Reader Jeff writes in:
I’ve been interested in film for so long, however after graduating from college as an English/Film major, I still don’t really have a production skill I’ve mastered, so I think my best resort is to start out as a PA. Of course, I want to move out to California where all of my fellow film friends have already gone to, but what’s been holing me back is not having a drivers license. I hate driving, but after such a long wait, I finally got my license last week. So now I plan on moving out soon. But I still don’t own a car, and at 23 years old, I’m pretty much a first time driver.
So my question is, will I be able to become a PA out in CA if I don’t have a car / am not a very reliable driver?
Driving is an important part of living in Los Angeles, period. Los Angeles was the first American city to be built after the invention of the automobile. It was suddenly possible to have a home miles from your place of work. We are a polycentric city.
For someone in the film business, a car is vital. You will be working in different places all the time, even on the same show. One day you’ll be shooting in Culver City, the next in Sherman Oaks. You can’t plan on living near work. Our public transportation system is horrible, and taxis are ludicrously expensive.
For a PA, a car is a job requirement. Someone once told me, “Every PA should have three things: a computer, a car, and a cell phone.” (Note the conspicuous absence of “a brain.”)
On a real show, with teamsters and stuff, you’ll at least be delivering scripts, and picking up incidentals. On a low-budget production, you’ll probably be picking up equipment and props, too.
Kate offered this little anecdote a while ago:
PAs who “aren’t good with directions” quickly become unemployed. Google maps and a GPS make life a ton easier.
I once worked on a series where the UPM hired a runner who didn’t have a car, but he did have a bus pass. Guess who got fired? That’s right–both of ‘em.
Get used to driving. Find stations with music you like. Start listening to NPR. Take your wallet out of your back pocket. Get a headset, and call your friends back east; they’re getting done with work while you’re still in the middle of your day. Buy a Thomas Guide.
Learn to love your car.