One of the most fundamental rules when you’re a Production Assistant is that you are never allowed to sit down. Some productions are less strict than others, but I have witnessed P.A.s getting fired just because they wanted to rest their feet for a couple minutes.
Regardless of how strict your AD department is, there is no doubt that sitting down reflects poorly on you as an employee. Especially when there are new, hungrier P.A.s who will surpass you if you are deemed to be lazy.
Now that we’ve got out of the way, here’s some quality advice: SIT.
Never sit down. Except for when you do.
Sit down for too long, or at the wrong time, and you’ll quickly be out of a job. However, if you don’t relax yourself a little bit when the opportunity presents itself, you’ll burn yourself out and maybe even quit eventually. Then you’re out of a job anyways.
Some days there will be no opportunities, and doing any amount of sitting is extremely unwise and you need to tough it out. But there will be days where the special effects team is going to take an hour to rig a crazy car flip. Some days you’re fixed in a lockup a mile away in the dark. Maybe it’s a split day and the crew is standing by for the sun to go down.
Don’t just plop down on your ass immediately. Do everything you’re supposed to do as a P.A.. Stack up some waters and distribute them. Flip the walkie batteries between the charging station and brick bucket. Ask your fellow P.A.s if they need assistance with anything.
Once you’re absolutely certain that everything that could be done has been done, SIT. Okay, don’t just sit down in the middle of the set. Make sure your walkie is working, find a spot where you are out of people’s sight, but close enough for them to call you.
Odds are unless its a really slow day, you WILL be called for something within 5-10 minutes. This means you can’t really relax fully. You need to make sure you’re on it when the time comes. Your relaxation must not impact your ability to answer your radio. You need to be ready to spring to your feet instantly, and be there faster than a person who was standing up.
What about using my cell phone?
First of all, let’s establish that on some sets, you shouldn’t so much as think about touching your cell phone. Big blockbusters can have very strict NDAs, meaning there can be corporate policies that prohibit the use of cell phones entirely. If you know you’re working on one of those movies, leave your phone in your car. Seriously.
I wasn’t always the best P.A., and i’d hope that if you read this and put it into action you’d be a better one than I was. There was something I came up with and lived by that helped me chill out a lot more on the job without being viewed as totally lazy.
Ocassionally you may sit down, and ocassionally you may use your cell phone. Never do both at the same time.
Okay I broke this rule sometimes too. But it was never worth it. Remember, some sets have extremely strict policies on cell phones. However, especially if you are a full time PA, theres a good chance you wouldn’t be able to do your job without using your cell phone.
I’m not trying to encourage you to be lazy and to use your phone during the time you have committed to work. What I’m saying is that if you don’t sit down a single time or send a single text for 14 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, for 4 months, you’re going to drive yourself insane. You may be the best P.A. in your town, but odds are, nobodys gonna notice the difference between you and the guy who knows the best time to discretely get off his feet now and then.
The moral of the story can be applied outside of film. Hustle hard. Every single day. Catch yourself if your focus is slipping. But if you never rest, you’re going to crash and burn, and lose more working time than you would. I once worked with someone who absolutely refused to take any sort of break. She’d relentlessly tease anyone who looked the slightest bit relaxed, and ran around nonstop, even during downtime. On one particularly stressful day, she broke down with heart palpitations. She had to spend 3-4 hours resting after seeing the medic. Now instead of taking 4 5 minute breaks over the course of a day and wasting 20 minutes of working time, she wasted 200.
Listen to your body, work hard when you have to, and rest when you can. It’s what is best for everyone, and smart AD’s will agree with me.