Cash B's

How To Become a PA

(Production Assistant) or TV Studio Page

You wake up at 4am and after a quick shower are out the door and on your way to the set. By 5am you are one of the first people on the set. The first thing you do is to grab your radio off the sound truck. Then you head over to the catering truck to get a bit of breakfast before everyone else arrives. As the crew begins to show up, your job starts. They get checked in and look to you for the new Call Sheet (who’s doing what, when and where) and Sides (small versions of the script with only the scenes being filmed that day). You also pass out radios and batteries and make sure that you have a fresh batch of batteries in the chargers. After this, the crew goes about its own business preparing for the first scene of the day.

Now come the extras. As they begin to arrive you must check them in and give them their contracts and paper work. Then their clothes need to be approved by the wardrobe department. As things start going smoothly, the 1st AD tells you that the director snuck in the back and wants breakfast delivered to his trailer. So while trying to keep the extras in order, you must go to catering and prepare a food plate for the director. To make things more difficult the director wants an omelet made without the yoke and wants one piece of wheat toast with grape jam and one piece of white toast with strawberry preserves. Of course you can’t forget his large decaf coffee with a spoonful of cream and eight sugars.

Now the director is happy and the actors want breakfast. The extras must eat before going to wardrobe. That’s because once in wardrobe the extras have to be careful not to get food on their clothes.

The 1st and 2nd AD’s are in a safety meeting with the crew that you should be in but can’t be, because two other PA’s are late getting to the set. It is up to you to handle this situation without panicking. You may have to put one of the “stars” breakfast orders in at the catering truck. While the cooks are preparing the food, you quickly check in all the new extras and send them off to wardrobe. You tell them to please eat on the way. Next you find a dependable extra that has been working hard for you the last few days. You get them to tell all the new arriving extras that they must check in at wardrobe and wait for you until you get there.

After this is done, you grab the Star’s food plate and bring it to his trailer. On the way back you stop off at the safety meeting to get all the important notes and to make sure your 1st and 2nd AD have everything they need.

When they are happy, you quickly return to wardrobe and check in all the remaining extras, so that they can get something to eat before filming starts. Finally the other two PA’s show up and you get a chance to relax for two minutes. It is now 6am and you still have a long day ahead of you.

The first part of your morning is spent preparing for the first scene. The crew works on setting the lighting, checking the sound and camera equipment, as well as making the set safe. Your two PA friends are helping the 2nd AD place and instruct the extras on where to go and what to do in the scene.

Your job is to keep track of the actors for the 1st AD. This means that you will know where they are and what they are doing at all times. It doesn’t mean that you get to hang out with them and talk. It just means that it is your job to let them know when they are needed on set and to let the 1st AD know when they are ready to be on set.

Next comes the rehearsal, time to get the actors to set. The actors show up and everyone practices the scene. When everything is working just right, the scene will be filmed. It will be your job to help keep the entire set quiet during this time. This process will repeat until it is time for lunch (between 5 and 6 hours after the morning call time).

At lunch you will be responsible for watching the food line. This involves making sure that everyone gets served, cast and crew first and lastly the extras. You will also make a count of the total number of meals served. This will go on the production report at the end of the day. Sometime during this process, make sure that you have a chance to eat as well.

When lunch is over, the 1st AD gives you the Call Sheet for the next day. These are the times that everyone is scheduled to show up the following day (and to make sure the right person gets the right info…. call times may be different times for different people). The 1st AD needs you to go to the production offices and make copies for everyone.

As the day goes on it is important to make sure that your AD’s have everything they need. Do this just right and they will respect you all the more.

Finally the director calls a “Wrap”. This is when filming is done for the day, but does not mean it’s time for you to go home. In fact, the PA is one of the last people to leave a set along with the Gaffers (electricians) and the medic.

After “Wrap” has been called, you will pass out all the Call Sheets that you made copies of. Then you will help the 2nd AD check out the extras and sign their payment vouchers.

After the extras are gone, you will help fill out all of the production reports. You will also collect all the radios and make sure the crew are punching out on their time cards. On the way out you check with the director to see if she has any clothes to send out to have dry-cleaned.

The last thing you want to do before going home is prepare for the next day. There is never a typical day for a PA. Everyday can bring new job duties and different challenges. The better prepared you are, the easier your job and the jobs of those above you will be, and the more fun you will have. Now your day is done and it is only 10pm. Time to go home and get that much needed rest.

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