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Andrew writes in:

My fiance recently fell into a PA position and landed a couple days on a movie.  After day two/three she was told they had enough PA’s for the next day and they would call her.  It has been a few days and no word back yet.

A family member of mine works in the industry (in an unrelated position) as well, he recommended she try calling and contacting the person who hired her to ask for work.  She has tried phoning this person only to find the voice mail box full.  At this point I have a feeling she is a bit worried that with the lack of experience gained and the potential of not hearing back her PA career could be over as soon as it started.

Is this commonly how additional PA positions are handled?  Are the additional PA call backs usually done via some rotation or at the AD discretion?  How often is too often when calling to trying to get work?  Would it be considered crazy to show up on set if it becomes impossible to reach via phone?  Is there anything she can do with her couple of days experience that may open some doors that would otherwise be closed to someone without experience?  What types of experiences are usually desired on someones resume with little to no PA experience?

Additional PA days are always done at the discretion of the AD.  If they like you, they’ll call you back.  If they don’t, they won’t.

Calling to remind them that you’re still available is good advice.  It’s unfortunate that the mailbox was full, but there’s not really much you can do about it.  Just showing up on set would, indeed, be crazy.  Not ill-advised crazy, but call-the-men-in-the-white-coats crazy.  Unless they happen to be filming in your neighborhood, and you tell them so, I wouldn’t do it.

“Too often” is a tough call.  Depends on the kind of show.  If you’re talking about a sitcom, where they hardly ever leave the studio and need more than their usual compliment of PAs, I’d wait three to four weeks.  If they’re on location a lot, like for an action show or a procedural, maybe every two weeks.

If you don’t have experience as a PA, try to at least have some kind of industry experience.  Working the desk at an agency, being a personal assistant to a producer, something.  “Starbucks barista” isn’t gonna do anything on your resume.

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9 Responses

  1. and yes, event production is totally useful – highlight the things you’ve done that are similar to television production – coordinating meals, trash, deliveries, ordering equipment for bands, whatever.

  2. this is totally normal, unfortunately. yes it could be handled by the key PA, or the AD, in my cases, it’s always been handled by the PM or Coordinator. And most of the time, its just because they don’t need you, and when they do, they call the first person they think of, which unfortunately might be their roommate Joe who has just as little experience as you.
    Don’t wait around, get another job, keep asking, apply for everything (within reason) meet people, exchange numbers, and post “I need work” on facebook. It’ll all work out.

  3. This may sound random, but does experience in Event Pruduction count for anything? Anything at all?

  4. This is totally common in the business. It feels like it should suck ( and it does), but if you want a career in this business, get used to it, get better, make more friends on set, and it will happen less and less. You need a big fire and many irons in it to keep working. Don’t give up.

    Finish each day strong.

  5. Another consequence of “just showing up” is that, not only won’t you be called back…your name will get around for it. On the next show, the Key PA and the 2nd 2nd may be going through a pile of resume’s, and when yours pops up, the Key will say, “this is that batshit crazy guy I mentioned who was stalking us”. Congratulations, you’ve now just multiplied the number of people who won’t touch you with a ten foot pole.

    Regardless of the type of show, they’re going to have a core staff of PA’s (could be three, could be fifteen), and then they’ll call in dayplayers just for the bigger than usual days. Since you don’t know anything about their schedule, you shouldn’t read anything into not getting a call for a week or two…or three…or, at all. They may have just shot out the scenes that need additional PA’s.

    It’s one of those crappy situations where you may never know why you didn’t get a call to come in again (unless someone said, “You suck. I’ll never call you again”.) If you worked for more than one day, assume you did fine and just keep plugging away. You’ll get more work as a result of getting more work (and more people getting to know you exist).

  6. Do not, under any circumstances just “show up on set.” The odds are extremely high that doing so will result in that production crew never hiring you again.

    When I was a commercial gaffer, a director I worked with a lot pressed me (through the DP) to hire a friend of his who needed work. I did so reluctantly, just to keep the peace and not make waves for my DP. The guy was nice enough, and tried to be helpful, but he just wasn’t very good — which meant my only other crew member had to do twice the work.

    I made it clear to the DP that this was a one-time deal, and used my regular crew from that point on. But one day while we were shooting on the beach, the director’s buddy showed up and offered to work for free. Politely but firmly, I declined, insisting that we had plenty of guys and didn’t need any extra help. He hung around and wheedled for a while, but finally left — but by that point, I’d resolved never to hire this guy again under any circumstances.

    Why? Because if he’d hurt himself on set (something newbies are prone to do) working for free, he could have sued the company and maybe me. Because I had my own crew, guys I knew and trusted, and wasn’t about put one of them out of work for somebody I didn’t really know and couldn’t really trust. And because by mysteriously showing up that day, he demonstrated a complete lack of understanding how the process works. That was it — he was dead to me.

    If this sounds harsh, then you don’t really understand how the process works either. This is a very tribal business, and a newbie trying to break in has no tribe. Don’t assume your fiancee did a bad job — it could be the AD had to put a nephew (or somebody else’s kid) on the payroll, and thus had no PA positions left to fill. The degree to which nepotism rules in Hollywood continues to astonish me even after all these years. If she did a good job on the set, that was noticed. It might not result in a call back for that particular job, but she may well work with some of those same PA’s down the road, and they’ll remember her as one of the good ones.

    Unless you have your own gold-plated familial connections, there is no magic ticket in. We live in a culture of instant gratification, but there’s no such thing when you’re starting out in Hollywood. You just have to keep trying until something finally breaks your way — and if you do keep trying, it will.

    Eventually.

  7. I’ve had this happen to me twice. You work hard, it all seems good, you expect to hear back about work tomorrow and…. nothing.

    Once I got a call saying they “didn’t need me at this time.” That was something, at least.

    Go out and get more work. Don’t wait by the phone.

  8. not gonna lie, our ADs have nothing to do with the hiring of additional PAs. It’s all the key. When he likes you, you’re in. If you fit in well with the staff PAs, chances are you could become a ‘staff additional’ lol….. a made up term meaning the go to person. If that is filled, then just do what you can to be a reliable, friendly and fun person that the other staff PAs will be begging the key to bring back. and when you do become that person, don’t screw it up (call in sick the day of, get TOO comfortable with the other crew members, etc) because you could become a staff pa the next year!!

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