Working On Set: 3 Simple Ways to Stand Out
Part of the "How to Be a Production Assistant" Series.
"A good PA is someone who anticipates... You have to think ahead. You always have to be a step ahead of anything that's going on."
- MarvL West, Camera Op. - Rickey Smiley For Real, The Perfect Picture
Production Assistants are the lifelines of every production.
And because most people start in the Film & TV Production business as one, there are a whoooooooole bunch of them.
One of the questions we got from our subscribers to our survey was?
How can I stand out on set and move up quickly?
Well, as a PA, your main job is to take care of the crew and whatever they need for the production.
(...In other words, you are the crew’s bi!@#… lol )
The job is extremely important though, because the crew can do their job even better when the PAs are doing their job well.
The main complaint I hear from crew is that most PAs don’t know what to do...
...or just don’t care.
So, if you want to learn how to be a Production Assistant who cares AND knows what to do…
(...and climb the production ladder quickly as a result...)
Learn these 3 simple steps to being a Production Assistant who stands out On Set.
Be On Time…
Actually, be early :)
One of the PAs we hire consistently, (let’s call her Jay) was looking for ways to stand out.
It was her first PA job with a major studio and she was only hired as a day player booked for the first week.
On shoot day 1, she went to set 30 minutes early. and waited and waited and waited.
When the Production Manager (PM) got there, he let her in and they went on with the shoot.
The next day, she got to set 20 minutes early and waited and waited and waited. When the PM got there, he let her in and they went on with the day.
I don’t have to tell you how the next 4 days went do I?
The next week was dark. And when the PM had to choose a PA to refer to another show that was shooting, he picked Jay.
Now, of course, Jay is a darn good PA (because she was trained by us here at Rule The Set), but what set her apart from ALL the other good PAs on the set was that "she was always the first one there!” It got to the point where the PM had to get up earlier just to let her in.
He never said anything about it….. He just referred her to more jobs :)
2. Always Look Busy
I can’t tell you how many times I hear complaints from producers and other crew members about a PA who they consider to be lazy.
When I was working as a PA on Sunday Best, I had my first experience with this.
My unit was far away from Basecamp setting up for the next scene. I had asked everyone if they wanted anything. Had set up everything and had anticipated what they might need but hadn't asked for yet…
And honestly, it was really just time for me to get out of everyone’s way.
So, while waiting for something to do, I decided (even though I knew better lol), to sit down in one of the chairs in front of the stage where we were setting up.
Of course, like clockwork, the EP comes in, walks right up to me and says, “Why are you sitting down?”
I started to explain…
“Find something to do!” She goes, "I see everyone in here working but you…”
Needless to say, she was right and I never got called for that show again.
The truth is: For a PA, there is ALWAYS something to do. Find It!!! And if you can’t find anything to do, LOOK busy.
Even if you have to wipe the same table 1,227 times throughout the day. DO… SOMETHING… always...
If there’s nothing to do and you can’t find something to do… Don't sit around, hang around or talk too much!
Go somewhere where you can’t be seen if you want to relax, talk, smoke or chill for a few minutes.
But never be gone too long and always be on walkie (if you are using them).
The last thing you want is someone looking for you, or worse…. doing your job for you.
3. Be Good to Everyone
If you read our emails or any of my posts you know that this is always on every to-do list.
The first year of my production career I was an AC and a PA. My good friend, who brought me into the business, hired me for my first 2 gigs.
On the first one, I was a cable wrangler. On the second one, I was my friend’s AC.
He was hired through the production company that was shooting the show….
The PM asked him who he wanted as his AC, and he referred me.
I was hired on that referral and did my absolute best.
I worked hard to make my friend look good. Said please and thank you. Smiled, was pleasant and offered help to everyone when my camera op didn’t need me.
I did it on set and in the production office.
Because I impressed the PM, crew and client, she hired me as a PA and an AC for the entire first year of my career. (She also hired me for my first Media Manager job with a major network.)
She was rarely ever On Set to see me work, however, she always knew how well I was doing.
To this day I am eternally grateful to my friend and that PM for my amazing Film & TV career.
So, PAs come a dime for 3 dozen. Some are good and some are bad. But we always remember (and promote) the great ones.
Because like I always say… The PA is the lifeline of every production. They can either make the crew’s life great or amazingly terrible.
Be the kind who makes it great...
Now, we’d love to hear from you.
Which one of the 3 ways was most impactful for you? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Remember, share as much detail as possible in your reply. Cool and Creative people come here for insight and inspiration and your story may help someone have an amazing Aha Moment.
Important: share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments. Links to other posts, videos, etc. will be deleted as they come across as spammy.
Wishing you the Best,