PAs that Act Like EPs: Can a Good Work Ethic Be Learned?

I watched him get out of his car, leather messenger bag slung over his shoulder. Hipster glasses, slicked back hair, tight jeans, and leather shoes. This must be a new executive producer, I thought to myself with surprise. They’re rarely the first ones to arrive at a film set — they usually shuffle in a few minutes before cameras roll.

I watched as he hovered while the crew set up cameras and lights and took a seat while everyone around him hustled by with their hands full. Maybe he’s a supervising producer? I thought as I grabbed a stack of posters to art decorate a wall and he didn’t even lift his gaze from his iPhone.

“Can I ask this guy to help?” I kept asking myself as I shlepped around tables and chairs for half an hour. My fear of offending an EP won me over, and so I continued to work alone.

Later on that day, I learned that this hipster EP guy was, in fact, a brand-new intern/production assistant. 

I was floored. 

Not to sound like one of those “back in my day” types–but back in my day– I remember my first day on a film set. I was waiting tables at the time for cash, and I was so in awe that all the people around me got paid to be on a film set. They didn’t hate it, they loved it — AND it paid their bills.

I was so eager to get into that club. I so badly wanted to get experience, prove my worth, leave an impression, and make a career. Sitting down was a cardinal sin, except at lunch — and half of the time, I only had half my butt on the chair so I could spring into action in a split second.

When I see a new production assistant sitting around, clueless on their iPhone while the world around them is busting ass, I have a hard time holding my tongue. Is it possible to teach someone how to anticipate? Can a good work ethic be learned? In my experience, the answer is usually No — this line of work isn’t for everyone, and it’s best to let them down early.

Day Two

The following day, I was in charge of taking all shot media back to the post production house to begin the digitizing process. There were several boxes full of tapes and hard drives. On past shoots, I’d hauled and handled all the media by myself, but when my boss insisted I borrow a PA to help, I didn’t object.

My assigned PA ended up being the hipster EP, much to my dismay. He didn’t gripe or roll his eyes — or even look at his iPhone. He completely threw me off when he said, “I’m here to help you!”

As we moved the boxes to my car, he asked, “Do you have to unload all these by yourself?”

I nodded.

“Let me ask if I can meet you there and help you,” he offered. “Would that help?”

I was shocked. “Wow, yeah. I mean, I can do it alone, but that would be really great.”

Clueless-hipster-EP had transformed overnight. He’d been paired with some of the best PAs in town, and must have realized he needed to up his game if he wanted to make an impression. He’d watched others get their hands dirty and was up to the challenge. And I was impressed.

I almost shared this at the end of Day One, in a fit of irritation, but I held off — and thank goodness, because that would’ve only been half the story. I was wrong. A work ethic can be learned — everyone deserves a second shot. 

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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