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In this filmmakers videos learn what an office production assistant does and tips to help you on your first day.
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Hey there and welcome to the Film Lab. You know everybody dreams about having a big, fancy job in the movie business. But unless your uncle is Steven Spielberg, that dream might seem like a bit of impossibility. So how do people do it? How does an average person like yourself set out to meet that goal? What’s the first step? Well let’s join Rajo as he tries to figure that out. Hey Rajo! Wow! You’ve got a long and successful career as a movie director ahead of you. That’s pretty exciting. But how are you going to get your foot in the door? Have you ever considered a job in production assistance? Sure, sure someday you’re going to be the next Kubrick and win 800 Oscars and marry Scarlet Johansson. Obviously PA work is totally beneath you and you’re worth so much more. But here’s the thing, nobody but you and your ego knows that yet. So even though you might have to touch garbage and get yelled at, being a PA is a sure fire way to meet people in the biz and it’s also a great way to see how things operate behind the scenes. If you can’t start at the top, the bottom is as good a place as any and here’s a great part, there’s different kinds of PA jobs out there and not all of them involve touching garbage. Sure an onset PA or Art Department PA can be a thankless, messy, disgusting and completely degrading experience that has you need eating garbage and wishing you were dead. But hey, what about the production staff and the nice, clean dignified office? The production coordinators, production managers and producers need some help too. And that just might be the crowd that you’ll want to try and win over anyhow. So, position yourself as an office PA; it might just be the ticket, you’re ticket to the top. Watch out Scar-Joe. Not so fast, what is an Office PA anyway? What did they do that’s so special? Well to start, an Office PA reports directly to the production coordinator or the production manager. These are the stressed out people who sit in the production office making phone calls and ordering equipment all day long. They basically keep their production moving in logistical terms anyways; and the crew can be very demanding so it helps to have a strong support staff in the office. Believe it or not, an Office PA is a big part of keeping that support system functional. The PM has a list of 200 things to do each day; and that’s all stuff that usually needs to get done during business hours. So the clock’s ticking. Just by having a PA around, completing all those tasks becomes possible. Think about it this way, an office PA is the eyes, ears, nose, arms, legs, pancreas, elbows etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, of the production staff. There is no set job description because anything goes. Doesn’t that sound exciting? You bet it does. Let’s look into the future, your future as an office PA, to see what you may end up doing. Well one thing’s for sure, you’re definitely going to be doing some photocopy. If you love the environment, prepare to be racked to the core. The production office goes through a shitload of paper every day. All those trees, it’s really quite appalling and somebody should say something. But not you lowly PA, no you’re basically getting paid to single-handedly destroy the rainforest. That’s your job. They’ll get you to make about a hundred collated copies of the blue version of the script, followed by tomorrow’s call sheet, followed by a stack of fifty sides and that stuff that usually needs to happen day-in and day-out so get used to the fluorescent lighting in there because you’ll be seeing a lot of it. What else are you going to be doing? Schlepping, you’re going to be asked to deliver stuff, whether it’s script, call sheets or props to the set, or an important last minute package to the FedEx drop off at the airport which closes in 15 minutes. You’re going to be doing some driving guaranteed. So naturally a driver’s license is an absolute must. You don’t have one? Ah, gee I wish I knew what to tell you, go get one I guess, because you’re going to need it because you’re also going to be fetching. You’ve heard the term, go for a ride. Well it absolutely fits the bill. You are going to be asked to go for stuff. Get it? Constantly they will send you out to pick up a million different things at a time, often from completely opposite ends of town. Whether it’s equipped man or tape stock or a new stock of actor forms, you’ll be booting it around the city several times a day. Here’s a tip, it really helps if you’ve got a pen and a notebook to write everything down as it is being explained to you. That way, there’s no confusion or room for error. It’s an absolute must for any PA. Write everything down. Another thing you’re going to be doing a lot of is getting yelled at. You are the bottom rung, the lowest of the low and you probably don’t even know you’re ass from your elbow. There are also a lot of people like you, so if you get mad and quit, someone else can easily take your place. What will get noticed is hard work, a willingness to learn and a big constant shit-eating grin. Just smile, you are not to cool for school. You may be soon but for now, nobody cares what film school you went to, what music video you made for friend’s pirate rap band. You are a dude or dudette whose job it is to get shit, copy shit and get yelled at. Prove that you can take it with a smile and you’ll go miles. And when you’re not doing any of those four things, you’re basically either a, showing some initiative by thinking of stuff you can do help out without having to be told or b, tidying, organizing, cleaning, generally making the environment as pleasant as possible for your production staff overlords. They will appreciate it as you’ll be keeping out of their hair while making the office nicer to work in. Plus you look like a star by thinking of this staff on your own. Anything you can do to make yourself more popular with these people is a definite bonus. You’ll be moving up the ladder in no time. So does that sound like fun? Sure it does. Of course it does. So now that you know how psychically gird yourself for battle as an office PA, we’ll tell you how to get a job as one. In part two of our job guide to office PA’s coming soon here in the Film Lab. Take it easy.