Joining the DGA

Madeline writes in:

I have a lot of questions and they relate to DGA so I apologise if they aren’t the right questions for this blog. I did try to do my own DGA research but I’m very confused.

Once your in the DGA, are you allowed to have multiple titles? e.g be a UMP on one show and a 2nd AD on another?

Do you need to join the DGA if your end goal is to be a 2nd 2nd AD?

What are the requirement for a “day”?

Do you always have to take the same position in production for it to count towards your days?

How do you know if the production your being hired on is eligible to count as a day? And if you need to ask, what are the right questions to ask without being an annoying?

Can you collect your days as a PA or do you basically need to be a 2nd AD on a project that flips?

We’re open to all types of PAs here at TAPA. Doesn’t matter if you’re a set PA, post PA, office PA, or some other kind of 0f PA, we’re here to help. Let’s tackle your questions one at a time.

Almost everyone in the film business has many titles. I’ve been all of the above listed PAs, and more. I believe each title has its own specific initiation fee to join the guild in that position, but there’s nothing wrong with being available for more than one type of job. You might be a great 1st AD on a small show, but on a bigger show, they need a more experienced 1st; it’s smart if you’re open to being their 2nd.

Of course, you don’t have to be in the DGA to be an assistant director. However, if you want to work on union (i.e. large budget) shows, then you have to join.

I think you need to get 600 days as a PA to join as a 2nd 2nd AD. There’s also requirements about some of those days occurring outside the studio zone, although I can’t seem to find the specifics on the DGA site.

What counts as a “day”? Mostly, it has to be a legitimate, professional production. This means you have to be paid, and you need paystubs and callsheets to prove it. Whatever work you did that day (art PA, camera PA, etc) is what that day counts towards.1

Of course, having your show “flipped” is an easier way to join. This means the show starts as non-union, but decides to become a union show for one reason or another mid-shoot. When this happens, they don’t just fire all their non-union employees; as long as the crew member pays their dues, they get to join the union.

Check with the DGA for more detailed information.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Commenters pointed out that this is unclear. Only set PA days count towards the DGA. PAing in other departments count towards those departments.
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5 Responses

    1. Not everyone who writes for TAPA is an office PA.

  1. I want to then clarify your footnote: Yes, you need DGA sanctioned set PA days to primarily make up your 600 days, but the key word is “primarily”. If your reader utilizes the DGA website and calls the department in charge of accepting these documents or “books” they can walk them through what percentage of days can be what. They do accept a small amount of office PA days and a small amount of Camera PA days but you have to call and ask so as not to get it all mixed up with rumors, because it gets very nuanced here. You can also do 450 non union AD days and submit that. Women and minorities also have a different set of specifics.

    In reference to the outside of studio days, I think you’re implying what it takes to work in LA. I’m in the East Coast DGA and before I work in LA, I need to work 400 third area AD days before I’m allowed to work there. It is not the same for ADs from LA that want to come over to NY, they can just come over and work without any stipulation. This is designed to protect LA’s DGA ADs when LA used to be the primary place to work.

    In the end, each person vying for the DGA is better off to call their local office and get the breakdown specific for their situation.

    To answer some of the questions posted above:

    -You can hold multiple union cards when you’re in the DGA (like being apart of SAG or IATSE) but you can’t be a UPM until you then turn in another book. The DGA is tiered and you have to have so many AD days before you can be a UPM.
    -Absolutely you need to be in the DGA to be a 2nd 2nd AD on a DGA show.
    -A day is literally a day. There are no hour requirements. One call sheet and one date listed on your pay stub is equalled to a day. SAVE ALL YOUR CALL SHEETS AND PAYSTUBS BTW.
    -Following the rule of thumb that you have to have the same position (set PA) for all of your 600 days is good practice. It’ll get you experienced in the AD department and help keep your paperwork streamlined but it’s not entirely necessary. Call the DGA if you choose to try and get a small percentage of other PA days in other departments accepted to make sure you’re not wasting your time.
    -You can find out if your job is eligible by just asking your bosses if it’s a DGA job. Are your ADs DGA? Great! Then it’s a DGA job.
    -You can be a non union AD for 450 days or a non union AD on a show that flips. Either is fine.

  2. This is true, so be advised. The only PA’ing the DGA accepts when you turn in your days (usually a huge binder with all of your call sheets) is Set PA’ing. There is a very marginal amount they will accept toward your 600 days as any other (i.e., art dept., office pa, etc).

  3. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve heard from other PAs collecting their paperwork that only a certain number of your 600 days can be office days. You are allowed to count being an office PA, but only like 30 days or something – the rest have to be on set.

    Also, once you’re a 2nd, you have to get something like 150 days before you can first on a union show.

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