I’m moving to LA in 2 weeks to do the PA thing and possibly do some extras work with Central Casting (while I pursue writing and directing). I know, it is ill-advised to move out there right now but I’m doing it anyway. I was wondering if you could tell me your thoughts on a few issues.
1) I read the PA Handbook that you posted on your site recently. It mentions that wearing a fanny pack full of useful things is a good idea. What do you think? Would I be the laughing stock of the crew to arrive on set wearing a fanny pack? I’ll already be the new guy and don’t want to be “the fanny pack guy.” How about a messenger bag? How do you keep track of all the stuff you use? I’m sure holding sides as well as everything else you might need to keep track of can be tough without a bag?
2) I have the opportunity to stay in West LA near where the 405 and the 10 intersect. Or I can stay in Studio City about a mile from Universal. Where would you advise staying if given the choice? Rent is exactly the same in both places. I’m not one for the night life so that really doesn’t factor in. I just want to be in the right area for work.
Now is really not the worst time, Jeremiah. While the economy is bad, it’s bad everywhere. If you’re not going to have a job, you might as well not have a job here.
Besides, production is picking up, at least compared to a few months ago. Nobody shoots in December. Pilots are getting picked up to series, so they’ll be hiring soon, and there are movies here and there. You just have to know where to look.
Regarding your first question, well, the PA Handbook is a little old. It also recommends you carry a roll of quarters and call the production office every half hour. It’s like they didn’t have cell phones in 1999! (I plan on writing an annotated version, soon, to bring it into the 21st century.)
Your instincts are right– a fanny pack is a ridiculous idea. In fact, I don’t carry any kind of bag at all (other than my computer bag, if I’m in the office). Like most PAs, I wear carpenter jeans or cargo shorts, which have more than enough pockets for a production assistant’s needs.
I always carry at least two pens (because the director will want to borrow one, and he’ll never give it back), a sharpie, a small notepad (for my poor memory), and my cell phone (on vibrate, of course). Depending on the type of gig, I’ll also bring a flashlight and a pair of gloves. Work gloves from OSH or Home Depot will do. Don’t bother spending money on Set Wear; it’s not like you’ll be carrying hot lights.
As for your living location, either of those places are fine. The thing is, you never know where you’re going to be shooting. Even if you are working on an NBC show, that doesn’t mean they’re filming on the NBC/Universal lot. You could be shooting at Hollywood Center Studios, like Heroes.
I’m surprised that you say they’re the same price. West LA is usually quite expensive. Have you looked at the apartments? I’d be willing to bet the Studio City place is nicer.
Good luck, and welcome to Los Angeles!