Media Production

Ten Things To Remember Your First Day on a Film Shoot

After decades working in the industry, I’m still amazed at the clueless production assistants that manage to get hired on video and film productions. No matter how low you are on the food chain, you’re there for a reason, and people are watching.  So to make sure your first day isn’t your last day, and with a hat-tip to DP and Director Brad Knull, here’s 10 things you should never forget:

1) Show up early. You’re the new kid, and nobody’s going to wait for you. Show up on time or don’t show up at all – even if it means you leave 2 hours early in case of traffic.

2) If the producer, client, the assistant’s assistant, or anyone else is carrying more equipment than you, you’re doing it wrong.  Enough said.

3) Bring a rain coat, flashlight, protein bars, cab fare, mobile phone charger – and anything else you can think of – because Murphy’s Law is real .

4) Make things happen. Nobody wants to hear that it can’t be done. They’ve all made the impossible happen before or they wouldn’t have survived this long in the film business.  They’re not interested in hearing about your problems.  They’re interested in solutions.

5) Bring a notepad and pen.  Someone’s going to give you orders. Write it down.

6) Your job is to help make the movie.  You can’t get distracted by taking selfie’s of you next to the cool camera, raiding the craft service table, or chatting up the cute make up artist. Focus.

7) Be a problem solver.  Don’t wait to be told – find what needs to be done and do it. If you have to be told more than twice, they’ll find somebody else.  Believe it.

8) It’s not about you.  Don’t be the first in line at lunch. Give up your seat for a client. Don’t take the closest parking space. We all know you’re a genius and should actually be directing the movie, but right now, you need to pay your dues.

9) Remember: They may not remember what you did right, but they’ll sure as heck remember what you did wrong.  If you want to get invited back for day #2, start batting 1,000.

10) Be the last person to leave.  If the director has to carry a trash bag to the dumpster at the end of the day because you left early, you’ll never work in this business again.

Any others based on your experience we should add to the list?

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207 Comments

  1. I’m hiring a new team right now and I think that I’m going to include this post on page one of the employee manual. Great advice for new employees and bosses alike. If you want a culture that reflects hustle and servant leadership, lead by example.

  2. Great list, Phil. I will def pass this on to my students. In addition, I always tell my students to Never Sit Down. There can be a lot of waiting on a set and that can create a certain type of lethargy in PAs. ADs and department heads like to see you ready to spring in to action. So, don’t sit down. Be alert. Ready.

    1. I think advice like this should be taken with caution. I’ve had producers and ADs take this literally, and standing on your feet for 16+ hour days can make you less productive and lethargic than if you take the moments to rest.

      I tell my PAs to rest, but be ready. An alert PA who’s leaning against a rail or apple box is 10x more valuable than an exhausted PA who’s standing but zoned out on their iPhone.

        1. Never say never. If I’m running background I am constantly on my phone. If people think I am just looking at Facebook that is their problem. Key PAs also like to utilize txting now more than ever as a way to communicate with their PAs out of walkie range. Don’t assume that a PA is slacking because they are looking at their phone. Although many are just slacking many of us are just doing our job utilizing the latest in technology to help make your show happen.

          1. Respectfully, what is a “Key PA”?
            I mean, if you just have to have a title, wouldn’t Best Boy PA be more accurate?
            No? Too below-the-line?
            My bad.

          2. Key PA is the highest level PA on a set. Just like a Key Grip is the highest level grip. And that is why they have that title. Each title is there to signify to everyone else what they can expect from that person. You wouldn’t tell the walkie PA to set a lockup. That is specific to the Key. If there was a PA union then maybe there would be a best boy PA.

          3. Yes, wow wow we wow. You asked what a Key PA is. And this article was directed towards first time PAs. It’s good information for them to know on their first day.

    2. I’m a film student at the Art Institute of Dallas. Phil and all others thank you for sharing ur expertise. This discussion was very informative and I pray to be effective in the film industry wherever GOD places me. Thx again! Much respect.
      Edna White

  3. 11) Be prepared. Within your peer group, you can’t help it if you’re not be the most talented person on the set, the best looking, or the best connected. However, you always have it in your power to be the most prepared.

    12) Never, ever complain (especially about the selection at the craft services table). Complainers spread low morale like cancer and suck the joy of hard, but satisfying work. Complainers get fired.

  4. Im pretty shure where you learned your craft. Remember ” If you dont have a double hernia you arent carrying your share of the load ?? Paul Davidson

  5. Think Like Your Boss
    My best PAs are those who not only know their jobs, but also are interested in learning mine. It’s easy to get complacent. When they’re eager to learn they’re more helpful on set AND can catch me when things get crazy.

    And I second Show Up Early. If you’re early you’re on time, and if you’re on time, you’re late. On our show any PAs who are late have to buy the entire director’s team coffee – after $5 x 10 coffees, you’ll never be late again.

    1. I agree it is better to just show up early, but I hate the mentality that if you’re on time then you are late. I know why it is, but it treats PAs like they are children and can’t handle getting out of bed in the morning. I show up when my boss tells me to. I get paid at the start of my call time, not earlier. I don’t give people free time, unless of course I am doing a favor. But if I show up early I am put to work early. If I say, “I’m early so I am not gonna help you cause I am not on the clock” I won’t be asked back. Yet, if a grip is asked to do something when they show up early they give the “I’m not in yet” reasoning for not doing it and it is totally acceptable. Showing up late is the worst thing a PA can do, but making someone spend half of their day rate on you isn’t the way to go about it in my opinion. Just tell them if it happens again they are fired.

  6. I like to remind my p.a.’s to remember where the priority is – the shot. It’s easy to get distracted by things off set that aren’t as important. I give them the rubber band theory, which is to imagine a rubber band around them and around the camera. The farther they get from the camera the stronger the pull to get back.

    I also tell my p.a.’s when someone asks them what they’re doing when they’re idle, the answer is never ‘nothing’, it’s ‘standing by’. This keeps their mind on the action and they’re anticipating what needs to happen next. The difference between experience and inexperience is being proactive versus reactive.

  7. I’d like to add, don’t take anything personally. Sometimes the stress of the situation will make people be more gruff than you might expect. Expect it. And don’t be overly sensitive.

  8. Great post, Phil! As an aspiring filmmaker, I would love to see more posts like this from a professional such as yourself!

  9. Very Nice Phil. What’s really important to remember is that your next job could come from anyone on set. Your hard work and attitude can play a huge role in getting hired for your next job.

  10. I’m going to give four of the things I always tell PAs:

    1) Answer your damn radio. There’s nothing worse than radio silence especially when things are urgent and someone is calling for something on set. If you are doing it, say you are doing it so we know it’s getting done. If you hear silence and can’t move from your position, do a call out to prompt others to take action. It’s teethe grinding pet-peeve when PAs don’t respond.

    2) If you don’t know the person next to you always assume he is important. Even if it turns out to be just another PA, one day, that PA may be your boss. You never know who you are standing next to.

    3) No hands in pockets. Ever! Sitting down, standing up, your pockets are the last place your hands should be.

    4) I’m not a fan of sitting either. I usually asks PAs not to. But On long days, sometimes, you have to let them get off their feet. However, director’s chairs are not for you guys, sorry. Neither are client areas. Sitting around label/client/executives/top brass is a huge no-no in my book. Find a seat near set but out of the way and expect to get out of it the moment you are needed. That means no slouching. Rest but don’t get too comfortable. If you want comfort, there’s your couch at home.

    1. These are all great, although I must disagree with the concept of no sitting. People should never be expected to go through a day, most of the time at least 14 hours without an opportunity to sit. Of course, PAs should use their best judgement on when the time is to sit, but I think the attitude of no sitting is wrong. We aren’t robots made of metal. And much of the time a PA does not even get their legal 1/2 hour lunch because they are forced to fire watch. So, people gotta sit at some point, long day or not. The problem is many PAs don’t know when the best time is to take a break.

  11. Do not be seen texting. Or on your phone.
    Be present but not talkative (like a good waiter in a nice restaurant.)
    Anticipate needs. Think ahead several moves, like a good chess player.
    STAY FOCUSED.

  12. And if you smoke, use foul language, or openly trash a political party/religious group/minority on my set, you will not be asked back.
    Grow up.

    1. I don’t care if they smoke or use foul language. Unacceptable: drug usage and giving sermons about their religious views. I don’t care if they sacrifice goats in the privacy of their own homes, just don’t push your fricking religious views down my throat! And be the last one in the lunch line!

  13. -Don’t move anything on the set unless you’re told to, continuity is important.
    -Don’t initiate conversation with the talent, even if they’re your superhero. Don’t take pictures of the talent or ask for their autograph.
    -Read your call sheet thoroughly; many of your questions can be answered on your call sheet.
    -If you don’t know something, don’t act like you do. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something.
    -Don’t give unsolicited advice on how someone should be doing their job.
    -Respect the chain of command.
    -Use “please” and “thank you”, it will go a long way.
    -Listen well, take directions well.
    -Don’t gossip or talk bad about others, especially those who are above your pay grade, this includes on the headset- you don’t know who may be listening on your channel.
    -Talking too much & working too little. Save your stories for lunch break.
    -No whining -about anything.
    -Don’t pursue a (romantic) relationship on the set. A relationship distraction
    could compromise your performance level and negatively affect your career.

    -Last but not least… always, always make decisions that are in the best interest of the film/video. You’ll earn respect by doing this.

  14. I’m surprised to see that, “Make things happen,” is listed, but that, “Don’t give in to dangerous requests,” is absent. Far too often there are people above the line that want something that endangers the crew, because the time or budget wasn’t allocated to do it safely. Crewmembers should never allow themselves to be put dangerous situations just because they’re afraid of disappointing a director or producer. What we do isn’t important enough to justify risking life and limb. Everything else seems spot on; I especially like #3.

  15. Follow the 4 agreements:
    Be impeccable with your word
    Dont take anything personally
    Don’t make assumptions
    Always do your best!
    Credo! These steps.help, Alot!

  16. As a Newscast Director and Technical Director that got my start at age 19. I didn’t know a thing. Be patient ask a lot of questions. And as I got older I realized there were things new technology I was not able to master quickly and a lot of the younger people on my crew did. I did ask them for help and I help them out in learning to direct. Always remember as well that someone eventually will be younger than you and just as hungry to do your job eventually. Just as i was

  17. Love the list. Something I learned early on is “always be listening.” It goes to ensuring you’re able to anticipate someone’s needs… if the director and DP are talking about the possibility of putting someone on an apple box, be doing a mental inventory of the nearest apples that aren’t already working. When they turn to say “Get us an…” you can already say “Flying in!” and beeline straight for what they need.

    Also, “never make eye contact with talent in front of the camera while rehearsing, blocking, or rolling.”

    What I hate most — and this is a general statement and can be reflected in a PA (or anyone) failing at any of your list — is an apparent lack of interest in the production. It’s like watching a kid play on her first soccer team, and if she doesn’t have the ball herself, she’s picking at the grass and watching clouds coz the game at large doesn’t interest her. I want crew who are so engaged and committed to the magic of the set that they’re never bored, disinterested, distracted, or unavailable, because if they aren’t working, they’re (as someone said) “standing by” with their radar on. If you aren’t in love with everything that’s happening around you and looking for ways to contribute, you shouldn’t be there.

  18. It’d be good if i could get into the industry. So many youths in it without experience. Yet i studied media and still haven’t got my break through. Just dont get it

    1. Make it happen on your own, with out-of-industry people. Put your own time and money into your own projects and get your work out there. Someone will notice, someone will praise it. Do it again, repeat the steps until you get your break through. It may come in a way you’d never expect. Always, always stay positive, believe it can be done and it will happen. Good luck.

  19. It is not possible to follow all these tips above! Everyone understands it … My experience in the industry is that everyone understands that you’re new here. Most embraces common sense, good manners and a little humility. As simple as that…

  20. Good List. My first gig in the industry, over 20 years ago, the first thing my AD taught me, was “never ask a question you can answer by looking at the call sheet”.

  21. This is great advice and can be applied to many different parts of a crew. One key element that I have realized is that if you love this business, you need to show it in all ways possible. Be humble. Be greatful. You’re on the set of a project. You did it, but don’t rest on that. Keep trying to improve and always be aware that your attitude does show 100%. Weather you’re a background actor or a makeup artist you do matter and someone is always watching what you do.

    1. so true. It is a collaborative effort and the most important thing on the set is the project and not any single person. There are always things that can go wrong. But if everyone thinks about getting the best out of any situation for the project, working on the set will be just marvelous. Had exactly this experience last year.

  22. Hey Phil! I haven’t worked with you since Billy Graham days! Great list. My thing for the new person is always to say- and show by example- “Keep your head in the game.” The phone stays in the pocket unless there’s a good reason for it to be out. Think like a ball player about what the next batter will be doing. That kind of thing…

  23. Great list Phil. I’d add – Take initiative and be one step ahead. Anticipate what’s needed and be on it before they ask you. Then you’ll always be busy and productive, with a servant’s heart, and be ahead of everyone’s needs.

  24. And if you see or know something to be unsafe speak up! Your life is worth more than a movie or your job. Remember Sarah Jones

    1. Yes. Please.
      As a person who has been an extra on several sets… I’m still floored to know that ever happened.

  25. Excellent advice and not just for newbies. After reading the list and the many intelligent comments my mind feels all is covered, but my PA instinct knows there’s so much more.

  26. I agree with all of these in principal of course, but I would add the caveat that on a union shoot, #2 may be a little tricky. Early in my career I saw people get yelled at for “helping” move equipment because they weren’t union and shouldn’t be touching.

    As for additions I would also add something about being at the ready. I hate walking by a lockup and seeing a PA sitting down rather than keeping an eye out for bogeys. Though that may fall under the umbrella of #6.

  27. Don’t mention to the director how you’re tired from staying up late last night, and almost didn’t come.
    Worst PA EVER!!

  28. I always said to the new PA: « RUN ». Just RUN! Get the « insert important thing here » and RUN! If you walk like you own the set, just walk out. Anyways that’s what I did when I started. Been directing for 20 years now.

    1. Run..? Been in the biz 25 yrs and that’s never been acceptable on any sets I’ve been on..from LA, Miami, NYC. Perhaps hustle, but no running on set.

      1. Sorry I disagree with ‘Run’ There are high voltage cables, heavy equipment and miscellaneous trip hazards everywhere, and let’s not forget the oblivious people walking around with hot coffee. Hustle yes, Run, absolutely not. Number one rule on any set is safety. Safety should actually be the first commandment.

  29. Shonda Rhimes has a famous “No a**holes” policy. If you can’t get along with your fellow crew members and cast (as well as pull your own weight), your job shouldn’t be on a film set.

  30. +1 on this

    “And if you see or know something to be unsafe speak up! Your life is worth more than a movie or your job. Remember Sarah Jones”

    Maybe this should actually be the top of the list.

  31. Remember not everyone in charge is above being stupid, if something they want to do or anyone else to do is unsafe speak up. No shot is worth getting hurt or dead. NEVER FORGET/ALWAYS REMEMBER. R I P SARAH JONES

  32. This is absolutely amazing Phil, also all the comments/advices from all of these professionals.
    I have few questions if anyone is willing to help me out. I recently moved with my Family to California (East bay area) from Europe. I’ve been wondering and researching on how to get involved in the movie business and get on set as a PA. I’ve been on the set my whole life since my mom worked as a wardrobe assistant, and then when I turned 19 I starded working as a PA. I just love the whole idea and process of creating a movie and I literally can’t imagine myself doing anything else. So I would love to get some information or maybe some leads on how to get involved.

    Great job Phil ill say once again. The ten commandments for Pa on a movie set. THANK YOU!

  33. With all this advice most new PA’s go on to become PM’s or Producers. Part of their training should be 3 months spent with Unit and catering. That way they will learn that things dont fall out of the sky and we cant do “Beam me up Scotty” Just a thought 🙂

  34. For number three, I’d add tape, a permanent marker and Stanley knife to the list. Even if there are plenty knocking around on set, you’re a lifesaver if you can just whip one out of a pocket when on demand.

  35. “Don’t wait to be told – find what needs to be done and do it.” Um sure for many things. But this couldn’t this lead to the trouble? Especially on union gigs. “Oh we’re moving on lemme go grab the camera and help.” “Oh that light needs a gel, I got it. Wait. What do I smell burning?”

  36. Ugh need to proof read. What I mean to write is: Just doing this blindly, couldn’t it lead to trouble?

  37. “We all know you’re a genius and should actually be directing the movie, but right now, you need to pay your dues.”

    … Good list but this particular advice is useless. If you like to become a film director, then go make a movie. No amount of hard work as a PA will get you in the director’s seat. Only you can make that happen. You become a director by directing.

      1. So sad that has been your experience, but I doubt you have worked on a professional set – especially since your other comment indicates PA’s work for nothing. Good PA’s are highly respected AND invited back to keep getting a paycheck. Since it is entry level, smart productions hire more than they need knowing they will dismiss the slackers and keep the hustlers. The writer of the article is sharing how to be one who gets to be respected and invited back.

        1. PAs get respect from some and not others. It is very hit or miss. If I call rolling in front of a truck and tell them to hold the work, they should be quiet and hold the work. When they continue to make noise and tell me that there is no way the sound guy can hear them it is disrespectful. I shouldn’t have to tell your key to keep you quiet. I wouldn’t be telling you to be quiet if I didn’t have to. This is a constant situation for PAs. Also, try being a PA doing a lockup in Chinatown. Bogeys passing you left and right and the ADs cursing and calling you names. That is not respect. And yes, these things all happen on professional union sets.

          1. Also Scott, there are plenty of jobs where PAs are unpaid. Not anything in the Union world, but many indies try to save money this way. Either way, even in the union world, PAs are basically paid nothing. Many large network/studio jobs are only paying minimum wage for a job that arguably should be compensated with a much higher hourly rate. And I don’t believe any UPM would allow ADs to hire extra PAs just to weed out the bad ones. They are trying to save as much money as possible, so spending on unnecessary crew wouldn’t make any sense.

    1. PA experience is pretty damn valuable when you do climb the ladder to where you want to get. If you haven’t done it then you couldn’t possibly understand. Sure, there are directors who have not gone that route, but they have a hard time communicating with the crew.

      1. I have done it several times. But nothing beats directing if one wants to become a director. There doesn’t need to be a ladder.

        1. Several times, wow, then your all ready to go. You are right – there doesn’t need to be a ladder, but there does need to be an education that only happens by working a set that understands protocols and standards of the industry. If you are trying to direct without that you are at huge disadvantage and will need to rely on underlings to get you through it. That’s just the way it is. But we digress – the topic here is succeeding at your first day on a film shoot – a professional film shoot.

          1. You can save your sarcasm for some other time.

            I was commenting on a particular advice given in this article that I happen to disagree with, regarding someone who wants to direct. I will say it’s very healthy to be part of a professional crew and learn the dos and donts. But if you think working as a PA will get you up some god forsaken ladder to becoming a director you may want to reconsider your strategy.

          2. I think you are misunderstanding my use of the word ladder. Not in the “corporate ladder” sense but in the learning curve, experience sense. A ladder that is in the control of the individual as he progresses toward fulfilling his goals. But I don’t see how you can disagree with his advice – it’s not saying someone can’t direct if they want to – just not on someone else’s set on especially not on the first day. He was being sarcastic and as you already noted, you don’t dig on the sarcasm.

          3. I don’t disagree that you can get great experience through PA work. But don’t think you have to do that for years before you can direct a film. This is a common misconception.

            You become a great director by directing and you become a great PA by assisting. Put emphasis on the first one if you wish to become a director. Not to say you shouldn’t PA from time to time if you get the chance. But you do not need to PA for a 100 films before you dare to direct. In fact, you will find directing is a lifetime learning curve. So you better start already.

    2. Actually time on set is a great help to those who aspire to direct. I wish many of the directors I have worked with over the years had spent more time on a set as a PA in some capacity to observe how their decisions can affect an entire crew, production, and budget. Many things can be learned by listening and observing great directors at work as well as great producers and on down the line. A simple decision of ‘let’s shoot this in the rain’ can be catastrophic to many involved and one who is ‘directing ‘ had better know these ramifications before jumping into the big seat. Very, very few first time directors (or even fifth or tenth time) are worth their weight if they still don’t understand how the whole machine works. Many spokes hold that wheel together and keep it in motion. Some great actors have gone on to direct because of years of being on set and observing and working with many great directors and crew-they finally feel comfortable with taking the helm. As a PA you can do the same. Listen, observe, and assist those who can use you. You can and will be a tremedous asset on a production if you can do those things. Early is on time, on time is late, and late is generally inexcuseable. Remember many of our greats got their start working in this fashion under Roger Corman.

      1. I agree that working as a PA can give upcoming directors a great overview of how the machine works. But saying that you have to spend a decade doing that job to become a director far from the truth. What I don’t agree with is this ladder the average film student thinks he can climb, all the way to becoming a director. Your focus should be directing, at all times. If you’re a great PA, people will hire you as a PA. You may work your way up within the production department. But don’t expect anyone to read your script, finance your movie and give you a shot as a director, because you made such damn nice coffee and were always on time. Again, PA experience can improve your skills as a film maker, I heartily agree with that. But that should be an added bonus on what you really should be putting effort into which again, is directing. But hey, don’t take my word for it!

        https://youtu.be/UZAcG7LnWmQ?t=1m
        https://youtu.be/UZAcG7LnWmQ?t=1m58s
        https://youtu.be/UZAcG7LnWmQ?t=2m51s

      1. It’s working very well thank you for asking. Mostly directing commercials at the moment but hope to release a full feature film next year. And you? Mr. anonymous?

        1. Not bad. Almost three decades as a lighting cameraman, mostly television, more than a few features.
          Enough awards to make the mantel interesting.
          My point is that director’s who are too gifted to work their way up through the ranks should be sure to surround themselves with people who have a thorough grounding in what it takes to make a film set run smoothly. I’ve watched too many “directors” crash and burn because they didn’t understand the need for a first rate AD, Script Supervisor, keys etc. And sorry, film school doesn’t really count.
          Just the voice of experience.
          Good luck to you and your crew.

  38. Here are two that bug me:
    1) Unless someone asks for your opinion, don’t make suggestions to the director, DP or anyone else on how they could do their job better. You weren’t hired for your creative ideas.
    2) Don’t expect veteran rates in your first two years in the business. This goes for any position. You may get a few jobs at that higher rate but at some point your lack of experience will show and you’ll get a bad reputation.

  39. Yeah let’s crap all over the people who show up to do something they love for FREE and make everyone’s lives easier. Ungrateful moron. You people are making entertainment not saving lives.

    1. Okay Mr. Wannabe – if you are not paying your people then that’s on you. Some of us are actually working professionals. If you (or your PA’s) have any aspirations of working the real world of doing what you love – then you should practice being professional if you want to get there. Don’t be an ungrateful moron when a professional shares with you how it really works. Instead of being an ass, thank them for taking the time.

      1. You know Scott. You are right. I apologize for reacting emotionally to this post. Now that said, I’ve worked on all types of films over the years and you know as well as I do that most productions don’t actually pay PA’s. That’s fine. I got out of the business once I start realizing what a vicious cycle of manipulation and exploitation the filmmaking system allows to thrive. And that’s okay. People choose to be there and that’s their choice. And this is just my opinion. Wish you the best on your journey.

        1. Most productions don’t pay PA’s??? Well then I am doing something wrong – I always pay my PA’s. If you are not getting paid (which I guess is kind of your choice) then you are probably working for non-professional, wannabe Tarantino’s or student films – so please don’t use them to evaluate the industry. These guys call themselves filmmakers – but mostly it’s just a guy with a camera and an idea, and (as you said) an ability to manipulate and exploit.

  40. Great list! I’d also include…
    1)
    Never talk to the director, producer and most importantly actors about
    your own movie projects while on set. We’re here to work, not network. Save
    that crap for the wrap party.
    2) Never let me hear the words “that’s not my job.” If it’s not your job, then go find the person who’s job it is and get them to do it.
    3)
    Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t flake out. And above all…
    don’t point fingers when something goes wrong. Just fix it.

  41. Great List!

    Let’s not forget that these are the lowest paid and sometimes longest working people on set. The reason we hold our lowest employees to such high standards is because those are the standard we hold ourselves. Am I right? Everyone starts on the ground floor.

  42. Damn…Is this the job description for communist Russia? Don’t talk! Be first one here and last to leave! Read my mind! Have all the answers! If not, don’t come back!

  43. Just cracking up at the comments below by some who think they know the industry and are nothing but wannabes filled with myths and misconceptions of how things really work. This article is spot on and instead of worrying about you getting respect you would serve yourself better by offering respect and opening your ears to what is being said…

  44. Great list. I’m a veteran producer and I climbed that ladder. I was damned good at it, too. A couple of rules I’d add would be: Every Job is Important. If someone asks you to do something, treat the task like the most important thing you have to do. I once worked with a PA who was sent to buy a dog toothbrush for the EP’s pet. He laughed and said, “Seriously? That’s the most pressing need in this office right now?”. I never saw him again. Listen more than you talk. That’s how you learn what everybody on the set does and how it all works. The faster you learn that stuff the more valuable you will be to the production. And you’ll be respected more by the whole crew if they know you get what they do.

  45. All that plus: 1) stay in your department unless asked- that means don’t touch the sandbags or the art department’s stuff. Because Safety. Because Continuity. 2) Stay off your dang phone unless it’s for the shot. 3) Don’t ask me when is wrap or what’s for lunch. 4) Don’t talk to the client. Unless it’s to get coffee orders. 5.) Read the call sheet. 6.) Answer your radio. 7.) Don’t run, but hustle. 8) Stay safe.

  46. Grateful for the list and the veteran’s input. It helps me be a better PA every time I’m on set. Thank you for taking the time to write this!

    1. Thank you Jane.
      That’s the attitude that gets you hired.
      Which reminds me.
      Always acknowledge an order, especially on the walkie. Repeat it back to let them know you heard and understand. Acknowledge any communication directed at or to you by saying, as an example, “thank you, points”… and don’t learn the hard way what a shouted “Points!” behind you means.

  47. What I’ve discovered is that, generally speaking, the producers and department heads who’ve been PA’s themselves and were forced to ascend that same ladder are the ones who typically treat their assistants like human beings. Those are the ones you want to work for because they will actually appreciate and acknowledge when you’re doing all the things listed above. Without that element, however, the list — and your efforts toward it — are virtually meaningless. You can show up two hours early, leave two hours late, and do everything right in between, but if your boss’s attitude is “You exist to serve me, then disappear”, you’ll be right back where you started when the job began. Sure, you’re lucky to be there, but so is everyone else. An old truism shared with me many years ago is that the best leaders always train their successors well, because they know their time is finite. And in the entertainment industry, our time is more finite than most. In a sense, you’ll never finish paying your dues, because unless you get into the 1% that achieve “icon” status, the rug can (and in most cases will) always come out. So that assistant you’re beating up today might be the guy hiring you tomorrow. It’s certainly happened. I’m not saying any of these points aren’t wrong or warranted in many cases. There’s an enormous learning curve in the film industry that has gotten stiffer as we’ve substituted traditional apprenticeships for four year film schools where everyone graduates as a “director”. But to distill assistantship to “those-who-serve-me” strikes me as the perspective of someone more self-inovled than self-aware.

    1. I agree with this 100%. PAs are not there to serve, they are there to assist. People don’t take a job to be hazed, which is what many people’s attitudes are towards PAs.

  48. If you get a bottle of water for yourself, grab as many as you can carry and offer one to anyone higher up the food chain than you. People remember this.

    Punctuality. It’s been mentioned in the above list, but it needs to be mentioned again. Pitch up late once. Just once. Let me know how that goes for you.

    Nobody cares that you went to film school. As a matter of fact, you’d best keep that secret because chances are very good that none of the people you’re working for did. Oh, you spent 5 years in film school at double the cost of a university degree? Shut up and get me a coffee.

    Carry a Leatherman. Always.

    Don’t touch another department’s equipment unless you have permission to. There’s a fine line between taking initiative and violating someone else’s kit.

    God has a DOP complex.

    Be nice to grips and lighting. They carry heavy things all day, and therefore have short tempers and savage strength. Piss them off and chances are good that after the AD calls a wrap you’re going to get snapped like a twig.

    During the shoot, the only thing that matters is the shoot.

    1. The mentality that the only thing that matters during the shoot is the shoot is a extremely dangerous one to have. That is how people get hurt. And I am sorry, but people have lives outside of the film world and sometimes things happen in those lives that supersede anything that may be going on during a shoot.

  49. If you don’t know something or are confused – ASK!!! You are new and cannot possibly understand or know everything, that is why you are at minimum wage. Ask and learn, pay attention to those with experience and you will climb quickly. Ignore all of this and you will be assigned to crew park when there is no one else available in town if you are lucky. Remember it is a small circle of people and they all talk to each other.

    1. I agree with you here, except the part about minimum wage. Being new and not knowing everything is NOT why PAs get minimum wage. PAs 20 years ago were getting more than double what the minimum wage was at the time. Minimum wage has risen, but the PA rate has not. So, the reason why PAs are paid minimum wage is simply because the rate was never increased as minimum wage was raised and now minimum wage has caught up with it.

  50. Also. Yes a pa makes very little. In comparison to union. And most work harder. Respect to them. Union crew don’t be the arrogant asshole remember your start. Also kids. Wilkie talkie is your friend. Listen keep your earpiece in. When they call respond. Go to two remember go back to one after. Basics make or brake you. Copy that

    1. I was never a production assistant. I have been a highly paid technician my entire career, I have seen dozens of production assistants work themselves up to positions of power. Dozens of kids who swept the parking lot have been the ones to sign off on my cheque later in their career. My best friend got his first day because I hooked him up as a guy who watched the parking lot. He lives in a million dollar home. You want a lifetime career in the movie business. BE A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT>

    2. Nephew of a friend was asked to help a buddy drag cables at an NFL game. He decided “why not?” He now is the 4th name on a network’s golf telecast credits scroll. Amazing turn of events in his life.

  51. Never “work” for no pay. If you agree to work for no pay once, they will never respect you and you will never get paid your due.

  52. An ESPN Director always told us, you’re late if you’re not five minutes early. Show up early to log in and put your stuff down and your work gloves are on.

    1. I as taught that the rule was if your not 15 minutes early you were late. In my experience that’s been true in film, tv, theatre and opera.

  53. These instructions are PA 101 and should be given by the production manager. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that there are several production managers who do not know these basic rules themselves.

    1. Respectfully, these are below-the-line 101, they should be issued with start paperwork. We have bulletins and sheets for everything else.

    1. Short answer?
      There’s no other career quite like it.
      On a good shoot, you’re living and working with talented, driven people toward a common goal, solving interesting, challenging problems on the fly. You travel and work as a group and speak in buzzwords and jargon that’s opaque to outsiders. It all looks so glamorous on the outside, but the work is hard, dirty and frequently dangerous. It’s kinda like being a carny, with better craft service.
      What’s not to love?

  54. All
    good. EXCEPT number four. “Make things happen. Nobody wants to hear
    that it can’t be done”. It is CERTAINLY true that problem solvers on a set are
    far more useful than naysayers. Unfortunately, it’s this attitude that
    got Sarah Jones killed by a train on a film
    set in Georgia. There’s a fine line between solving a problem and
    getting yourself killed while trying to make the impossible happen.
    Those in lower positions of power on a film set are often not equipped
    to say no when a dangerous situation arises, because of the attitude
    that says all problems on a film set can be solved. Nobody on that set said no to setting up camera equipment and a metal bed on a live train track, except for the location manager who protested by not going to work that day.

  55. Maybe the notepad and pen is a quirky little oldskool reminder… but use your iPhone or whatnot and have it all noted, as in ALL OF IT… oh yes and when you are there early MAKE COFFEE ! 🙂

    1. typing on an iPhone, no matter what you are writing, always looks like you are texting and not paying attention. Better to go old school on this one.

  56. put your phone AWAY unless asked for it. Don’t text or play games….seriously. Also- know where the nearest coffee is.

  57. This is fucking stupid!!! Make it look like we are saving the world. They paid PA like $12 hr. Just help out with you can and have fun…

    1. Yeah, have as much fun as you can, after all it’s all about you – that’s what us producers pay you for. Now of course you’ll get to sleep in the next day because you won’t be working – but that should be okay since it’s all about you.

      1. No one said anything about “all about you or anyone”, don’t put anyone down on set just because they are a PA. If you pay someone for $12 hr for 14-18 hrs days, they will move on to other departments with better pay. And then you will have to train new ones. This article does not apply!!! And you don’t understand what a PA have to go through… Of course you as a producers will always threaten someone “if you don’t do it I’ll find someone else who will” That is the same mentality that got Sarah Jones killed. People in fear losing their job because someone higher up know what best for them. It’s just a job dude, don’t make it like we are saving the world!!!

        1. Too many people in the industry have the attitude that we should all just be thankful for being “allowed” to work on a set. I agree Cheuk, this is just a job. Of course there are some projects that come along that make you feel pride to be part of the making of it, but at the end of the day most of the crap that we make is no different than any other product you see on the shelf at the food store. It is a product. That is how the people making millions off of the films and shows see it. Or there would be no such thing as ratings and focus groups. A group of people put money together to make more money. I love this industry, but I don’t have any delusions as to what we are really doing here. I would also add, PAs in NYC wish they were making $12/hr.

      2. When wrapped and you go to the parking lot like everybody else, you just might fall and hit your face on the corner bumper of a car, just remember, you are not that important after wrap in the real world.

  58. How clueless PA are? are you kidding me!! Most of the time its how clueless Directors and clients are. Understanding Depth of field? What is that said the Director and clients. Why can your focus motor rack back and forth faster???!!!

  59. Just amazed at those not getting it. Using isolated incidents to infer that showing initiative will result in tragedy on set. Let’s put it this way (may not be nice, but it’s the truth) – being a Production Assistant means this – you are the most easily replaced commodity on set. More easily replaced than a C-stand, a sheet of diffusion, or a C-47. In fact, this is such an eventuality that many times more PA’s
    are hired than are needed. Say two PA’s are required – five actually get hired. By lunch time there may be only 3 or 4 left (only takes that long to see who’s hustling and who isn’t) – but usually you get to finish the day unless you are really a disaster. By day two there might be 2 or 3 left. There may even be a new face or two (in which case you may need to pick things up). This is a standard PA strategy by producers. Producers understand that this is not just a job, it is an opportunity – your opportunity. Make the most of it. The above list is intended to help you do that. If you cannot appreciate that then this is probably not your career field.

    1. The above list is a set of very basic PA skills which all PAs should know. But I still don’t know if I agree with this, we hire people with the intent on firing some of them. Is this in the commercial world? I’ve been in the NYC scene for over a decade and have never seen this. Most ADs know the PAs they hire and there isn’t an issue of,”let’s see who works out.” Staff PAs are interviewed before the shoot starts. These positions are: Paperwork, 1st Team, Background, Walkie and Key PA. ADs tell the producers how much man power they need for additionals during prepping and the producers sign off on it, usually telling them to hire less than they actually asked for. At least that is how it works in the network/studio world. I’m really don’t think this strategy is as normal as you think it is.

      1. Maybe its a west coast thing – but your right – this isn’t the case if they are hiring tried and true people they know. BTW, didn’t mean to imply that it’s normal – but that it is done. My comments are more to those having such a hard time accepting that Cooke’s list is a good thing to have.

        1. Gotcha. I think the major problem with PAs who don’t get it is tied into the digital revolution. Before around 2000 not every college had a film program. Then once minidv hit the scene every college could afford one. There became an influx of people wanting to be in the film industry without the die hard attitude that used to go along with such life choices. This, and the current generations entitlement complex. In NYC we have a program called Made In NY run by the Mayor’s office. It is a great program. They give PA training to people who have never worked on a set before. I’ve met some great people who learned from the program, but the majority of them have some weird unwarranted ego. They think they know it all and are more often the ones sitting on their phones during lockups.

          1. I think you are spot on. Remember when it took $70,000.00 for ENTRY level NLE. Now for half of that (or less) you can have a nice camera, jib, lights, audio AND NLE. It has opened the door for untrained and unqualified people who are insulted by the fact that they would have to PA on anybody else’s terms but their own.

          2. I recently worked with a gaffer from Chicago where the production was shot on Canon 5D’s. He looked at one, shook his head and told me that hardly a week goes by that someone contacts him and, with some variation, tells him “I’m a DP and I need to hire you for a half day to teach me how to light.”

    2. Again you have proof my point! “Sarah Jones- She was NOT a Production Assistant”. Do you see a PA’s work less important to a AC’s work? I’m a AC, I don’t know how many times I have asked PA for help to make my job easier!!!

      When you said PAs are more easily replaced than a C-stand, and a sheet of diffusion, or a C-47, do you not implied that their work or life is more or less important than a AC, grip, lighting, scripty, make up, art, ADs? Again, it is the same mentality that producers have that everyone is replaceable so you must do as I say or else!!!

      Sarah Jones was my Local 600 sister and I WILL use her name till the day I die to put producers like you in check so that not another life is loss because you feel that someone is replaceable!!!

      1. wow – You are filled with much anger and attitude. Let me spell this out – At no time did I say the work of the PA is less important than anyone else’s. Production is a team sport and all roles are needed to be successful. Not everyone is replaceable. But here’s a FACT – it is easier for me to get on the phone and replace a PA than it is to replace an AC, DP, Grip, make up, AD, diffusion, whatever. That’s just the way it is. People should know that coming in and they should also know how they can distinguish themselves – ergo the above list. Which is what this is about – not about some director who decided to change his shot at the last second without insuring proper safety precautions. Don’t worry, he won’t get off. But for you to use Sarah’s name in some effort to prove the above list is invalid is not only misguided but dishonoring to her name. Then to imply that I jeopardize lives when I won’t hesitate to replace a lazy, uncaring, chip on shoulder, production assistant – when in fact having someone like that around significantly increases chances of something going awry. Don’t know why you have such an attitude problem and a clear chip on your shoulder – but it will not serve you well if it continues

  60. #10 When was the last time you saw a Director took the trash out??? What jobs are you on Mr. Phil Cooke??? This just show what kind of garbage this article is!!!

    1. I understand what #10 is saying. PAs are the last to leave. Although I never heard of a job where the director is somehow still there and all of the ADs, who dismiss the PAs, and PAs are gone. A PA never leaves till they are dismissed and if an AD dismisses you early and the director is left to take out the trash that is the AD’s fault. Anyway, locations are the ones on trash duty not PAs in the union world.

      1. Yes you are right Ben. To all the people reading this article, its not that bad as PA if you work with the right people. Listen and pay attention, work hard and most importantly is have fun!!! it can be really fun and rewarding when you work with the right people. Not all jobs are like that.

        I don’t know what kind of jobs/productions these people do that are scaring future PAs! But its not like that in the top tier or union shows or commericals. We must treat people like humans not C-stand or a sheet of diffusion.

  61. Rule 4 should come with a creveat that says this applies unless you are being to asked to do something that is reckless, dangerous or illegal.

    Unfortunately there are a few egotistical directors who think that they are above the law of the land (and sometimes the laws of physics) that need to hear that what they are asking can’t be done. As a PA this is tough one because you are there to make an impression with your can do attitude. Don’t let your enthusiasm and your desire to impress, blind you into making safety or legal compromises. In such situations don’t stay quiet, but don’t just chatter about the situation to each other. Utilize the chain of command. If that doesn’t work then it is time voice your concern to anyone who will listen. If nothing changes then you have every right to walk away. You’ll probably never work with those people again, but realistically they are not the kind of people worth working for anyway. You’d be better off finding a new job on a project where the production has your back as much as you have theirs and on those kind of shows you’ll not go wrong following all ten rules listed above.

  62. As a former PA on various film sets I was often asked to drive to various office and homes to pick up items, someone’s dry cleaning etc. But there were more then a few times I was suspicious of what I was transporting and upon further investigation (um I opened the package) I realized I was running drugs to the set. I was nervous of what to do because I didn’t want to lose my job. I mentioned it to another PA and he were more then happy to take on driver duties. And of course he became more well known and liked because he was supplying the “treats”. I don’t think this behavior is that rare since it’s happened on 3 different sets I remember

    1. This is a case where you are being asked to do something illegal, and in such a situation the rules above should not apply. Imagine what would have happened if you were pulled over by the police for a minor traffic violation and the drugs were found in your possession. You would have faced federal charges along the lines of possession with intent to supply, because the drugs you were carrying were for other people. You can not get experience on set from a jail cell. You are actually better off walking away from that job as whoever is asking you to do this has no respect for you or your future career.

  63. Simply put, this is for any job you have, ever. Show up. Hustle hard. Stay humble. If the money or experience doesn’t suit you, move along and find yourself a situation where it does. You will encounter angels and assholes in every position and level you occupy. Focus on the positive. Be kind. Have a dream.

  64. Just a couple of things to add…
    When meal time comes PA’s go BEHIND anyone carrying heavy gear…unless you’re on Fire Watch.
    Don’t SMOKE (anywhere) but definitely not in or near the crew vans or non-smoking crew or talent.
    Don’t chat up the talent, nothing worse than a PA giving the talent info. on the shoot, that’s the PRODUCERS job and they aren’t your friends.
    Give the PA’ing job 110% and you’ll get nothing but calls and recognition, be the asshole on set that does nothing but complain and I can guarantee you’ll never hear your phone ring again.
    If you are UNCOMFORTABLE driving a crew van after a 16 hour shift TELL SOMEONE, no one wants a hero…and no one wants to die.
    Understand there are a LOT of unwarranted egos in the industry, smile and nod.

    Oh, and if you happen to live in Florida (MOVE) go get ANY other job because as soon as you’ve spent 11 years in the entertainment industry, working your ass off and you’re at the top of your career the fucking loser Governor Rick Scott decides to NOT extend the Film Tax Incentive and all of a sudden you’re at Starbucks making frothy drinks for a bunch of facial haired hipsters wearing skinny jeans.

    ~Bitter

  65. Just a couple of things to add…

    When meal time comes PA’s go BEHIND anyone carrying heavy gear…unless you’re on Fire Watch.

    Don’t SMOKE (anywhere) but definitely not in or near the crew vans or non-smoking crew or talent.

    Don’t chat up the talent, nothing worse than a PA giving the talent info. on the shoot, that’s the PRODUCERS job and they aren’t your friends.

    Give the PA’ing job 110% and you’ll get nothing but calls and recognition, be the asshole on set that does nothing but complain and I can guarantee you’ll never hear your phone ring again.

    If you are UNCOMFORTABLE driving a crew van after a 16 hour shift TELL SOMEONE, no one wants a hero…and no one wants to die.

    Understand there are a LOT of unwarranted egos in the industry, smile and nod.

    Oh, and if you happen to live in Florida (MOVE) go get ANY other job because as soon as you’ve spent 11 years in the entertainment industry, working your ass off and you’re at the top of your career the fucking loser Governor Rick Scott decides to NOT extend the Film Tax Incentive and all of a sudden you’re at Starbucks making frothy drinks for a bunch of facial haired hipsters wearing skinny jeans.

    ~Bitter

  66. Though, I agree with these rules, i’d like to add that even if you are really good, you are still at the end of the day very expendable. Having a dream was great advice, but don’t think just blindly working will get you anywhere. Work Smarter, not harder.

        1. Millennials by and large feel entitled, expect that carers should be given to them for being educated, without putting the work in. I’m sorry but paying your dues results in the best kind of education you will ever have. You will never learn how to solve problems without Experiencing problems.

          1. Ah, OK, thanks. Working hard and solving problems is important. But the term “paying your dues” means to me that you have to work your way up, which I in my film experience hasn’t really rang true. I’m not a professional anymore in the field but I’ve seen PAs who are still PAs after 6 years, and interns who worked for free for years. At the end of the day, maybe the better term would be – figure out how to make yourself valuable, rather than just working hard for the man.

          2. The term “paying your dues” should only apply for the first year or two. PAs now work many more years before moving up than ever before. People shouldn’t be paying their dues for a decade of their life. After asking to be moved to a higher position, I have been told straight out by producers in the Reality world that they won’t because I am too good of a PA. There are many that want to keep certain PAs in that position. They know we will always show up on time and do a great job. Yet, unlike most jobs, when a boss appreciates your hard work and tells you this they try to show you their gratitude. Usually through a raise, but that just ends with a laugh in your face. I do not work in the reality world anymore, waste of two years of my life.

  67. These are good principles, and you will be rehired as a PA if you practice them. As a note, i’ll mention its not always the hardest working guy who progresses the furtherest or fastest in their career. A sharp guy with a good personality and the ability to make friends will beat out a workhorse. Thats raw truth.

  68. Leave your mobile phone in your car – for decades there have been no phones on sets – what is so important now that wasn’t back then? Right, nothing. Re-situate phones in mobile production trailers and on stages.

    1. As an Onset Dresser, I use my phone for continuity photos. It seems that not every Director or DP has gripped the idea of shooting in 1 direction until they are finished. I totally agree that you should not speak on your phone until break/lunch. There are times as a Set Dresser that the Leadman would call me to tell me that a Set Dressing truck and crew are on their way to the set. Nobody should be told playing Candy Crush, texting friends or just talking on your phone is unacceptable. That applies to any job, do your job, period.

  69. Then there’s the unspoken top heavy rule about crossing craft lines: I saved more than one shot because I spent a lot of time learning not only My craft, but how film in general is made. e.g. Big Lighting crew can’t create the ‘beam o God’ light DP wants on my set [I am the set tech director] after watching them struggling to aim a 10K from 20′ up on the grid [not far enough away for the POP they wanted] DP asks me to chop 2 feet off the whole top of the set. Easy for grip and electrics to ask the set crew to dance. I said hey, why not put a lightweight 4x mirror in the grid, leave the heavy 10K on the floor and bounce it, save the production from a nasty multi hour construction delay, get the damn shot in the bloody can [yes I worked in FILM], save the day. Grip and electrics growled at me for months after…

    1. On an IATSE job after “Saving the shot” you would be lucky to be alive. Production Assistants are not onset to suggest anything to the Gaffer, Key Grip, ect that doesn’t involve safety on set.

  70. No one on a professional set is going to ask a PA to get creative about solving a problem. Unless that problem is “Is there a closer Starbucks?”. Problem solving is above most PA’s experience and pay grade. If a PA starts making suggestions to lighting, camera, or sound, there will be angry words exchanged. If you are asked, that’s different. 20 some years ago, I was a PA, and someone told the director I knew how to edit music. (It was an exercise video shoot). I was approached and asked if I would edit some on the PT system they had. That’s the only way that happens, If I had gone up to the director or producer, and said you have problems with your music, it would not have happened. So, #4…. not so much.

  71. On the other side of the equation, don’t act foolishly over-eager. Maintain your self respect. If you cannot respect yourself while performing the tasks and duties that are expected of you, then politely exit the scenario and look for a better team with a better attitude. Also, be aware that the Director may be as nervous as you are and under equal financial pressure…thought the decimal points might be several places further to the left. Make it fun! Have fun! And the crew will respond (except for the inevitable grumpy old dude or duddette who has to assert their superiority), and before long you’ll be a welcome and trusted member of the group.

  72. 就算是奴隸養成,也是要自願的才行吧…..不然就隨便買個單眼拿著,自稱是導演也可以啊!何況…..這是態度!

  73. Thanks Phil, all very true. I’ve directed a lot of educational media content and what I believe is the most important-is # 7. Don’t stand around waiting for someone to give you orders. See who needs help, where and when. Think of it as working on the Titanic for an extended period of time-and ‘Time” is the essence! Lol If you do all this and try to be the cool one with the great sense of humor-you will be remembered. Happy Easter!

  74. Remember, if someone ends up freaking out or yelling at you, even if it’s not your fault, it’s the heat of the moment, best response is take it. Perhaps, sorry won’t happen again, is the right thing to say. DONT make excuses.

    1. Just to clarify, you don’t have to take the fall for whatever it is, you can explain thoroughly what happened etc later, to your head. It’s just not wise to try and do so in the heat of the moment, top priority is to calm the situation and move on.

  75. Be humble, humility is an undervalued trait, so rare in the young these days , too often replaced with ‘entitlement’

  76. But, in general, I totally agree…. if you’re there, you’re there to work, and that means paying attention to what’s going on and starting to figure out how to anticipate needs and not having to be told. That’s not because you’re being subserviant…. but because you genuinely understand what the task entails (ie. making a film) and you’re part of the team achieving that task. I’ve have people on set who can’t even be bothered to keep track of their own equipment, let alone help anyone else. Or they’ll sit there watching while the DP carries something or moves something.

  77. Phil I appreciate what you’re saying, but I’ve been working in the industry a long time and it never ceases to amaze me how badly our industry treats newcomers. They’re often paid peanuts (if at all), given no direction and on occasions I’ve seen them turn up on the first day of filming and end up missing the key crew/safety briefings because they’ve been sent on some misguided errand to get tea for somebody who should have made it in earlier.

    Is it any wonder they might be left feeling overwhelmed and clueless?

    For every runner I’ve met who falls into the category of incompetent and bone idle you describe, I’ve worked with two dozen more who are highly motivated, incredibly focused and willing to make sacrifices to make progress in their career – unfortunately I see many of them get treated like the trash in that trash can you were talking about.

    If we want runners to be effective, useful members of our crew then we as an industry should start to reflect on how runners are treated: have they been present for the safety briefing? have they been introduced to or told who’s who in the crew? have they been given a call sheet so they know what’s happening? have they been told who to speak to if they run into a problem?

    I tend to find that when problems arise it’s more often than not because of the lax approach taken to hiring & briefing runners; thats not evidence of a bad runner, that’s evidence of poor production management.

    1. Thank you for saying that. after 20 years on the job I will never forget my first day…I almost didn’t come back…But was to motivated not to. We must learn to respect everyone on set, not just the hot shots. That being said, we know what it’s like, and this also is a way to help you gauge yourself and see if you are fit for this business, as not everybody is.

  78. I would add a rule to know when to ask a question. If you’re interested in camera, wait until it’s quiet and they seem relaxed, then ask “do you mind if I ask a question/ask you about something?”.

    It can be anything from “what camera is that?” to “I noticed you’re using several layers of diff in front of the 2.5K HMI, what effect does that produce?”, just don’t pester crew with shop/tech questions when they’re busy, stressed, having a badly needed dinner break etc.

    Give them the opportunity to say “actually mate I’m a bit busy just now, ask us again in a bit?”. Works wonders and you get to learn so much if you’re respectful.

  79. What other trade makes you work for free. Treats new people like slaves and if they make one mistake ditches them. Just because a lot of people (including myself) went through this we should not pass it on (even though it feels good to payback). Sure there are some dummies around but most new people need real mentoring over brutal work ethic training. Especially after film school sold them the dream for 50k

  80. Actually, this is fabulous advice for a first day in ANY career. (And every day, if we’re honest)

    – Carry more than your fair share
    – Show up early & leave last
    – Expect the unexpected
    – Solve problems & make stuff happen
    – Be prepared to learn
    – Remember it’s not about you, so stay humble

    Great stuff, as always!

  81. Spot on advice for sure. If I could add two suggestions they would be; Stop talking/whispering immediately after hearing the word “Rolling”. Don’t think the sound man can’t hear you, because he can, and; Don’t speak to talent unless they speak to you, they are always thinking about the scene and you will disrupt their thoughts.

  82. i left the biz prior to cell phones being a ‘thing’…. Well… we’d rent some though… those huge brick kind. They didn’t take selfies.

    1. Excellent advice! In Australia, our trade unions would call you an abusive capitalist pig for offering this sort of reality to an aspirational worker, who after all are in it to create something GOOD and get ahead at the same time.

    2. Nice article that will ensure success. In Australia, our trade unions would call you an abusive capitalist pig for offering this sort of reality to an aspirational worker, who after all are in it to create something GOOD and get ahead at the same time.

  83. That’s a list that would be good advice in any industry or profession. Except the craft service table part. We don’t have craft service where I work.

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