I hit the big time last weekend folks. I served as a P.A. on a big-time commercial, by a big-time agency, for a big-time company, promoting a big-time product. And I wasn’t alone. I would say at least 60% of the people working were Columbia College Chicago graduate and undergraduate students.
If you saw what I saw, you would be flabbergasted. Unfortunately, I signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can’t mention the big-time company, big-time product, or show any big-time pictures. Don’t fret, I have included artist renditions of tasks I performed that will not identify the project in any way whatsoever.
There is something both depressing and inspiring about getting up at 3:30 in the morning and hitting the Chicago streets in pitch black when birds haven’t even started chirping. I showed up for a 5:00 AM call time to take care of paper work, grab breakfast, and then get my assignment.
P.A. stands for Production Assistant. The role of the production assistant is to provide “on-set” assistance whenever and wherever needed. They have the opportunity to participate in various departments involved in set production. Each department is home to individual P.A.s, who help assist in their duties for the day.
My job was mainly crowd control (at least what I can talk about). It’s not so bad if you are in the middle of the block. Usually the people at the corner have already stopped traffic. However, if you get the corner spot, good luck. You are the first person people deal with early in the morning before they’ve gotten their coffee. Most of them don’t want to hear they cannot walk down the block because of a film. They want to get to work, get to their restaurant, or see how far they can push you before making you upset.
Nothing about the P.A. job is glamorous. It is mostly “hurry up and wait.” You stand all day, jump when you are told, and work more hours than you clock. But you do this because, in the film and television industry, this is where you learn proper set etiquette and professionalism. I can’t wait until the next shoot.
They want to get to work, get to their restaurant, or see how far they can push you before making you upset.