Day Player: A Way In

A day player is a PA who works on a show sporadically. He or she doesn’t have the luxury of a regular Monday through Friday prison sentence work schedule. They could work two days one week, three days the next, five days the next, and then not at all for four weeks. It all depends on when the production office needs them.

On my first show, I was hired to day play for the last week of prep / first week of shooting. What was supposed to be a one week job turned into the run of the show. It became a joke with my friends.

“My last day of work is this Friday.”
“How many ‘last days’ have you had now?”
“At least six.”

Day playing serves a two different functions:

  1. It gives the office a chance to figure out if they like you or not. If an interview is like a blind date, then day playing is like a group date. There’s no pressure and no hurt feelings if they never call you again.
  2. It maximizes their use of you. I know it sucks to not be there every day, but if they’re not calling  you in, it’s probably because there’s absolutely nothing for you to do.

The obvious drawback of day playing is the lack of financial stability. Even ramen will seem like a kingly feast when you’re only working one or two days a week.

However, the benefit of day playing is that holy-grail relationship that you’re fostering every day you’re there. Before long, the secretary and I became friends. He’s directly or indirectly gotten me three more jobs since then.

If I were someone who was blindly calling production offices, trying to send in my resume and find a job, I might ask if they were hiring any day players. This will A) show them that you know at least one industry term and B) let them know that they don’t have to go all in with you. They can hedge their bet (and are therefore more likely to hire you).

6 Comments

  1. How early do you call for a day playing position? For instance I work a full time job as a PA at a VFX House but sometimes I have week days off. Should I call the day before? That day?

  2. I just fielded a call from someone asking if we needed any Day Players. Coincidence? Or did I just turn away a faithful TAPA reader?!

  3. The value of day-playing to those just entering the industry cannot be overstated. Whether you’re a beginning PA, grip, juicer, camera assistant, set dresser, or prop-person, day-playing is how you meet people, make contacts, and demonstrate your skills and attitude in a venue where it will do the most good. And you get paid…

    Attitude is particularly important — any job skills can be learned, but in the meantime, a genuinely positive, helpful attitude will take you a long way. In a sense, day-playing is advanced networking — and once you’ve proven to be a reliable, smart, hard-working day-player, some department head is going to notice and want you on their crew. Just remember to bring your “A” game to every day-playing gig, work hard, and finish strong. Regular employment won’t come overnight, but it’ll happen. At that point, it’s just a matter of time.

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