You may wonder how in the world I got this gig. To be honest I don’t quite know either. But let me start here. For me, interning at a film production company has been, and still is, the biggest step in the right direction and one of the reasons why I got the job. Ultimately it is part of my big budget film experience.
A Working Intern
Surrounding yourself with industry stalwarts who know how to prepare you for the filmmaking world is invaluable. It’s smelling salts for everyone who wants to smell some film production air. If you are interning, share whatever knowledge and skills you have and be hungry to learn. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions or double check with colleagues . That goes for both working in the office and on set. Watching professionals do their thing will give you a better understanding of each department, and therefore a total understanding of every little step it takes to get to a finished product.
Get your hands dirty whenever you get the opportunity and explore the different alleys. Most of all: be aware and interested. You will find yourself helping out on set sooner than you think. There, you get an entirely different kind of education. You will become familiar with film lingo and the equipment‒what everything is called, how to put it up and break it down, and where you need to store it. All this is vital info, and you’ll look awesome if you ensure everything is accessible for the next shoot. So there you are‒just like me‒gaining experience and boosting your resume. But, more importantly, getting confident in what you do and in where you have to be on set.
Additionally, if you get a chance to work on post-production or edit in any form, take it! For me, editing has changed my perception on film entirely and helped me understand all of its nuances.
The Big Gig
Receiving the call sheet for the feature was super exciting! It was a lot to take in, but I knew that my on set experiences with ECG had prepared me for the gig. I was ready, so I put on by big girl PA shoes and got it.
First of all, you have to figure out what it all means. You want to show up at least 30 minutes before your call time‒better safe than sorry. If you get hired as a Set PA, you usually work for the AD department. Find their trailer at basecamp and get signed in. After you get your walkie, it’s good to help the key and walkie PA set up for the shoot. Be flexible and help with anything they need to do.
Being surrounded by so many new faces can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t let that scare you. After a few days you’ll know who belongs to which department and remember most of their names. Even though it is totally fine to have a conversation in your downtime, always be aware. Be attentive and try to stay out of everyone's way while they are working. It is very important to pay attention to what is happening on your walkie channel. Don’t switch channels unless you are called to another number, because that could make you miss out on a call.
Pay Attention To The Details
Being a PA on a big production means having an eye for detail. Make sure everyone feels comfortable and has what they need to focus on their work. Whether it’s hot bricks or a cup of coffee, always have it ready for them. Be particularly vigilant of crew members who can’t step away to go to crafty. Bring them water and food, don’t wait until they come to you.
Also, look after your fellow PAs. It’s not a competition, it is teamwork that makes a movie great. If you are running around a lot‒which you will be‒make sure you are hydrated and eat whenever you get a chance. PAs are busy worker bees, always on the move. As far as you know you might not even be able take a break for the rest of the shoot. So take a quick second to breathe, when you can.
I know all of this sounds quite stressful, and don’t get me wrong, it definitely can be at times. But no matter how stressful it gets, being on set is always a unique and amazing experience. I saw so many cool stunts and crazy equipment during just one week of shooting. And to think: a mere month ago I could have never even dreamed of that experience.
Feeling the vibration in the air when the director gets up at the end of a 12 hour night shoot, looks around to face the crew and says “Well guys, that’s a wrap!” was beyond priceless.