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Set Life Versus Office Life

Brianna writes in:

My life goal is AD.

I was just told by a PA as green as I am that I should take a job as an office PA because I didn’t go to film school and the office is a great classroom and that everyone should do it once.

I know that being an AD involves PRs and office related work, but I’m just worried I’ll go crazy if I’m stuck in an office all day for the next 6 months (I quit my comfy, salaried office job because I was going crazy – coincidentally how I got my first PA gig).

I’ve only done set jobs, one of which required me to work in the office for one day, during which I ran a few errands then literally sat around for 8 hours (despite, of course, always asking everyone if anything needed done [it was a small reality production]).

My biggest worry is not that I’ll be bad at the work (because I won’t be) but that I’ll get bored with it and thus not come off as the super stellar (albeit green) PA that I’m rumored to be. (I like to think the rumors are true.)

Any advice? Would you shy away from office work because set life is where you thrive or do it just to say you’ve done it once and know what it’s like?

First of all, if you worked in the office for a day, you were an office PA. You’ve done it. Hurray! You’ve learned how boring it is.

You did get good advice; everyone should probably work both on set and in the office at some point. You just don’t know which is the right position for you, until you try.

But there’s no reason to torture yourself. If you hate the office, never go back. Unless, you know, you need to. Sometimes the only offer you have is for a job you don’t want. A girl’s gotta eat.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m with TAPA on this one — if you hate the office, stay away unless there’s no choice, and in that case, put on a smile and grind it out as best you can. But eventually you have to get yourself on set, where you’ll see how the AD does his/her job while interacting with the other departments — and if you pay attention, you’ll learn a lot about what’s important and what isn’t. Watching a really good 1st AD is an education in itself.

    Besides, miracles sometimes do happen. The set PA for the past three seasons on my show got bumped up to 2nd/2nd AD this season once the producers understood his interest in becoming an AD and realized that he had the right stuff for the job. Granted, this was exceptional — the first time I’ve seen it happen in 36 years of working on set — but if it happened once, it can happen again.

    Good luck…

  2. I tumbled downward from producer’s assistant to cast assistant to office P.A. – essentially I interviewed to be a producer’s assistant, they went with someone else but then called me back to work in the office. Being desperate as most unemployed people, I accepted. I have been an office PA ever since. I don’t have a ‘goal’ in this industry, it’s just a job that sounds interesting when you tell people about it. THAT SAID, the office is never boring. In fact, it’s a hellish nightmare most of the time. If you are new to the office, you’ll probably spend most of your time driving back and forth from set, delivering mail and getting things signed. If your location is far away, you can easily spend more than half your week, chilling in your car ala teamsters.

    Working your way up in the office just leads to the meticulous insanity that is production. Endless email chains, distributing materials and memos, printing up 100 scripts (or script pages) in different colors at the last minute. Maintaining crafty and office supplies. Constantly doing lunch catering and keeping everyone happy. Hotel runs. Picking up/dropping off rental cars. Being the sucker that has to unload a truck of costume gear.

    It’s way harder than chilling on set.

  3. I didn’t go to film school either! All I did was pore over dozens of blogs and books to read about being a PA, both in the office and on set. I was finally just thrown onto a show where I floated between both and did rather well.

    Read up on everything you can find and keep experimenting with jobs that come your way! A reality office is different from a multi-cam office, scripted, and gameshow office. Same with sets. But if you’re dead set on ADing, maybe a little office will help inform your decisions on set and how to interact with the office. An AD passed onto me that being sympathetic and knowing how the other departments will make your job easier and help inform your choices on set.

    Good luck!

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