’s always a demand for a good PA, there is an even greater supply of good PAs.

This encompasses the entirety of my knowledge of economics.
Note the lack of a “Hard Work” curve.

I don’t think you’re actually doing anything wrong.  In fact, it sounds like you’re doing everything right.  There’s no secret or trick that you’re missing. You have to be good and smart and experienced, it’s true.

But you also have to submit your resume at the exact moment that they’re looking for a PA with your exact qualifications.  You have to connect with the AD or coordinator some indefinable way.  You have to be ready when they need you to be ready.

In short, not only do you have to be good, you have to be lucky.

I wish I could be of more help than that, but I can’t.

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19 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I have been working as a PA and a 2nd AD in India for the past 4 years. I want to eventually come to Hollywood and work, but i have a few questions:
    1) Will i be able to start off as a 2nd AD or will i have to be a PA for 500 days and then slowly graduate?
    2) How does one find jobs?
    3) Does one get paid by the hour or week? And how much will a 2nd AD get paid?
    4) How does one enrol them selves into a guild?
    5) How Can one get a working visa for being a freelance AD
    Your answers will really help me decide my future.

    1. Hi Shariq,

      While I can’t give you any advice on how to break into Hollywood’s PA/AD scene, perhaps you can help me?

      I am moving back to India in a couple of months, I love the whole film-making process and want to find a way to work on productions. I find the Indian TV, Film & Theatre industry very closed off though. I have no idea how to get involved in the film-making process. I was there for two year trying to figure out how to get involved in theatre or film, and I just couldn’t find any leads. Online there are all these sketchy looking websites with “casting calls”.

      I would appreciate any and all help.

      I hope to hear from you soon.



  2. Sounds like being a PA sucks…Kiss everybody’s a** and then get sh*itted on for doing your job. NO THANKS

  3. You MUST know someone!!!! It is the key to making that giant leap!!! You don’t have to be friends with someone in the industry for a long time, just enough to have them think of you when there is an opening. I got contact information off of the guild websites of all the members and emailed a ton of people to see if they would be willing to give me some tips. Out of 50 only 5 replied and only 1 kept emailing me back after two years. And then I offered to treat him to coffee and he brought some more friends in the industry along. And his friend got me a job on a Paramount feature to be released 2015. It takes time to make that connection but it is the best shot you have to make that leap.

  4. Quick question: Are there ever any chair massage people on set to help with stress? I’m a massage therapist and was wondering if that’s a common thing, and also whom would I contact if I wanted to provide my services ? thanks again.

    1. Unfortunately it’s not common. Studios don’t pay for stuff like that unless it’s for the actors. They get anything they ask for. As a PA I had to deliver a Brevel Juicer once to an actor who wanted one at his hotel and then three months later at the end of the shoot, it went into storage. Such a waste of money

  5. Hello,

    I really wanna get involved with the film industry. I’m interested in becoming a PA. I just stumbled across your blog and its amazing to see you have lots of experience on production assisting. I’m 2o, a theatre major, I live in Vegas and I have no clue who to go to for help. Do you have any in depth suggestions?


    1. Start volunteering on local independent film shoots in Vegas to get some experience as to what it’s like being a set PA. Its totally different from theatre. Checkout or craigslist for jobs (be safe and be careful). My first volunteer PA job I did when I was in highschool. I had my mom drive me and wait outside the hotel where they were filming, just incase. If it’s legit it will be detailed posting. Checkout local colleges with film programs, they are always looking for help on their projects. Once you’ve done a lot of that then start emailing people in the Vegas or LA industry. Checkout the guild websites for the listings of their members. Email as many as you can asking for tips and if you could treat them to breakfast to discuss their experiences in the industry. DO NOT, WHAT EVER YOU DO, MAKE IT SOUND LIKE ALL YOU WANT IS A JOB. Make it about them. I said I was doing a project for college (which I was), where I needed to ask industry people what it’s like. One of those people that I talked to got me a job with Paramount. Keep in contact, every month or so send a check in email just asking how they are or asking a question that you thought of about the industry. IT’S HOW YOU KNOW PEOPLE, IT’S ALL NETWORKING

  6. Ha it’s me! Thanks for the answers! I get what you’re saying. I’ll keep trying and hopefully get lucky sooner or later. Love your blog!

  7. As a Location Manager, I constantly have people wanting me to scout their house, restaurant, Russian Steam Bath…whatever. And while I love adding places to my files, I’m only looking for a Russian Steam Bath when I get a script that needs a Russian Steam Bath.

    It’s the same with A.D.’s. They’re only looking for PA’s when they’re looking for PA’s. As much as they’d like to file you away for future reference, odds are that in the heat of the moment, your resume gets lost in the piles of other stuff they’re dealing with.

    It really is clairvoyance and magic. You have to contact them often enough to be contacting them just when they need someone, but not so often that you’re just annoying the crap out of them.

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