Why am I a Production Assistant?
I ask myself this question every damn time I step on set. But in all seriousness I think everyone that is a Production Assistant asks themselves this question, especially on those horrible days. We all have our reasons for being in such an under paid-abusive position.
Yeah – I said it. Abusive.
The amount of crap you take as a Production Assistant in unreal. From not only the production team above you, but the actors, and even the crew members who WILL NOT believe a word of what you’re telling them. And these are words not from little ol’ me the PA, but the 1st AD. Ya know the person in charge of the set telling me to tell you this stuff. We don’t just make shit up dude. Yeah that’s me talking to said crew member.
Never underestimate the job of the Additional Production Assistant.
I Almost Quit…Well, Wait I Did.
Two years ago, being the impatient person that I am, I swore off being a Production Assistant. I’d had enough. My arrogant self thought I learned all I needed to learn to make strides as an Assistant Director. I walked away from being an Additional Production Assistant and jumped into being an indie film world AD. Somehow I got work.
Oh my god, just thinking back to my first couple of AD gigs – I was horrible. Hell, I felt horrible. My attitude was shit, and I just wasn’t prepared to be around the people I had to work with on set. I worked at a cafe while doing the indie gigs to make sure I made rent. Luckily for me they were super flexible. I did that for about a year and a half. No Production Assistant gigs just AD work, and being a barista.
When you work in the indie world long enough, with the experience of working on a union big budget set, you start to crave the military style that those sets have. Well, at least I did. I missed it.
I needed to go back to being a Production Assistant.
I Missed It
Not only did I miss it, I wanted to see how other AD’s ran their set. What style worked better than others? What personality meshed best with the production staff? What was the relationship like between the AD and the Director. And I think the most important was how to get the crew on their side in the fastest way possible. I needed to go back to Production Assistant work to observe more closely, and to learn a bit more. So, I went back.
I had to get that kick in the ass to myself to realize I was not ready to be an Assistant Director just yet. I had a lot to learn.
A Break from Being an AD?
There’s also something to be said for needing a break from being in charge. I wanted to just not be the one that answered all the questions, and held the production together for once. I, so, longed for a crappy lock-up that was yards away from camera. Basically just getting paid to do nothing. Be on set and get paid to observe how others did their job.
I wanted to be that fly on the wall again.
While I decided to go back to being a Production Assistant to learn more I also realized if I ever wanted to become a DGA 1st AD I would have to earn my union days as a Production Assistant.
Yep all 600 of them!
This makes me regret walking away from being a Production Assistant more than anything. I won’t consider it time wasted, I refuse to believe that, but I do sometimes think about how far up the chain I would be if I didn’t just up and walk away from the union world.
That’s the goal – make it to becoming a union 1st AD. And I lost sight of that because of my frustration.
It’s probably the hardest road there is in the industry. It takes so long. But I also think if I didn’t walk away from being a Production Assistant I might have stayed and reached a breaking point and just quit film altogether. I needed that readjustment period to get back to the grind of the film grunt work.
Eye on the Prize
I came out on top, and a better person.
I think I found the balance now.
I’m a Production Assistant, I also do indie AD work, but I like traveling and so far I haven’t traveled for film work so I also have other jobs that fulfill that need to travel. I find that I have to do other things along with being a Production Assistant. Otherwise If I was a Production Assistant day in and out I might just punch someone in the face on set one day. It can get pretty stressful when you’re working on 3 hours a sleep everyday.
To all the Production Assistants out there: Just hang in there, it gets better. Don’t give up.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me! I’m here for ya!