PAing on a Live Show

Kate asks:

I just landed my first ever PA gig, and it is for [a live awards show]… Looking through your blog posts, I haven’t seen any addressing PA’s for live shows.

Is there anything I should know or be prepared for going into this position that may be different from regular set PAs? I will be working the show as well as the 5 days leading up to it, what can I expect some of my tasks to include?

I’ve never worked on a live show, per se, but I have been on both multi-camera and game shows. I imagine they’re run very much the same way.

The biggest difference between these and single camera shows is, there is no margin for error. You don’t get a second take, and everyone, from the director and talent on down to the PAs like you and me, feels that pressure.

That being said, your job is the same as it always is– be ready to do what anyone asks you to do at any time. If you’re on set, it probably means a lot of shuttling cast/talent around, making sure they don’t get lost backstage. In the office, you’ll be placing lots of orders for gear and whatnot, and then checking and re-checking that everything will arrive before showtime. The last thing you want is for the camera department to be missing a lens when the show starts.

You’ll spend a lot of time rehearsing, which includes lighting cues, talent and camera blocking, and even running the entire show from top to bottom. By the time the show actually begins, you’ll pretty much have it memorized.

And that’s when the fun begins. You have to be ready for anything to go wrong, as does anyone else. This is not the time to be checking Facebook or texting your friends. If your job doesn’t actually require you to be moving around, find a comfortable seat and sit on the edge of it.

You’ll have to improvise, depending on what goes wrong. This can be very scary for a PA, who’s used to doing as she’s told. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll be ready.

Speaking of doing as you’re told, your boss will also be making decisions on the fly. This is not the time to be questioning instructions. Your boss tells you to do something, you do it, to the best of your ability as fast as you can, even if you don’t understand why. Your boss (hopefully) has a reason; ask what it was tomorrow.

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One Response

  1. Having worked on a few award shows, I will chime in here.

    It depends what department you are in. There are a LOT of people working on award shows. Production assistants generally support the production office for a live awards show. For example, talent PAs obviously deal with getting talent from A to B, and there are stage managers on hand for this as well.

    As an standard “production assistant”, other jobs may include helping get the production office set up, moving around countless table and chairs, several office supply runs, setting up pipe and drape, restocking printers, running items between various departments, trash sweeps, etc. Generally, a production assistant that supports the production office will have little to do once the show actually begins. The majority of the work directly for the show DURING the show is being done by talent wranglers, stage managers, producers, crew, and everyone in the production truck.

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