I’m a Director Not a PA

I'm No Production Assistant

Each video production student should read this article, because it gives them some insider information about how to succeed in the video production industry.

Production Assistant's Coffee MugEpisode 11 Productions has heard students refusing to work as a PA many times and from students graduating from some very prestigious schools. We’ll examine this and other issues surrounding new film students and offer some suggestions for newly graduating students.

We have served as consultants for video/film collegiate programs, helping the staff with the current needs of the industry. Part of our core values are to help where help is needed, which includes students getting the most of their education. It is imperative that students adopt a life-long learning mentality. An old Sage once said: “I don’t care how good you are; someone will ALWAYS come along who is better”. This is a pretty powerful statement.

Before we get started, allow me to give some insight into Episode 11 Productions, and its history. Since 2007, we have produced video content for some pretty reputable companies, such as: MTV, ABC, A&E, CNBC, and countless fortune 100 and 500 corporate companies. This experience has given us a perception that most aren’t fortunate enough to be privy.

Our past experience includes working with large Hollywood crews, which is exciting. It’s very energizing to see a 40-person crew produce a TV show. It’s also very discerning to see the waste that Hollywood is prepared to accept in film production. Through our experience, working within the framework of these groups, we learned some very important lessons. Allow me to share with you, what we’ve learned.

1) Talent is abounding. Hollywood is full of very talented people capable of Directing the next big block-buster feature film, but who are forced to work as a PA.
2) Hollywood doesn’t care about talented people, or their capabilities.
3) Hollywood wants you to help them look good.
4) You don’t mean squat to Hollywood.
5) You don’t mean squat to Hollywood. (It was worth repeating)

Guy with megaphone screaming at production assistant.The video/film production industry is only fit for the very thick-skinned individuals. I don’t care how good you think are, nobody wants to see you, hear from you, smell you, or see your empty Starbucks cup. In this business, you have to earn your respect and it doesn’t come easily.

The chances of a new graduate “making it” in the video/film production industry are very slim. Now, before you get your beanie in a wad, let me explain. Most new graduates believe that “making it” means that they will be revered in their chosen profession, but that's harder than it seems. This is a hard lesson for this generation to learn, but it’s paramount that each student understands that the same criteria of yesteryear is still in effect today-you much earn your place in society.

You must earn your place within the video/film production industry. Unless you have unlimited amounts of money, with which can be used for you to Direct your own film, you will NEED to rely on other people’s money to help you achieve your goal.

You aren’t going to “Direct” your own film, using other people’s money for at least 10 years. Get used to it, Butter Cup. This business is about money, and if you don’t have any, then you don’t matter. This is just the cold-hard truth. So, take this advice!

When production companies enlist help from a local college for help producing a corporate video or short film, do yourself a favor and don’t complain about the job you’re offered. Take the opportunity to learn what you can, because, contrary to your belief…you DON’T KNOW IT ALL. You have so much to learn, so get your head out of the clouds and rely on the information from people who know a bit more than you.

We believe that everyone should follow their dreams. Everyone should always push themselves to be better tomorrow than they were today, however, being a PA isn’t a step away from their dreams…it’s a learning experience. You will learn more on a two-day gig as a PA than two weeks in a classroom.

We aren’t saying to be a slave to some no-name crew member who only wants to abuse the PAs…it happens all the time, but what we are saying to work those jobs where you’re the gofer, and learn what you can. Today’s students need to keep things into perspective. They need to understand that they are a small minnow in a very large pond with lots of very large fish. New students can’t compete with those large fish, until some skills are learned and some respect is earned, and they certainly can't come out of school and land a Director position.

Episode 11 Productions, just like most other production companies, want people who are willing to learn. We want people that we can help. We want people who can learn some aspects of the business that wouldn’t be learned on a Hollywood set, but we don’t want a “know-it-all”, which seems to be the norm from today’s college grads.

Film Schools are trying to give new students honest expectations, but many turn a deaf ear, so take it from an operating production company-No film/video production graduate will ever go into the industry Directing a feature film. Most will be Pas on corporate shoots for a bit. If lucky, some may become a Director of Photography in a corporate shop and honestly, either position is a perfectly acceptable stepping stone for your career.

Our Suggestions for Students:

Take any job that you can get and learn as much as you can. Then go watch the animated film-Robots. Learn the message in that film.

Never give suggestions to anyone on set. I don’t care if you see a grip working on a 10k light, wondering why is doesn’t strike and you notice that it isn’t plugged in…just walk away. Always remember, this is an ego-driven industry. In general, people don’t want to be “shown up” by a subordinate, but in the film industry? You will be gaff-taped to the underside of a port-a-potty.

Be flexible and accommodating, but don’t be doormat. Every new person on set is going to get “tested”. Learn that fine line between being a good sport, and a doormat, but don’t accept continual mistreatment. By standing up for yourself – when required – will help you gain respect from your crew. It’s true, you may piss off one person, but you’ll gain favor with the rest of the crew.

Graphic showing healthy boundaries in video industry.

Learn how to interact with different people. Study psychology and consumer behavior. Learn about personality styles and to interact with each of the different types of personalities. There are several personality style methods, but we prefer the DISC system. Regardless of which style you choose-master it. In addition to learning a personality system, read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

Summary:

Learn from your college instructors; they truly want you to succeed. It takes a special group of people who want to impart knowledge to the next generation, so give them the upmost respect, because they deserve it.

Get out and meet people in the industry. Take a few local video production company owners out for a cup of coffee. Ask them about what they did to get into the business. Hell, just get them to talk. Everybody loves to talk about themselves. Once you read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, you will learn this very valuable tip.

Earn your place in the production industry. I didn’t say, choose; I said “earn”. Work various different positions and master each position before moving on. By working each position, you will begin to find your own method of doing things. After several years in the industry, you will begin to increase your worth in the company and thereby building job security and favor from management.

 

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