Lauren writes in:
How many things/what sort of things did you have on your resume when you started applying for PA jobs?
PAing my be the bottom rung of the ladder, but unless you know somebody, your first day on set will not be paid.
Before I ever applied for a real PA job, I worked on at least a dozen student films. Through work study, I had experience managing the school’s sound stages, maintaining equipment, and covering the front desk. I also interned every summer for three years.
Even with all of that, I couldn’t get a paid job. I PA’ed for free on three independent movies. They were not very good movies, but I learned a quite a bit that film school never taught me, and I made lots of friends.
Guess who got me my first paid gig?
As usual, everyone’s story is different. I know a guy who somehow landed a producer’s assistant job right out of college. The producer’s company shot five movies during his tenure there; he asked to work on set for each one. When he left the company to become a set PA, he didn’t put “Assistant to Big Shot Producer”; he added five set PA credits.
He’s a 2nd AD now.
My general rule of thumb is, at least half of your resume should be film and television credits. Early on, many of those will be student films; that probably means you’ll get unpaid gigs. Do enough of those, and eventually someone will pay you.