Film school is done and the new TV season is upon us, so a lot of recent graduates are writing me emails about what they need to have on set or in the office.
Truth is, there’s not a lot that PAs need which the production doesn’t just provide. Especially if you’re an office PA, you’ll probably be ordering the office supplies anyway. That’s how I always get my favorite pens.
But it’s a good idea to come to set prepared. Occasionally you’re on a shoot that literally has no money– a student film, your friends’ short, or just a shitty, unprofessional movie. That happens more than I’d like.
So, here’s a few things that you might want to have, as a PA:
- Always have at least two pens on your person– one for you, one for the producer who will borrow it and never return it. I like to get them in assorted colors, but definitely make sure those colors include blue or black.
- Sharpies. It’s hard to overstate the myriad uses you’ll have for sharpies. Personally, I like the twin tip Sharpies, because they cover both 1 and 2.
- A notebook is always handy. It’s how I make sure not to forget key information, and it’s also a to-do list. Now, you might think, “I have a cell phone that can store an infinite amount of notes. Why would I write on paper? Might as well use a hammer and chisel.” The thing is, pulling out your phone on set is poor form. The person you’re talking to may know you’re jotting down the lunch order, but the producer on the other side of the stage just sees another lazy millennial checking Friendster (because this fictional producer also thinks Friendster is a thing).
- Even as an office PA, I find a multitool comes in handy pretty much every day. You’ll definitely want to have one if you’re a set PA. They range greatly in price and quality, so shop around a little bit before committing to one.
- Speaking of set PAs, you’re going to need a place to keep all this stuff. A lot of people wear belt pouchs to hold their stuff. Or, you could be like me, and wear cargo shorts with big ol’ pockets.
- You definitely need a really, really bright flashlight. Not just for night shoots; sound stages are surprisingly dark outside of the set itself.
- I also recommend surveillance mics for set PAs. The production doesn’t always provide them (since Burger King headsets are cheaper), but even if they do, I don’t trust those earpieces are clean. Ew. Just… ew.
- Another set PA item– work gloves. You shouldn’t be pulling cable or moving set pieces on a union show, but you’ll still be getting your hands dirty and ripped up on occasion.
- People often forget to wear a hat and sunscreen when they’re on location. Remember, you can get a sunburn even on a cloudy day.
- A copy of Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet. C’mon, you don’t want to be a PA forever, do you?
These are just the basics. Leave suggestions in the comments section for anything I forgot to mention!