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To be a PA Or not to be


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#1 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 11:19 PM

Any experienced guys, opinion would be appreciated.

If you want to become a director, do you think working as a PA is helpful? I suppose few times could be, to see the ins and outs of production and how team work works.

But we're talking about PA here, not ADs.
In Canada, where I can work legally, even becoming PA takes long.

1. PA Helper for 30 days, take training courses
2. Obtain Log Book (keeps track of work record, pay) from the Guild,
put in 150 days as PA and become a "real PA" (they call it Associate Membership but I assume it is PA since it doesn't say AD etc)

I called a Hollywood studio production shooting in Vancouver, asking for PA openings, they asked if I had a Log Book. So if I don't have one I will be PA Helper, below PA. And as I wrote above, after 180 days I am still PA!! I think 6 months of shooting experience, I can learn script supervising which is more useful.

I saw the Director's Guild requirement for US (I go to film school in LA)
and they don't require any days for PA. Maybe some safety training.

Yes, I know the fastest way to Director is to make your own film, which I am working on. But I still wanted to know.
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#2 Joe Lotuaco

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 09:36 AM

I'm probably not one of the most experienced people here and a film student myself, but I definately think being a PA is very helpful. It's probably very tough to get on bigger budget union productions, but I would look to low budget independent features. An advantage to working on a low budget indy is that you stand a good chance of getting involved with all the departments and not just firewatching a truck or blocking people from walking down the sidewalk. As a film student, you're in the learning phase of things, and you don't really learn much standing around. Last year I worked on an indy feature as a PA/Intern, and I was able to help out with every department, from camera to art to g/e. It was my very first serious film related job so going into it, I really had no idea what to expect. But I came out it with such a huge appreciation for filmmaking, what's required, and the challenges that you have to face. And because of my experiences as a lowly PA on just that one job, I learned the importance of taking care of your crew, especially on smaller lower budget films (ie your student films). I'm now in preproduction for only my second short film, but I'm working with some pretty decent caliber actors and crew who have worked on much larger projects, but are dying to work with me again because they saw how much "professionalism" I had on my first short film especially for some one with very little experience in filmmaking. I can't really say how "professional" I am, but my PA experiences were key to learning the production process and how to handle almost any situation.

My suggestion, try to get on as many indy features as you can. I'm not sure how it really is in LA or Canada, but here in NY where there are tons of indy features shooting all the time, it's pretty easy to get PA jobs. But most importanlty to keep an open mind about the whole experience. You might get stuck with doing some really crappy tasks, but always think about how you would do things differently if it was your production.
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#3 Chris Walker

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 10:26 PM

I would say take the best job you can get to get you started in the industry. Then while you are working keep your eyes and ears open and don't be afraid to ask questions. I didn't go to film school I got a job as a PA and learned on the job.
But, yeah, PAing does suck.
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 07:21 PM

But, yeah, PAing does suck.

I don't think it sucks at all. Sure, there are facets of being a P.A. that aren't great (which is true of pretty much every job), but you'll learn more as a P.A. then you will in any other job on set. I learned about every department as a P.A., and that knowledge comes in handy all the time. Enjoy your time as a P.A., but move up as soon as possible. If you spend too much time as a P.A. you could easily get bitter.
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#5 Chris Walker

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 08:17 PM

I don't think it sucks at all. Sure, there are facets of being a P.A. that aren't great (which is true of pretty much every job), but you'll learn more as a P.A. then you will in any other job on set. I learned about every department as a P.A., and that knowledge comes in handy all the time. Enjoy your time as a P.A., but move up as soon as possible. If you spend too much time as a P.A. you could easily get bitter.


Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot as a PA and it was a very important and educational time for me. I'm just glad that time is over.
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Wooden Camera

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Metropolis Post

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