A recent article in The Onion highlights the lowly life a film and video production assistant.
“Despite spending several years scouring Serengeti National Park’s rolling plains, arid basins, and remote mountaintops, 24-year-old production assistant Rachel Orr is still trying to obtain release forms from every bird that appeared on camera in the BBC’s Planet Earth.”
Despite being an obviously fake news story, it’s still based in reality. Being a PA is often a stepping stone for struggling young film makers trying to make it in Hollywood and elsewhere. It’s a weird hazing period for rookies in the production business often resulting in long hours, low pay and terrible working conditions. I worked as a PA for a couple years right out of college despite having no previous knowledge of production or how movies, commercials and television shows are shot. I was lucky enough to get a semi long term gig on a television show being shot in Mississippi chronicling the story of a couple high school football teams. After an opposing team came to town to play the team we we’re featuring we realized that no one bothered to get releases from any of the players and I was tasked with tracking down all their parents because they we’re under 18 and trying to convince them to let use footage of their kids. I loaded up my rental car and headed to the next town over with less than stellar directions from the locals I got lost on several occasions in rural Mississippi and even managed to hit a deer and smashed up the rental car before I got there. I headed down to the local library / hospital / Dairy Queen and got what I could. The producer was less than impressed when I showed up 14 hours later with 25% of the names listed. I’m just glad they weren’t birds.
For more stories of a struggling PA check out the long since abandoned Anonymous Production Assistant’s blog