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I’m a Talent Assistant. Now, What?

An anonymous reader writes in:

I am a personal assistant to a well known actress, and she’s bringing me onto a big-ish shoot with her for the first time in a few weeks. Before working for this actress, I worked in production for about 5 years, but I never paid any attention to the talent assistants on set.

I know that my primary responsibility is to the actress’s needs, but my question to you: is there anything I should be doing/thinking about that will make the rest of the crew’s life easier? Should I expect to be much of a liaison between the crew and the actress, or should I just do my best to stay out of everyone’s way in general (be available, but scarce). So to clarify, I am hired by the actress NOT the production, but will be on set every day with the rest of the crew.

First of all, you are a SAINT for even asking this question. Most personal assistants are happy to sit on their butts and watch other people work. (In TV, which is where I spend most of my time, they’re usually assistants to the writer/producers, but the principle is the same.)

The best thing you can do, since you have production experience, is keep your eyes open. If you see someone who needs a hand, and you’re not doing anything, lend it. (Within the constraints of union rules, of course; don’t try pulling cable.) Most likely, this will just mean helping to move video village, or calling out “Rolling!” Still, any amount of help is appreciated, as I’m sure you’ll recall from your PA jobs.

That being said, you are the actress’s assistant, and therefore, she is your first responsibility. Don’t volunteer to go on runs or anything. Stick by your actress. Be within sight of her, if at all possible. (Unless she’s actually acting, of course; stay out of sight lines!) If she asks you to do something, whether it’s picking up coffee or making dinner reservations, no one will resent you for running off to take care of it.

The flip side of all this is, don’t fob your job off onto someone else. I can’t tell you how many times some assistant has come up to me and said, “Hey, the director needs this delivered to the other side of town,” then just dropped an envelope on my desk and walked away. If you’re given a shitty task, it’s your shitty task.

But again, the fact that you even wrote this email implies you’re not that sort of person. You’ll be fine.

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