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Working as a PA in Austin, TX

Hey there TAPA readers!

This post comes from a fellow PA to discuss navigating the film industry in the lovely city of Austin, Texas! It seems to jive a bit differently than other major film cities.

Relatively speaking, Austin’s film scene is small. We used to have a vibrant film community because of the tax incentive situation. Sadly, that has seriously diminished over the past few years. To give you some perspective, we typically have 1 or 2 major scripted TV series, a good number of commercials, some indie films, A LOT of student films, and occasionally a feature filming here.

Landing a PA job on any of the bigger projects really depends on networking and extensive credits. The PAs I know on those jobs have over 2 years of experience as a PA! Remember that a PA is an entry-level job, people. If it takes 2 years just to land a spot on a kinda well-known project, something’s not right. My guess is this: jobs are limited, positions are limited, and there’s no room for a green PA (not the PAs stuck with the unfortunate job of harassing crew about bringing a reusable water bottle to set, but the brand spankin’ new ones with one credit helping from out a friend for a student film).

However, there is hope for those of you that are limited on PA credits and are looking to network up the food chain: jump on an unscripted show. Surprisingly, unscripted shows and documentaries travel through the Austin area quite frequently. I attribute it to our southern charm, excellent breakfast tacos, and to see if we really live up to the well known “keep Austin weird” slogan (I believe we do, with class of course).

Now, I know there is some bias with credits from unscripted shows, but if you are short on money or need to build your resume, I say this is a great start. Try to jump on a few commercials and indie films to give you some variety, but I guarantee you won’t be sorry for taking a few unscripted gigs that come through our lovely city. The biggest perk? Networking with people who actually have established connections to LA and NYC.

When a project travels, they typically send a smaller crew. In smaller crews you have more of a chance to strike up a conversation and network. Recently, I had the job of driving around a few producers that were sent to Austin to get things in order for a shoot the following week. It was just the four of us in a car for 12 hours a day and I was the local expert. I was able to steer them to the best food trucks, give them tips and tricks of getting around the city, and suggest fun things they can do while they’re here. By the end of the project, they had heard I was moving to LA in a few weeks and put me in contact with producers of scripted TV shows. I mean, this is a HUGE win.

Maybe the best thing about starting out in Austin is that you can gain experience fairly easily and build up your network to other cities when you are ready. I’ll close with a quick summary of what’s really important-

Texans love to chat and build relationships

Take pride in the place you are! You’ll be surprised at how many people have not been to the great state of Texas before!

Make yourself useful by having suggestions of great lunch spots, interesting things to see and do, and advice on getting around the city.

Take what you can get

Productions are few and far between. When it comes to taking jobs: TAKE THEM. It’s like a feeding frenzy when a new production comes to town. Make friends with other PAs because they will usually be asked for references of other available PAs in the area.

Many productions that are advertised on different crew call websites are “Passion Projects”. AKA: Free labor. Honestly, I was offered a PA spot on one of these and it was the biggest waste of my time EVER. In my opinion, the only way to get really experience is to get paid. If they are paying for your services, you will get experience because they need you. No payment is a waste of your time.

Breakfast Tacos EVERYDAY

In true Texan fashion, always suggest a taco.

But really, chances are you will be picking up a box of breakfast tacos and a Starbucks traveler for breakfast. And the crew will clap upon your arrival. Just kidding, you’re the first one there. You will clap for yourself.

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One Response

  1. I’m so glad you wrote about the film industry in Austin, I graduated from UT last year and have recently started PAing professionally (aka getting paid) for about a month so far so I really get this article. Recently the tax incentives have dried up and now a lot of people are worried about landing gigs. In my opinion, the most consistent work here is commercial and if that goes then a lot of locals may move. It can be annoying because there’s this constant struggle of change in Austin that I think effects the film community from growing into an industry.

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