I can’t speak for the other locals or guilds, but 728 (set lighting) and 80 do send members out on jobs. We’re allowed (and expected) to look for our own work, but when your show or day-playing gig ends (but before you apply for unemployment), you call the local and go “on the books” — which means you are now officially available for work. If a Best Boy calls the hall looking for extra manpower, the call steward of the local will go down the list of available workers until he finds someone willing to take the job.
When things are slow in town, going on the books won’t result in a call from the local anytime soon — months will go by before your phone rings — but when it’s busy (like right now), that call might come the very next day. Trouble is, most of those calls are for low budget, sub-scale gigs that are always the jobs of last resort — which is why the Best Boy couldn’t find someone willing to take that crappy job. Those are for the newbies who are still paying their dues and trying to get established in the biz. It’s how they suffer and learn.
I feel like a dope, because I actually knew this. I have, once or twice, had to call a union and check the avail list. But, like Mike said, it was always a last resort, after the department head had run through his list of names.
So, it can be useful, especially when your show gets cancelled mid-season, and you need to pick up some day-playing work.
This got me thinking. While I think a PA union is a dumb idea, maybe an availability list would be helpful? After all, I get emails all the time from coordinators and AD looking for a good, reliable PA. It shouldn’t be difficult to direct people to page full of resumes.
The only worry I would have is security. If you post your resume online, who knows what kind of spam you’d be inviting? Or worse, unwanted phone calls.
Does anyone out there have the knowledge to solve the privacy issue?
And any coordinators or ADs reading this– what sort of information on potential PAs would you want? Sound off in the comments below, or just email me at anonymousproductionassistant at gmail dot com.