How Long Is This Gonna Take

Ryan writes in:

I’ve seen you answer questions from people asking if they’re too young to be a PA, but I’ve only seen one person who said they’re too old, and they were 24.

I’m 28 , soon to be 29, and I’m looking to change careers. I’ve got a little bit of cash saved up to support myself if I were, say working for peanuts, and I would like to work my way up in the television industry, but I’m worried that I might have missed my chance.

I have no idea how long it takes to move up from production assistant to 2nd AD up to executive, and I don’t want to be 50 and still trying to climbing the ranks. Would it even be worth it to try and start or am I simply too old?

It’s really hard to judge if you’re too young or too old, too big or too small, too quiet or too talkative. The real answer is, if you show up on time, do your work, and are generally pleasant to be around, people will hire you.

But as to the question of how long it takes to climb the ladder, the answer is… who knows? Some people get promoted within a few weeks, others take years. Some people skip the line entirely.

You might never get promoted. You may become stuck in a role you never wanted in the first place. You may find your goals change, and you’d rather be a DP than an AD.

It’s not a satisfactory answer, but it’s the truth. You cannot go into this business expecting any kind of certainty. If that doesn’t sound like the life for you, that’s totally okay. It’s not good enough for a lot of people. But you’re at the stage in your life where you have to decide what’s right for you, not knowing what the future will bring.

Being an adult sucks, doesn’t it?

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9 Responses

  1. The previous comments are accurate about what I have experienced. There is a “too old” age to start though. I’ve seen PAs who are experienced and 40 and this typical. But starting out and 40 and you’ll get some skeptical opinions.

    For those thinking about trying out this work and being 40, please don’t shy away, just know that at a certain point there will be some questions raised by the crew, and it’s none of their business!
    I guess this relates to a previous post of what kind of perception you give to a crew for what you choose to wear or look like, and you have to be okay with the stereotype (unfortunately you can’t control age).

  2. Just like all these other posts have stated, age doesn’t matter. I met the 1st AD for many popular TV and Features. He started when he was about 30 and now is a 1st AD. So age doesn’t really matter, just work ethic and a little bit of taking advantage of opportunities.

  3. I was 27 when I got my first unpaid PA job. Up to a point, age doesn’t matter — it’s your attitude and willingness to work and learn that count. Granted, I was never interested in following the production path — being an AD, director, or producer was never on my radar screen, but the process of moving up the ladder is similar across the industry. You work very hard and take advantage of every opportunity you possibly can — and eventually your path will become clear.

    Or it won’t, and you’ll end up miserable. That can happen — there are no guarantees — and in that case, maybe you can commiserate with Nola Trash Talk…

  4. I knew several older PAs, like mid 40s. They get a lot of good work, but never seemed to move up. They talk about doing stuff in the 90s and I was just shocked.

    Definitely make your own future, don’t wait for something to come along, be active. I was a PA last year and this year I am an associate producer, but it came through persistence/cold emailing calling and a little luck. You never know.

  5. On my first PA job, I was 23 and all the other PAs were 29. I’m 27 now and still PA-ing (though, I wasn’t full time until I was almost 25). I’ve met a few older PAs and I think you’ll be fine.

  6. A good friend of mine who is local production coordinator is in his mid forties and he started out as an intern at age 29. Maybe that can give you some hope. I got my first production job at 26 and am about to turn 30, dreaming everyday of changing careers myself. Wanna trade?

  7. 28 year old PA here who works in LA on tv shows, you’ll be fine as far as age goes in just starting out. Most of the PAs are this age, if not a little younger or older. Like TAPA said, show up, do your work, and you’ll move forward.

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