Saturday, October 16, 2010

Finally Scored an Actual TV Gig

The gig was for a Food Network show called Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri. The basic premise is Guy (and 3 other guest judges) travel around the country to famous sporting venues and challenges two teams of tailgate barbecue-ers to a battle of a 3 course meal - each team represents rival football teams. For our Oakland shoot, that meant 49ers vs Raiders.

So I finagle a ride from my dad into Oakland at like 5 in the morning, and pop into the lobby of the hotel where I'm supposed to meet the crew. Since this is a travelling documentary crew, the only local hires, I believe, are the location scout, us PAs, and the jib operators. When I get to the hotel, I bump into another PA, who I recognized as a fellow extra from Moneyball. Apparantly I'm not the first person to seek extra work as a viable way to get on a set. We chat for a bit, and then we see guys with large camera cases descending the staircase. Guess this is it. We go out into the parking lot and introduce ourselves. Turns out my specific job for the day is being the producer's personal assistant. The other PA is put on crowd control duty. Soon enough I get my first task - get the producer a cup of coffee. We pile into vans and make our way to the location in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum. Tents have been arranged, there are make up trailers, and large square of astroturf with a raised platform which will serve as the judges' table.
Once there, we arrange some of those metal-interlocking-fence-barricade things to form a parking area for the production vehicles.

It starts off slow. I get my set pass, and write my name on a scrap of gaff tape. I get a walkie-talkie; fucking awesome. But I get a full headset instead of one of those badass earpieces I'd seen PAs on other productions wear. So I looked more like a someone working at a drive thru than a secret service agent. Ah, well. I get to do a walkie check - which just means saying "walkie check." and waiting for someone to respond that they heard you. Usually this should be a simple "Good check" reply, but it's also a part of the day that the crew can have fun with, so they often respond in overly sarcastic or enthusiastic ways - "GRRRRREEEAAAT CHECK!" or "AWESOME CHECK!"

The first few tasks I'm assigned is getting coffee and tea for the producer. I essentially became her shadow for the day, and it took me a while to get used to it because I totally felt like a stalker. I was also armed with a bullhorn to hand to her at a moment's notice. I got the crappiest bullhorn that gave a horrible high-pitched feedback shriek whenever I put it down on a surface. Nearly fucked up a shot with that. So I had to lug it over my shoulder the entire time.

So yeah, 90% of it was just standing around following the producer in case she needed anything. Water, pens, paper. Tips for the future: ALWAYS HAVE A SHITLOAD OF PENS ON YOU. I only brought one, and when the producer asked me for a pen, I whipped it out and felt totally awesome about that. Then five minutes later she asked me for a pen again. And I was about to be like WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO THE ONE I ALREADY GAVE YOU??? but fortunately I remembered my place and raced over to the production tent and got another one lickity split.

All in all, I had a total blast. The crew was extremely nice and casual, and there were several moments where I'm sure I fucked up and any other superior crew member probably would have bitten my head off.

I got to meet Guy Fieri - he pulled up in a giant freaking monster truck and had an entourage of buff bald dudes hanging around. He was like a badass rapper or something. He even talked to me - looked at my name tag, called me Jesse's Girl, and asked me for a sparkling water. (We were out and I had to tell him personally. He didn't seem too pissed. Great sport.)

A PA smacked his head on the edge of a scissor lift and bled badly, I had to go through a giant box of medical supplies and dig out gauze and stuff. That was exciting.

I did get horribly sunburned. Tip for the future: BRING SUNTAN LOTION.

After the filming was over I was passed off to the set designer and helped strike the set. This part was really slow and casual. Since this was a traveling production they had an entire half a tent dedicated to a makeshift packing and shipping department, where supplies and props were all packed into massive 5x5x5 fed ex boxes to be shipped to whatever location they were going to film at next. This took several hours and I hung out with 3 other PAs who were really fun to be around. We all joked around and goofed off.

I ate a ton of pizza and when they were about to throw out all the Subway sandwiches I packed about 12 of them into my backpack (throughout the next week I distributed them to homeless people in Berkeley.)

I ended the day by driving a golf cart and receiving a farewell hug from the locations manager.

Oddly enough I found out I was the lowest paid PA that day...I asked several other folks - all PA's like me, the only thing different was their duties, varying from prop dept. PA to crowd control PA - and they all had different day rates, one dude was $150, another said he was told $175. I was $100. Ah well. No one said being a PA was easy. It is a thankless job I'm told. At least I got that hug. Great experience nonetheless.