First of all, let me just say I’m super annoyed that Disney is dropping “Be Prepared” from the Lion King remake.
Anyway, on to the reader question:
What kind of gear would an Office PA need? And what kind of gear would a Set PA need?
I have been told once that an Office PA should have a Car, Smart Phone, and a Laptop Computer. And that a Set PA should also have a Car, Smart Phone, and a Multi-Tool.
Does this sound about right? I want to be an Office PA. Should I go and buy a new Laptop? If so should it be a MAC or PC?
Great questions! Let me tell you how to…
An office PA gig is in many ways much cushier than a set PA’s. You report to the same location every day. Your office is temperature controlled. You don’t usually have to deal with actors. It’s great!
You’ll spend a lot of time on the computer sending out emails, filing stuff electronically, and doing general research stuff. This is why you should have your own computer. Mac is the OS of choice for most of the industry (except for the accounting department), but you’re not going to be called on to do any editing or photoshop. A Macbook Air should do you nicely, especially since it’s so portable. That being said, you can probably get just as much power out of a Windows machine for a cheaper price.
If you’re really on a budget, you can always get a Chromebook. It’s certainly not as powerful, but now that they can run Microsoft Office, Chromebooks can handle pretty much anything you’d need. And with WriterDuet, you can even keep writing in your downtime.
All that being said, remember that the show should be providing you with any necessary equipment, such as the computer. If you use your own computer, be sure to negotiate for a kit fee.
Prepared for Anything
But shit happens. Sometimes you get called to set, or get sent on a run to the boonies. Hence, the need for a car and smartphone. (Hooray, Google Maps!) You should have sunscreen, a sun hat, weather-appropriate coat, shoes, pants/shorts. Whatever’s going on set, wherever it is,1 you need to be just as ready as the set PA’s.
That’s why I recommend even office PA’s get themselves a Leatherman, or similar multitool. It comes in handy around the office as much as on set. I’ve used it to put together desks, disassemble computers, and even strip wiring.2
That being said, you don’t need a big belt pouch for your pens and notepad and stuff, like I recommend for set PA’s. Most of that will probably fit in your desk, I hope. But you might want a flashlight. After all, the stage is dark, and full of terrors.
More Than Just Tools
There’s more to being prepared than just having the right tools. You need to educate yourself, too. I don’t just mean film school. Your education extends beyond college. You should be reading crew blogs, like The Hollywood Juicer; official publications, like the DGA Quarterly; film theorist’s website, like Bordwell’s Observations on Film Art; and books. Lots and lots of books. Some of my favorites include Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies, Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye, and, of course, Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut.
Got any books you’d like to recommend? Tell us about them in the comments!
Don’t neglect the most important element of your film education: films themselves.
I have a theory that you can guess someone’s age just by asking them their top 10 favorite movies. At least half of them will have come out when they were between the ages of 16 and 25. The rest are likely to be part of the standard canon, such as Casablanca or Chinatown.
And that’s fine; those movies are great, as far as they go. But you should make a conscious effort to see some movies you might not have seen or considered before. Flip through the classic film section of Netflix or Hulu. Or, search for even more obscure films on Kanopy.
Even better, ask for recommendations from other people in the office. Remember, your boss is at least ten years older than you; that means their little ten-year window I mentioned will be offset by at least a decade. They’ll know about some great movies that came out when you were just a kid, or not even born, yet. You just might discover you love something you’d never even heard of before.
On the subject of education, the TAPA Networking Event is coming back– mark your calendar for March 31st. This time, we’re going to have some guest speakers, who you’ll be able to talk with, ask advice of, and generally learn from. We’ll be announcing names soon, so watch the blog. Location TBD.