Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dress Codes & Deal Breakers

One of the things that has struck me about the film industry is the casual atmosphere when it comes to dress. From a flamboyant costumer wearing a camo muscle shirt and a feathered boa to a make up artist wearing a chunky sweater and lycra leggings like an 80's workout video to a teamster in skinny jeans and a hoodie, anything goes. Then there are those who live by the "dress for the job you want, not the job you have" code - I know a fellow PA who wears suits, I swear every time I see him I think he's a visiting studio head or something. But for most people clothing just needs to be two things: comfortable and practical. Hence the abundance of t-shirt and cargo short combos on set.

So when I had a PA gig come my way not too long ago, I was surprised to see there was a dress code. As the date drew closer and I got more info I found out it was not film or TV, but a live event. We would still be called Production Assistants, but it was an event production, not a film or TV production. So we were really just glorified event staff. Not that I'm complaining. The pay was decent and the duties and protocols were pretty much the same. Unloading production vehicles, setting up equipment, striking the set. We had golf carts, walkies, and gaff tape. The only difference was there were no cameras. And a dress code. Khakis and polos. It was cool, besides obeying the dress code, we (including the coordinators) pretty much broke every rule in the event company's handbook. I am pleased to say I was able to make some good contacts, as many of the local PA's on this primarily worked in Film/TV.

I've been following some industry blogs lately, and I am endlessly entertained by the tales of the goings-on behind the scenes on big, legit, Hollywood productions. I imagine myself as part of a crew on a studio picture, and think it sounds like the greatest thing ever. There is a sense of foreboding naturally, as the writers of these industry blogs have been doing their jobs for years, even decades, and seem awfully jaded. Like they've done two tours in 'Nam and seen some SERIOUS SHIT, MAN. So the question is when will I end up like that? Hell, if I do end up like that, it basically means I've succeeded right? I honestly had some doubts about going to college, but I accepted that it was something I needed to power through in order to grow as a person. That's how I'm viewing the blood, sweat, and tears I'll be in for down the road in this industry.
I accept that as part of the journey I am in for if I pursue below-the-line crew work as a career.

Anyways, bringing it back now, y'all - I was struck that even with this minor, relatively stress-free 2-day PA gig, I began to see the patterns emerging that cause problems down the line on bigger sets. In other words, this little gig seemed to be a microcosm of those bigger productions. Even on this tiny little event gig, shit still happened - people from other departments fucking with your shit without telling you, or you're running around the set trying to track down a roll of gaff tape that "walked." On this, the consequences were relatively insignificant, but it's the same kind of stuff
that the old guard over at Dollygrippery and Hollywood Juicer often talk about that lead to major problems and people lashing out at each other.

But this is all way in the future for me. Not too far, hopefully, but what I'm saying is I still have a lot to learn as a PA before I can even think about pursuing a career in the Art Department or G&E (still torn regarding exactly where I want to go). This was quite evident yesterday morning when a director for a commercial emailed me back about an 8 day gig. He wanted me to drive a 15 passenger van. Now, I don't even own my own car (a mistake I hope to rectify soon), and while I do know how to drive, I've never driven anything larger than a Corolla. I wasn't about to put myself and others at risk by pretending I knew how to operate a piece of machinery I was uncomfortable with. I told the director as much, and he thanked me for my honesty and told me if a spot opened up for just an extra pair of hands (no driving necessary) he'd keep me in mind. But for this job, like so many others before, not being a confident driver (or having my own vehicle) was a deal breaker. So I guess it would behoove myself to not only get my own car, but get used to driving a 15 passenger van and other large vehicles. While I'm at it, I might tackle a cube truck and a stakebed, ha. Even PAs have to have skills, and I still have room for improvement.

In the mean time, the director asked if I could recommend more confident drivers/PAs. I recommended a handful of people, including 2 I had just met at that event gig. If you can't take a gig for yourself, the next best thing is to pass it off to someone you know. If you scratch their back, they might scratch yours...