What Every Set Production Assistant Needs on a Film Set!
The one thing you want to be as a brand spanking new Set Production Assistant is at the very least – prepared properly to work on a film set. These are the items you NEED to be prepared, look like you know what you’re doing and ultimately be asked back again and again to get your film career going.
1. Surveillance Mic for Walkie
The first thing you need is a surveillance mic. Now, when you step on set, and if you are a “green” Set Production Assistant (“green” means you’re super new, never been on set before kinda new) You may not have a Surveillance Mic, but after a few days on set, you’re going to want it because people will tag you as that inexperienced green Set PA – which means no one will believe a word you say, or trust you to do what’s expected. Image, I’m afraid, is everything.
Usually what they’re going to hand you on set if you don’t have a surveillance mic is the Mickey D’s headset.
Usually the film industry standard for walkie is going to be the Motorola CP 200. If you find yourself searching on Amazon for a surveillance Mic make sure when you look to buy a Surveillance Mic that it ACTUALLY FITS the walkie. I’ve seen so many Set PAs buy one, take it out, get super excited, and it DID NOT FIT!
When you have a surveillance it gives the perception that you have some experience under your belt – even if you don’t!
To make it easy on you here is a link to a Surveillance Mic I use and it lasts for years!
Film Set Surveillance Mic
2. Call Sheet
If you’re on set you need to get a hard copy of the call sheet – hard line. You just do – No matter what. ALWAYS have one on you when you’re on set.
Your Key PA will most likely have callsheets and sides on them, make sure you grab a hard copy of the call sheet.
Some folk will argue to the ends of the earth with me and say “I have it on my phone” – PDF version. But the thing is pulling up the callsheet on your phone takes a bit longer than just pulling the hard copy of the callsheet out of your pocket. When people have questions that you know the callsheet holds the answer to, don’t make them wait for you to find it on your phone.
Also, if you are trying to get into the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) as an Assistant Director you NEED a hard copy of the callsheet to prove you worked that day (along with your paystub) to compile your “Book” that qualifies you to be added to the Qualifications list.
Save yourself the trouble. Get the hard copy – and SAVE it. Otherwise you’re going to end up going back years sifting through your emails to get all your callsheets to print out.
Save yourself the printing time down the line – you’ll thank me later.
3. Hot Brick
Now, what’s a hot brick? A hot brick is basically a battery that is fully charged for the walkie that you’re going to need on you, but not for yourself. The likelihood that you’re going to run out of juice for your walkie in one day is slim to none.
Usually it’ll take about two and a half days for a regular Set PA to run out of battery power. You are going to need a hot brick because other crew members are going to walk up to you and say, “Hey, do you have a hot brick?” And you can say, “Yep! Totally got it!”
You’re going to give them your hot brick, make sure to get their cold brick (dead battery) then go to the Brick box, charge that dead brick, and get another hot brick – then you can be ready to save the day again!
What are sides you, you ask? Sides are basically the pages that you are shooting that day.
There are small sides and big sides. Big being full regular letter sized sheets, and small being half that size.
You should at the very least read your sides everyday so you know what kind of work you’re about to get into for the day. Sometimes you’ll use them. Sometimes you won’t, but a lot of people will need a set of sides and you can swoop in once again and say “oh, you can have mine.”
You might also need them to cue background or principal actors.
ALWAYS have a sharpie on you. You will use it way more than you realize. God forbid you go on a coffee run and you don’t have your sharpie. Bad news bears!
It’s good to have a black one. Some like to get creative and have navy blue, or purple – all fine. You’ll label so many things that you can imagine. Just at all times, have a sharpie on you.
A lot of people who are going to argue with me about this one. And I honestly think this is a waste, but THEY always say have some paper or post-it notes on you, or a small notepad of paper. but that’s one more thing you have to carry on you. It’s really annoying.
So the reason why they tell you to have paper on you is because sometimes you’ll have to take orders, sometimes you’re going to have to pass off information that you don’t want to forget as well. I don’t waste my time and energy on having extra paper – I use the back of my sides, or I take notes in my phone. Both of which are acceptable, and doesn’t require me to have something extra to buy or carry around.
7. External Battery
Your Phone can not die folks!
And this may seem like a selfish or self-centered, but you honestly can not let your phone die. Film set communication relies heavily on the phone. Whether its through calls, texting, email, Whatsapp – whatever, your phone is being used a ton. Do you know how many group chats you’re about to get into as a Set PA? Too many – All of which drains your phone fast!
My phone can get through about 10 hours on set, including the time I woke up, got ready, and made my way to location, but I work close to 14, 16, sometimes 18 hours. That external battery is going to save you and your phone! Yes, have your charger on you as well, but sometimes you need to be mobile, and you can’t have your phone sit in a corner somewhere charging when you’re running around on set. Your phone needs to go with you.
I lost a job once because my phone died an hour before wrap and I had no way to charge my phone. When you’re freelance and just starting out – you can’t afford to lose any gig.
8. Pocket Knife
There have been too many times where I could have used a pocket knife on set and ended up using my car keys, struggling with my fingernails, or had to ask a grip for their knife (how embarrassing!) – the whole nine yards! All because I didn’t have a simple pocket knife.
I say pocket knife because you need something small, lightweight, and nothing too expensive or fancy because lets be honest you could lose it. I try to avoid anything too heavy when it comes to all the things I need on set.
You won’t use it every day, but damn is it nice to have it when you really need it!
9. Good Attitude
The foundation of your day starts with having a good attitude! Honestly.
Because if you don’t have a good attitude, you’re not going to make it through the day and you’re going to be miserable and unhappy. And that leads to people not wanting to be around you. which leads to them ultimately not hiring you again.
Take everything with a grain of salt, don’t take anything personally and just have a good attitude going into each day.
To help you be a more prepared, and confident Set Production Assistant on a film set I put together a Set PA Kit! It has everything you need to look more professional, and make your time on set easier!
Watch the video for more info!
2 Thoughts on “What Every Set Production Assistant Needs on a Film Set!”
I have a criminal background. Can I still become a P.A.?