So a friend of mine called me last week asking if I wanted to work on an independent feature film as a PA (Production Assistant). I was like... YES! Because first of all, it's a feature! And second, it's shooting for Sundance (biggest Film Festival), and third, it would be tons of good experience.
It was okay. They've all been shooting for 30 days and I was brought on for the last 4 days of shooting to make up for the loss of the 1st assistant director. The assistant director (AD) literally quit 4 DAYS before the end. So it must've been quite the argument...
PA's are basically very active, jack-of-all-trades, runners, coffee-fetchers, picker-uppers, messengers, gophers. They do everything. They grease the wheels of film sets. It's an entry level job into the industry, but there's TONS of space to move up in the biz from that level.
It was a good experience overall. It should be noted that this production was a low budget, student-feature film project. Most of the crew were very professional and legit, although freshly out of UCLA film grad school. Which is why they were so professional. The director was out of UCLA's film school also. He's won a couple of awards here and there as a student. I was pretty impressed with his directing though. This was most of the crew's first professional gig and they were all stoked. I have to say though, there was quite a bit of politics amongst the assistant director positions. It got quite a bit rag-tag after the 1st AD quit. Work shifts for film crews are normally 11+1 hours. 12 hours total. This was my work schedule this past week:
Wednesday: 8PM-8AM (Wrapped - end of shooting)
12 hour days weren't that bad. There's a lot of stuff to do, and it's actually quite satisfying at the end of the day because there's something to show for it -- a film.
For the first two days they had me as a PA, and then the last two days the production team put in a special request for me to be a grip (special request a good thing?). Grips work with all the shooting equipment and the lighting (big light stands, etc.). It's really physical work, but I liked it WAY better than being a PA. As a PA, I was getting told to do some pretty unnecessary stuff by people who have never worked on a film project, let alone know anything about film before. Like I said, it was pretty rag tag.
One situation: The scripty (Script Supervisor -- also a guy who didn't know what he was doing whatsoever) called out over the radio once, "I need gaffing tape." That was it. No specifying of WHO, WHERE, etc. So the call was ignored. 10 minutes later, he comes out and shouts at me and my friend (also a PA and the one who got me the gig) angrily: "Where were you guys? Did you hear me?" He was clearly shouting at me and my friend, the PA's. Now, it was funny because the guy's brother, the 2nd AD, and only 20 years old with no prior film experience, was sitting next to me. There were Grips hanging outside, and also the 1st AD (He has the most authority besides the director). They all looked at him blankly. I don't usually let stuff like this bother me, and I have no problem with authority or taking orders, but this guy was just clueless. I also didn't like getting yelled at over the following stupid reason in front of everyone like I did something wrong. I schooled him with the following: "We heard someone asking for tape. No one knew who was asking for it nor who they were talking to. Some W's were missing in the 5 W's of info. The grips have gaffing tape hanging on their belts..." I knew the last part would really rake him because he was in the house with a bunch of grips. He just walked away without saying anything and the grips with us outside just started laughing. The 2nd AD started to defend him and try to "correct" me by saying, "No it's the PA's job to make things run smoothly on set...blah fucking blah". I turned and interrupted him, "Dude, no one knew who it was, or who he was talking to. He was in a house full of grips that have tape hanging on their belts".
Anyways, all in all -- I learned a ton. Especially as a grip. I now know tons of equipment and how to use them. I learn fast. I wish I wasn't in school full time so I could do this professionally and make some money.
Here are some pictures from set: