How a Set Should Be

Taylor commented on an old post, yesterday:

You are stupid sir. Locations arrives first and leaves last. Don’t repeat things you don’t understand

He (she?) may or may not have realized that s/he was commenting on an auto-comment that’s generated every time one WordPress post links to another.  That post read,

Set PAs stay on set all day, everyday (or longer; they’re the first to arrive and last to leave, other than teamsters).

Location managers are, of course, members of Teamsters’ local 399.  At least in Los Angeles.  Wikipedia says they’re DGA out east, but I’ve never heard that before.  I wouldn’t want to repeat something I don’t understand.

In direct response to Taylor’s assertion, I worked on a show that only shot on location one out of seven days.  Much of the time, the location manager was on a writer’s schedule. The set PAs still had shitty schedules, though.

Moving on to the general tone of Taylor’s comment, there is something about the variability of this industry that makes people sure every show they’re working on is doing something wrong.  Everyone has this Platonic ideal in their head of the one and only way a set should be run.  Near as I can tell, this is based on A) how their very first show was run, and B) how well their own department is treated.

And by “everyone,” I’m including myself.

There’s something we call a “football.”  It’s basically a folder with a bunch of paperwork from the set, like time cards and camera reports and so on.  The first time I was introduced to this, it was my responsibility, as the morning PA, to make and distribute copies for everyone who needed them.  This made sense to me, because it’s kind of a menial task that doesn’t require any real thought.  In other words, a PA job.

On my next show, the production coordinator handled this task.  The show after that, the APOC did.  This made me feel guilty; I would think, Why are you wasting your time on something dumb like this?  You should be doing more important stuff.

Had I worked on those shows first, I probably would’ve assumed that the paperwork was of such a sensitive and vital nature that a mere production assistant couldn’t be trusted with it.  If I then went to a show where it was my job, I’d probably think, What is the matter with this guy, making me do work that’s clearly above my pay grade?

That’s just the way people are.  Things are run differently on TV than film, big budget than low budget, commercials than music videos.  I have my preferences, just like everybody else, but I can’t honestly say which is the “right way” a show should be run.

But God help you if you work on a reality show.  Those people have no idea what they’re doing.

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16 Responses

  1. I found your observations to be funny & accurate – especially regarding the concept that the notion of a properly run set is based on individual ‘first show experience’ & how well the individual’s department is treated. Even the title of this blog made me laugh by the way…

  2. I just stumbled across your blog. I like it. Very informative. I’ve dabbled in the Industry and I have to ask: how old is too old for a PA? What do you think is the sell-by date?

  3. Here in Canada or at least BC(Hollywood North), the Set PA’s are part of the locations dept. and Locations is also part of the Directors Guild of Canada. The 1st AD usually just yells out something like “LOCATIONS, MOVE THOSE CONES OUT OF THE SHOT”.. PA’s are kind of everyones bitch though..right?

    And actually the Teamsters/Transportation are usually the last ones to leave.

  4. On every movie/tv show I work on I hear the same phrase repeated time and time again, “I’ve never seen a show that does (or is or looks or feels or teats people or anything you could imagine) that.” The first couple of times I thought, Man, I’m on some really unique shows, but now I realize everyone just wants to feel important so they pick some thing and act like they have the moral high ground about it. every show is different and they all suck in their own special way.

  5. It’s true everyone does do their own thing when it comes to running a set. However one thing I noticed back in my location PA days is that the locations manager usually spends most of the day in the office and shows up on set here and there to inspect the troops and make sure production isn’t destroying the location (as is often the case). Don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere.

  6. Taylor’s asshole quotient went through the roof on the jerkoff scale, a score that is seldom reached by anyone who isn’t a (please excuse the noise from all of those about to be offended) script supervisor.
    Yes, of course there are those Scriptees who are reasonable, and on occasion willing to concede that they don’t have an exact answer to everything, or that they were wrong on something, they’re just very difficult to locate on short notice.
    As a sound mixer who often has nothing to do for long periods of time while (another ox to gore) the lighting maven farts around tweaking lights that seem to be doing more or less the same thing after they’re done, which means that I have time to notice little things that I can question about screen direction, continuity or such only at great risk to myself.
    Usually, the safest route is to shut up, and at the end of the day take the check and go home. Union wise, that’s the only route open if one wants to avoid grievance issues, but sometimes there’s a overinflated balloon that calls out for a prick, and there I am, caught with no Nomex underwear trying to stifle myself.

  7. It’s true. Here in Philly locations aren’t union at all, but I think other places they’re dga. I actually just found out LA locations are teamsters last fall, and that seems so weird to me!

  8. Based on his tact and self-assured tone, (“You are stupid, sir”), it may be that Taylor is a graduate of that Institute of Higher P.A.-dom we all met a while back.

    Taylor, I’m a Location Manager and I didn’t take any offense or see a need to pick that particular nit.

    And yes, Location Managers in NY and in Chicago are DGA. It was by tradition for a number of years (20+?) and only became contractual a few years ago after a long fought battle. I know a number of Los Angeles Location Managers who have both Teamster and DGA cards. Whenever possible, they work under the DGA contract because their Teamster contract ain’t great.

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