Your local film industry can be pretty difficult to discover and infiltrate if you don’t have the right connections.
Despite how difficult it can be to find a job, it can be very easy to lose it. Film jobs are typically in very high demand, and, especially if you are a Day-player, they really can stop hiring you whenever they feel like it.
You might not get fired on the spot, but you can find yourself being phased out from your job if you aren’t up to snuff. By committing any of the 19 sins on this list, you might find that all of a sudden you’re not receiving call sheets anymore.
So without further ado, here are 19 ways to lose your first production assistant job.
- 1 1. Being late
- 2 2. Having a bad attitude / Complaining
- 3 3. Using your cell phone
- 4 4. Breaking your NDA
- 5 5. Falling asleep on the job
- 6 6. Pissing off an actor.
- 7 7. Sitting down
- 8 8. Being inattentive
- 9 9. Breaking your lockup
- 10 10. Not answering your walkie
- 11 11. Making excuses
- 12 12. Screwing up paperwork
- 13 13. Lying
- 14 14. Talking too much
- 15 15. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
- 16 16. Lack of experience / Slow learner
- 17 17. Being slow
- 18 18. Talking too much on channel one
- 19 19. Being too bossy
- 20 That’s it!
1. Being late
In an industry where departments will have intense arguments with production just to get 15 extra minutes of pre-call, being on time is very important. Aside from emergencies, there really is no valid excuse for being late.
As a rule of thumb, you should always show up 10-15 minutes before your call time, and possibly longer if you intend on enjoying your breakfast.
2. Having a bad attitude / Complaining
Not only will this get you fired, but when you’re let go for this reason, you’ll lose the very important connections you’re working so hard to build.
Production assistants are a dime a dozen, so if you don’t want to be there, it’s going to be very easy for them to replace you with someone who does.
It’s important that you always walk around set with a smile and good spirits – not just when your supervisors are looking. Never ever complain about anything.
That’s just good life advice in general.
3. Using your cell phone
While on lower profile movies you might have a little more freedom, this is one of the fastest ways you can get canned on a larger set.
Not only are you showing everyone you aren’t really paying attention, the non disclosure agreements on bigger films are taken VERY seriously.
Keep your phone off and in your pocket if you want to keep your job and avoid getting executed by Walt Disney himself for leaking the ending of Avengers 4.
4. Breaking your NDA
This is kind of related to #3.
Ever wonder how Game Of Thrones or The Avengers manages to keep their plots a secret up until release? By having iron-clad, heavily enforced NDA’s. If you get caught telling anybody secrets about the show on social media or in person, you’ll be quickly removed from the set.
This is a very serious offense that can threaten the jobs of not only production assistants, but of any film crew members. Depending on the severity of the leak, you may even find yourself in legal trouble if your leaks are serious enough.
5. Falling asleep on the job
We weren’t going to include this, because it should be really obvious, but the nature of the work makes this warrant some discussion.
Film gigs typically have you working 12-16 hours a day, 5-7 days a week. The lack of sleep can take a serious toll on your health, and film industry workers falling asleep at the wheel is a very real, serious issue.
This doesn’t mean falling asleep on the job, or in the car, is excusable. You are responsible for getting enough hours of sleep every night to do your job well, and safely. If you’re really struggling, you’ll need to go take a nap in your car during your lunch break.
It sucks, but it’s all you’ll be able to do until you can climb the ranks and have union-required turnaround hours.
6. Pissing off an actor.
Actors truly are the royalty of the set. They have more power than almost anyone in a lot of ways. You’re going to want to try your best to stay on their good side.
Most actors are very kind, humble people, but actors, especially bigger ones, can have the power to have almost any crew member removed.
I once watched a very famous female comedian have a PA fired because she didn’t like that he was talking to her personal assistant.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid pissing off first team.
- Invite them to set rather than telling them they need to go to set.
- Never give them any sort of bad attitude or second guess them.
- Always attend to their needs as quickly as possible.
7. Sitting down
This one is huge. We wrote a whole article on whether or not it’s okay to sit down as a production assistant. The verdict was, it’s definitely grounds for termination, but if you want longevity as a PA, you’ll need to learn the appropriate times to give your feet a little rest.
However, if you don’t understand that there are very few times where sitting is acceptable, you can end up in some big trouble.
Some sets will turn a blind eye and make a mental note, others will fire you on the spot. Do understand however, that in any case, it is heavily frowned upon and will definitely hurt your impression on others.
You’re supposed to be paying your dues! don’t be lazy!
8. Being inattentive
If being successful in the film industry requires one thing, it’s being present to the moment.
Typically, one of your many responsibilities as a production assistant will be to keep eyes on the important cast and crew members. Nobody wants to be scrambling to find people when it’s time to shoot.
This isn’t something you’ll be reminded to do. You’ll need to be alert and noticing things on your own to avoid making this mistake.
That’s just one of a hundred examples of why being attentive as a PA is important. Good PA’s are aware of a million different things – how the shoot is going, what’s next, how many takes have been shot, etc.
If people are starting to notice that you’re just showing up to put in your hours, and are not immersing yourself in your work, you’ll be a prime candidate for replacement.
9. Breaking your lockup
Holding your lockups is basically 90% of your job as a production assistant. Sure, not everybody is going to be able to keep everybody out, or quiet, at all times, but you’ve gotta be trying your hardest. If you’re known for consistently goofing off or leaving your lockup, you will not last very long.
Also, if you happen to break your lockup at an absolutely critical moment, you can count on being blacklisted. Some special effects shots can cost millions, and certain stunts can put lives at risk, so when they tell you to do a hard lockup, you better stand your ground and pay attention.
10. Not answering your walkie
This one is definitely up there in terms of how common it is. Answering your walkie is pretty much the most basic requirement for being a PA to begin with.
Not everybody can answer their walkie 100% of the time. Perhaps you’re frantically trying to put out a fire or keep someone quiet. Maybe you’ve already been called to channel two by someone else. AD’s will understand this.
However, if you’re too distracted to answer your walkie often enough for the AD’s to notice a pattern, you likely won’t be working for much longer. What’s the point of them even hiring you if they can’t get your help when they need you?
11. Making excuses
You’re bound to screw up at one point or another. People understand that and will be able to forgive you for your mistakes. What they won’t be okay with however, is if you refuse to own up to your mistakes.
If you show up late for work, break your lockup, or otherwise make a big error, don’t make an excuse. Immediately apologize and say that it is your fault. 9 times out of 10, you will just end up with a slap on the wrist.
Sometimes it’s not your fault, and there is totally a legitimate excuse. But that doesn’t matter. Regardless of the circumstances, taking responsibility always looks good, and making excuses always looks bad.
If you take responsibility and still get fired, understand that you will have more opportunities in the future, and that having integrity will greatly benefit your reputation in the long run.
12. Screwing up paperwork
Some production assistant roles will have you dealing with a lot of paperwork. These forms for cast and crew members must be filled out very carefully, as a few key mistakes can cost a production thousands.
Luckily, as long as you’re not careless, you likely won’t be trusted with important paperwork until your superiors believe you are capable of handling it.
In general, if there’s anything with paperwork you are not 100% sure about, ask a supervisor.
Lying about anything, be it your experience, whether or not you made a mistake, or anything else, is a very easy way to get fired.
Do we seriously need to tell you not to lie? That’s like basic human decency.
14. Talking too much
The film industry is a very social job. You’ll want to do plenty of talking to grow your connections and form bonds with others.
However, it is very important to understand there is a time and place to do this talking. If you are talking too much during critical moments, or are disturbing the wrong people, your supervisors will take notice quickly.
I’ve yet to see someone fired on the spot for talking too much, but I’ve definitely watched AD’s take PA’s off their call list for being too talkative.
15. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
While most of the things on this list are easily avoidable with some effort and knowledge, sometimes, your luck is just going to be terrible.
Maybe they turn the camera around without announcing it and you’re suddenly standing in the middle of the shot.
Perhaps a crew member will find it easier to blame a mishap on you than to accept responsibility for it. Who knows.
Bottom line is, sometimes things will be out of your control, and you shouldn’t be upset if you lose your job over something that isn’t your fault. There will always be another.
16. Lack of experience / Slow learner
Unless you lied about your qualifications to get a job you didn’t deserve, it’s unlikely you’ll be fired on the spot for this one.
Most production teams will be understanding if you are new to the work and aren’t familiar with all of the protocols and terminology.
However, the lack of experience can lead to you making a critical mistake that gets you immediately fired. For example, touching camera equipment, or not standing your ground in an important lockup.
In addition to this, even with the most patient AD’s, if you’re a few weeks into a show and aren’t really grasping your role, they will probably start looking for more competent substitutes.
17. Being slow
This one isn’t going to get you fired on the spot, but if you’re a day player on a show and are moving around at a crawl when they call for you, you’re not going to be getting a lot of callbacks.
Conversely, if you’re a full-timer who is becoming lazy and finishing their tasks slower, you are opening a door for an eager up-and-coming PA to take your full time position. Hustle hard while you’re a PA and you won’t have to do it for very long!
18. Talking too much on channel one
Learning walkie etiquette is a crucial part of the job. Communication could not be more important, and jamming up the communication when not necessary is unacceptable.
Jobs can vary greatly in this department, but if you’re working on a big blockbuster, it’s pretty fair to assume you should never say more than 2 or 3 words on channel 1.
Call people to the alternative channel instead and leave it open for the AD’s and Key set PA.
19. Being too bossy
When working alongside other PA’s, sometimes the set can benefit a lot from having certain PA’s be assertive and confident. Not every group has a natural born leader, and sometimes an individual will have to rise to the occasion to get the job done.
However, there are many egocentric PA’s who take advantage of this opportunity to go on a power trip and boss other people around. While at first the AD’s may be impressed with your initiative, once people start complaining, it’s inevitable that you will be reprimanded and possibly fired.
The ability to help with the delegation of tasks is great, but don’t forget that film is a team effort.
Did we leave any great ones out? Leave a comment below and we’ll consider adding it!
Photos from VisualHunt.com