Production Assistant Mistakes
A lot of new folks to the film industry have a hard time moving up, or getting hired on their next set, and have no idea why. I wanted to put this list together so, you can get hired more, move up faster, and stop making these common Production Assistant mistakes on set so, you can be ultimately more successful.
Not Listening/Paying Attention
This is number 1 in the Production Assistant Mistakes list for a reason!
As a Set PA you have to know what is going on! You MUST listen to what is being said on the walkie, and what your Key PA and ADs are saying. If you are super new to the game you’re not going to understand everything at first, but as you keep paying attention it all comes together!
As a Set PA you are an extension of the 1st AD and you are there to help communicate things to the Cast and Crew. If you don’t know what is going on you can’t do your job. Simple as that.
Listen and Pay Attention!
Jumping Before Thinking
I’ve seen this so many times. A very eager Set PA will jump at the chance to do a task and have no idea what they are doing. And/or even forget what is asked of them.
Take a breathe.
Think about what is asked of you and then go do it. There is no reason to be frantic. Plus, it’s just a bad look for you.
Not Dressing for the Weather
Assistant Directors care about their team of PAs, but be responsible for yourself. Wear what is needed so, you can do your job without having them worry that you might freeze to death, or work 12 hours being soaked in the rain. Be prepared with certain gear ready to go in your bag if you need it to protect yourself from the elements.
This is the number one indicator that you are super new and have no experience on set.
You have to take care of you to do your job well. and to make it easier for your ADs.
Like I said above about taking a breathe – It can be very overwhelming when you step on a union set. Talking to many a PA all of them say that their first day on set they were extremely nervous!
I was too! But it can’t cripple you.
Take it all in. Be thankful you’re there. Know that it’s ok to be nervous, but don’t let it take you over.
Take it one hour at a time on your first day. With each hour you learn more and more. By the end of the day you learned a ton! With learning comes confidence.
Not Being Yourself
Don’t be fake. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
Seriously. Just be you.
When you come into your personality this is how you start to make connections and make friends. Making friends equals jobs, people!
People can tell when you’re being fake, or not being yourself. And for the most part people don’t like it, and aren’t attracted to it.
You can only be you.
When I first started a lot of the things that were asked of me just didn’t make sense. “Like, why am I doing this?!” I had a bad attitude and man, I didn’t get hired because of it. No AD out there wants to deal with someone giving them attitude on top on their already stressful day.
You should be making their day easier, not harder. Remember that – MAKE. THEIR. DAY. EASIER!
A good attitude goes a very long way. If you’re staying positive, are ready to attack the day, and you do everything that is asked of you with a smile – you WILL be remembered, hired more, and given more responsibility. More responsibility = more days on set = moving up faster.
No one needs your negativity on set. Trust me on that.
Not Being Friendly, or Being Too Friendly
This is a fine line. No one likes a mega Pollyanna, but no one likes an a**hole either… well most people.
Make friends on set. With the ADs, the crew, and your fellow PAs. Making friends means you have allies on set that will be more opt to help you out when you need a favor, when you have to ask them to be quiet, or tell a 55 year old crew member that they have to move their gear…AGAIN.
You have to pick and choose the time when it’s appropriate to be stern (but not an a**hole), and when to be the friendly, playful PA.
Remember – Be a person. You’re a person and you’re working with people. Simple as that.
Man, this is hard to even address. Being too helpful can fall under this one. Being the annoying Production Assistant is the one who is asking way too many questions at the wrong time, or continuously asking their Key PA or AD how they can help next.
You might be the Set PA who talks too much, or gives their opinion on how you can make this shot look better. (No one likes a know it all.)
You might even be the PA who looks at the SET PA position as a stepping stone – like it doesn’t matter to you and you’re just using it to move up. Yes, being a PA is a position you should move up out of, but talking like the job is beneath you makes you look realllllly bad.
Remember this – People will notice you for the better or worse. Let’s hope it’s not for the worse.
Not Asking Questions
Ask questions if you don’t know what something is.
Now, this doesn’t mean going up to the 1st AD and asking her/him what a dolly is. Utilize your fellow PAs for this. There will be other PAs that are more than willing to help you out if you don’t know something.
As a PA this is your chance to learn. Treat it as such.
A knowledgable PA is gold. It’ll make you a better AD if you’re trying to move up into that role.
If you’re trying to be a Director – it’ll make you a better Director. It’ll help you understand what each department goes through to do their craft. When you learn about each department you start to really respect each and every crew member.
It’s ok to ask questions – but not too many at the wrong time.
Not Talking to People
Talking is the way you’re going to make allies, and/or friends on set. I could have called this networking, but I hate that word because to me it means you’re using people as a means to an end to further your career, or agenda.
If you make real connections with your fellow PAs, crew members, or ADs the networking benefits just come to you without feeling like your networking.
Get to know folks. There is down time on set, get to know crew members. This is the number one way to get in to a certain department you want. Make friends with the camera folk if you’re trying to get into that department. And you can’t make friends if you don’t start talking.
Also keep in mind you have to find the right time to talk. And it ain’t when they’re rolling.
Watch everything! Be sure to watch how crew members interact, how the AD gets the best out of the crew or not.
Observe when someone is a bad example too.
When I was beginning to work an as Independent 1st AD I started to reach my limits of experience, so I went back to Union sets as a PA to really observe the DGA 1st ADs. I felt like I was cheating at life being able to learn from super experienced ADs in the film industry just be observing them.
Know You’re Importance
There are a lot of Production Assistants on a set for a reason. You wouldn’t be able to get those nice clear shots of NYC if their weren’t 50 PAs to help lock it up and keep people out of the shot.
YOU. ARE. IMPORTANT.
Every position on set is important. Production AssistantS especially!
A lot of folk get caught up in the seriousness of a film set. Remember you’re making movies, or TV show. How cool is that?! You get to see the magic happen. Have fun and be grateful you’re there! You’re part of something greater than you. And that’s amazing!
No One’s Perfect
Production Assistant mistakes are going to happen. I definitely made a lot of these mistakes myself. All I ask of you is try to improve with each day you’re on set. You will get more and more gigs and you’ll get to your film career goals faster.
Do you have any Production Assistant mistakes that you made that you learned from that you don’t see on this list? Share them below! Let’s learn from each other.