What the Hell is a Drive-On?

John asks:

Thanks for the resume tips! I sent it out, and the production coordinator for [show] called me the NEXT DAY!!!1 2 

She told me they filmed at [studio lot], and then said, “I’ll call you a drive on.” What does that mean? All I can think is that it’s a slang term for a new PA?

Haha, no, although that would be awesome. “You’re such a drive-on!”

This is one of those terms that I hear so much, I forget that, to a newbie, they may not make sense. “Drive-on” is short for “drive-on pass,” a permit issued by the studio to allow you to drive your car onto the lot. She’s calling a drive on for you.

Movie and TV studios tend to be fairly secure. They don’t want random members of the public just wandering around, harassing their celebrities. Someone who already works there has to give you permission to be there.

On most shows, only the office staff has the ability to call drive-ons. “Call” usually means “type into the studio’s website,” although most still allow you to call the gate security guard, if you’re in a hurry. (I heard Warner Brothers actually makes you fax drive-on requests, but that’s just crazytalk; as much as we waste paper in this industry, I can’t believe one of the biggest studios still uses paper drive-on requests.)

Assuming you get this job, you’ll be calling drive-ons, soon. Which means almost every department will be calling you on a daily basis, requesting passes for their day players, new hires, and delivery trucks. Some not-necessarily-obvious information you’ll need to get before you can call the drive-on: the person’s name3; the spelling of said name (don’t assume you know whether it’s Erin or Aaron); the gate they’ll arrive at; the stage or building (including room number) they’re going to; the time they’re arriving and the time they’re leaving.

For that last one, don’t assume the caller actually knows the exact time their guest will arrive. As a general rule of thumb, I start the pass time a half hour before the person arrives, and end it a half hour after they’re set to leave. That way, they shouldn’t run into trouble.

Some lots charge money for each drive-on (in an effort to limit the number of guests, I assume). Double-check with your boss about that, before you go crazy calling drive-ons willy-nilly.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Results not typical.
  2. Seriously, I like to think my service helps people, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get a phone call the next day, regardless of how many exclamation points are involved.
  3. Okay, that one was obvious.
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6 Responses

  1. Disney is stupid easy to get on without a pass. I showed up for my first day of work not knowing that my start day had been pushed back 3 weeks (communication!) and they let me in. I didn’t find out I wasn’t supposed to be there until I got to the production office. Just walk in with confidence and you can explore the lot for the day, easy.

  2. And make sure you get the LEGAL spelling of the name that is on their drivers license.. or they will not let them in. The name is Steven Shoe? Oh, and you called in a drive on for Steve Shoe? Guess what, they’re not going to let him in.

    Some smaller studios have nifty websites for drive ons. Once given access you can go in and enter in all your drive ons online, eliminating the need to actually talk to people.

  3. Warner Bros security is very strict. Rode in a few passenger vans off and back onto the lot and they will check every single persons studio ID (or guest pass w/ photo ID). That means if you have a full van, the guard will slide open the door and visually compare the photo on the ID to each person. This happened more often than not. So if you are given a drive-on pass for the day, make sure you keep that printed guest pass in your pocket in case you leave the lot and need to get back on. If you don’t have it, it just makes it a lot harder since they have to look you up in the computer again.

    Also, they made me pop my trunk when leaving the lot late one night. Never had that happen before.

  4. No it’s true WB does drive-ons by fax. The only other way is to call them in but they will only take so many over the phone at a time. There is no website or e-mail, so it’s either call or fax.

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