Social Media Etiquette on Film Sets
Dec08

Social Media Etiquette on Film Sets

Everyone knows amazing or awesome photos/events gain the most traction on social media. When your job happens on a film set, these brag-worthy moments happen frequently. But what are the do’s and don’ts? If you’re just starting out, it is VITAL that you pay attention to your surroundings, do your job, and forget about social media. In one of my college courses, my professor told us, “You’re entering into the entertainment industry, which means you’re a professional. Never act like a fan, or you will be fired.” Wise words. Social Media Etiquette on Film Sets: Posting Photos from Set It’s true, kids: There once was a day when people took photos and didn’t IMMEDIATELY post them online. In my PA days, I’d occasionally take wide shots of set from my lockup, just so I’d have something to remember those days with. They weren’t for the masses, and that was okay. Social media is an extension of life now. I constantly see interns or new PAs pulling out their phones the moment anything cool happens, and then immediately posting it on Instagram or Snapchat. Sometimes, this may be fine– but sometimes, it may get you fired. It’s important to know how to abide by basic social media etiquette on set, so here are guidelines that I’ve adapted for myself over the years. I’m pretty conservative in how much I share for the sake of remaining employed. Some have gotten away with posting more, but that’s their prerogative. OK: Posting a photo of you on set or with a fellow crew member. These are by far the most common “on set” photos that appear in social media. They’re fun, they’re cute (look at the three of us– don’t you want to hire us all?!), and they’re also a great networking tool as other freelancers will learn your name and see your face. Keep in mind that the crew you’re on set with will likely also see those postings. If it’s a particularly hectic day and you’re off posing for photos with some extras instead of doing your job, you may not be asked to come back. Be smart. Wait for a moment of downtime to take your photo. OK: Posting a photo of cool gear or a crazy gear setup. This is probably the most acceptable type of photo! It celebrates the craft, it appreciates the methodology, it shows that you realize that this is an extra complicated or special setup. Sometimes OK: Posting a generic photo of the set. I know several people who work on scripted television series on major networks. They never post generic photos of set — usually, it’s a shot of a sunrise, or the view from set. The...

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How to be a Production Assistant: Watching First Team
Nov29

How to be a Production Assistant: Watching First Team

The duties of production assistants on major motion pictures and scripted television get divvied up into four main responsibilities: first team PA, walkie PA, distro PA, background PA. (Sometimes walkie and distro are combined.) When you’re the background PA and there is no background, you may be asked to assist with “keeping eyes on First Team”. What is “keeping eyes on First Team”, and how do you do it? “First Team” – Definition First Team refers to the main actors of the movie or television show, plus any additional players that have lines on-camera. If you’re not sure who “First Team” is on a given day, consult the “CAST” section on the front of your callsheet: Looks like an easy day, only 4 people on first team today! First Team: Dissecting the Call Sheet The # column: These assigned numbers are how characters are kept track of for paperwork purposes — such as AD breakdowns, schedules, etc. Cast column: The actor’s name. For super-famous actors — let’s say, Tom Hanks — the 2nd AD may change the name here in the event that the call sheet fall into the wrong hands. Note: The AD will occasionally change the name for up-and-coming actors as well. Don’t make the mistake I almost made and refer to the actual up-and-coming actor by their made-up name. Character: Self explanatory… the character’s name. Status: This column makes you aware of whether the actor is beginning, in the middle of, or finishing their stint on the project. WS: Starts Work (first day); W: Working, WF: Work Finished (last day), SWF: Start Work Finish (dayplayers: their first and last day), H: Hold (technically not working, but may be called in). WD: Work drop (actor works today and will then be off the project for seven days or more), PW: Pickup work (actor returns after being dropped), PWF: Pickup Work Finish (actor returns after being dropped and completes task). Call: This is the time that they are due in basecamp. Pickup times are notated in the following column. Set: This is the time the actors are due– makeup and wardrobe ready– on set. First Team Duties – Start of Day The 2nd 2nd AD  (sometimes first team PA)  will check in with all the actors  in the morning. They’ll make sure the actors have arrived to basecamp and are “in the chair” (hair/makeup trailer). First Team PA either gets the breakfast order for the cast if they have time, but usually they will need to stay in basecamp. They will then relay the orders to another PA. First Team Duties – On Set Once camera is ready, the actors needed for that scene will be shuttled...

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Gift Ideas for Filmmakers, Producers, Film Students, Etc
Nov25

Gift Ideas for Filmmakers, Producers, Film Students, Etc

What to you give to the person that works 15 hour days on film sets? Dr Scholl’s inserts? A gift card for a massage? Those actually aren’t horrible ideas for stocking stuffers (I love a good massage- especially after long shoot weeks), but they aren’t exactly on theme. So, here’s are a list of goodies I’ve found useful over the years that would make fantastic gifts. It’s broken into three categories: On Set for those who are currently in the biz; Learning Tools — for those just starting out, or students; or Just for Fun — affordable gifts with a film industry theme. So, whether your loved one is currently a filmmaker, wants to work on sets, a film student, or a high school student, here’s a list of gift ideas. Gifts for Life On Set Goldfold Callsheet Wallet A callsheet wallet will make life infinitely easier for assistant directors and production assistants.  I also think it commands a little bit of respect! I’ve happily promoted Goldfold for years, as it’s truly the best product on the market. Made by hand by a 1st AD in Hollywood, Goldfolds are designed and engineered with practicality in mind. Buy a Goldfold callsheet wallet from Goldfold.com for $150   Portable Phone Charger A handy little external battery pack is a game-changer. I became hooked the first day on set I used one: In the middle of a rodeo, nowhere near an outlet or any kind of electricity! I simply plugged in and slipped the portable charger into my back pocket. Production life is stressful enough without agonizing over how to make 14% battery last for the final critical hour of the shoot. Buy a portable phone charger from Amazon – $15-$40   Hip/Belt Bag I’ve crowed about hip bags before. Production assistants are expected to carry a wide array of things on them at all times: cell phone, notebook, sharpies, pens, flashlight, leatherman, call sheets, extra sets of sides, etc — and having an extra pouch is a huge help. Happy Cow’s hip and belt bags are made out of recycled leather, are durable, and stylish. They come in a wide array of styles, for gals and guys. I purchased mine in 2011 and it’s still holding up, but they have raised their prices. Amazon has comparable options for almost half the price. Buy a belt bag from Happy Cow or Amazon – $30 – $120   iPad / iPad Mini This may be a bit obvious — who wouldn’t want an iPad? — but they’re extremely versatile on set! There’s a wide variety of industry apps that make life so much easier. You can use an iPad as a slate for generating timecode, obtaining release photos and signatures, filling...

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Film Gear Essentials: The Hip Bag
Jul28

Film Gear Essentials: The Hip Bag

Recently, I’ve been thinking about gear I use on film sets that I couldn’t live without. For years, I’ve had this page — a list of all of the gear I used and loved as a production assistant. I’m finally taking it one step further, by giving you an in-depth review of gear I’m particularly passionate about — what I consider to be “on set essentials”. Confession time: I wear a hip bag at work… and I love it. Before you think I’ve gone bonkers, let me explain. Hip bags, waist packs, fanny packs, bum bags, even a basic tool pouch — are INCREDIBLY useful for the demands of television and film sets. And so I don’t lose all credibility, I’m not talking about the frumpy dad fanny pack (although I guess you could choose that style to be ironic). Why I Love It I’ve used a leather hip bag – or leather hip belt with pouch, whatever you’d call it – for most of my production career. I originally bought it to replace my purse for my overseas adventures — but I quickly realized how practical it was for my daily on set life. I’m constantly on the move and need a LOT of stuff within my reach at all times. My little bag contains my cell phone, call sheet/sides, leatherman, pens, notepad, petty cash coin pouch, and most importantly, my external battery charger. (I also use the opposite side of the belt to clip my walkie and comtek.) When I first started out, I was wearing cargo shorts — mostly to have enough pockets to hold all of the aforementioned crap. As a result, I was constantly tightening my belt to keep my shorts from falling down. As my career progressed, I wanted to dress a little nicer – so I ditched the cargo shorts and embraced the hip bag. Plus, I feel like a badass while wearing it. Who Uses a Hip Bag? Almost every department will carry some sort of bag or pouch on their person — but the type and amount of gear you’ll need to carry will dictate the size and style. In my experience, these leather and canvas bags are most commonly worn by production assistants, assistant directors, story and field producers, associate producers, production coordinators, and occasionally art department. Examples of the Leather Hip Bag My go-to for the last five years has been a cleverly styled leather pouch with three zippered compartments and two pouches. It’s held up pretty well under the duress of set life, and of all the hip bags in the world, it looks the least like the dorky Disney fanny pack and more like something Lara Croft or an assassin would wear. There are...

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Ask a Producer: Was I Just Fired?
Jul19

Ask a Producer: Was I Just Fired?

I recently received a tricky question: How can you tell if you were fired from a film or tv job?   I was supposed to work as a PA on a film set for the whole week, but after the first day, the line producer told me they only needed extra help on the first day. Should I tell them I’m willing to do anything else they need? Is this a sign I made a bad impression and they cut me off? Or should I just say “thank you for the opportunity” and look for a new job?   Having a gig cut short unexpectedly sucks, but it does happen. I was recently signed on for a full 2-week gig, only to have it cut down to one week — and then cut down to 1.5 days. There are several reasons a job can be cut short. The production company may have run into bigger issues: They can’t get insurance, can’t get past final creative approvals from the network or ad agency, the talent is suddenly unavailable, etc, etc. But there is also the chance that your gig was cut short due to something you did. And very, very rarely will anyone explain to you why — especially if you’ve been fired. Trying to solve the riddle, I asked a few follow up questions:   Sometimes, productions realize they don’t need the extra help and choose to save the money. And sometimes, it might be that they did let you go, whether due to some incident or because the director’s nephew suddenly needed to be added as a PA. Was it an out of town production company? Did anything seem amiss during the day? Either way, I wouldn’t beat yourself up. This has happened to me, as well. It’s the nature of the freelance beast and it’s unfortunate, but it’s their loss, in the end. People can be very fickle in this industry, and it’s very possible you did nothing wrong!   He responded:   Yes. It was an out of town production, and I should also mention this is a crowdfunded independent film. I was late and I was supposed to bring breakfast to the crew and failed to do so on time. Despite all this, I still want to network with these people.   Ahhh. Let’s talk about breakfast on set first. Breakfast is a big morale boost for the crew before a long day of shooting begins, especially if the crew is already working for discounted rates. It’s a small morning ritual prior to every shoot: Everyone will take a quick minute to grab a coffee, eat a bite of a sandwich, and...

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Scam Alert: Production Assistants Needed
Mar30

Scam Alert: Production Assistants Needed

There is a hiring scam in the film industry aimed at production assistants. Their ideal target? Someone who is new and eager to the business, with little experience how the hiring process works. This isn’t a new scam — it’s been going around for at least six months. The Anonymous Production Assistant mentioned it a few months ago, but the scammers haven’t stopped. It breaks my heart because their target is the kind of person who reads this blog: a hard worker with nothing but a dream and the desire to just get their one chance. And it’s disgusting. One variation of the e-mail reads: Company profile: Good Clean Fun’s state-of-the-art production facilities are where the magic happens. Our seasoned professionals oversee each and every part of the process. From creative development, to production and post, it all happens under one roof. Every project is driven by our vision and branded with our unique point of view.   Responsibilities include the following:   Good Clean Fun LLC, will be producing a TV commercial to promote our new show *Barely Famous* and your assistance will be needed. Below are the job duties:   Operate Studio Camera, Audio, Graphics generator or teleprompter  Organize studio sets, cameras and monitoring Maintain studio and lighting Use microphones, IFB receivers, and audio facilities Setup and review graphic elements  Perform other job-related duties as assigned   Note: The production will be done in San Francisco between 10-21-2015 to 10-24-2015 in Blast Digital Studio, Toland Place, San Francisco, CA but you’ll be needed here in San Francisco from 10-19-2015. Both travel/hotel expenses will be covered by the company.   Instruction: Please respond with your contact information such as your full name, address and cell number where a check will be mailed out to, it is for your traveling and lodging expenses (more information will be provided as we progress). You will also be provided an itinerary by the designated travel agent arrangement.   How to Tell This is a Scam Very rarely is anyone hired so quickly and impersonally with zero mention of who referred you. When you’re at the entry level of any industry, there’s a lot of people vying for jobs because the barrier to entry isn’t very high. You’re usually hired based on (1) experience, (2) word of mouth, (3) your own persistence, or (4) applying to a job on Staff Me Up. Typically, when you get offered a job, they production coordinator or producer will make mention of how they found you. If you get approached for a job through email, it’ll read something like this: Hey M, so-and-so recommended you for a PA position. Can you shoot me your resume? Thanks, PC...

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