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Shaeden Gallegos

What gear should a Set PA have when s/he first steps on set?

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So I am currently going into my senior year at film school, and am trying to work as a PA in LA this summer. I have some money saved up, and am trying to buy some essential gear to have on set. I just don't have enough money right now to buy all the essentials I have been compiling. Do any of you have any suggestions on which are the most important up front? Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks guys.

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I'd start with your own surveillance headset, good clothes, comfortable shoes, a wide brimmed hat, sharpies, pens, pencils, and some paper. Then a really good attitude. It can help to have some simple work gloves (like the mechanic gloves you can get cheaply at home depot) and I recommend bandannas as well if you're out in the desert a lot, or dusty environments. You may consider a little camping stool of some kind (fold up) as you might be put on a lockup somewhere for prolonged periods of time. Also reusable water bottle.

But truth be told, PA really doesn't need "gear" so much as a good attitude, attentiveness, the ability to smile even when getting poop on, and anticipation. If you can start anticipating what needs to be done before you're asked, well in my book, you're golden.

 

Also don't tell anyone about what you're doing unless asked-- i mean outside of the shoot-- you're not a director or anything when you're a PA, ya know?

Personally I always try to talk to the PAs on sets, ask them what they want to do, what they have done, what interests them. And I always try to say thank you. Works out pretty well too as often times, they'll pick up when they know I need a coffee or something similar (and though it's not their job) it'll appear magically, often with a smiley face on it.

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I'd start with your own surveillance headset, good clothes, comfortable shoes, a wide brimmed hat, sharpies, pens, pencils, and some paper. Then a really good attitude. It can help to have some simple work gloves (like the mechanic gloves you can get cheaply at home depot) and I recommend bandannas as well if you're out in the desert a lot, or dusty environments. You may consider a little camping stool of some kind (fold up) as you might be put on a lockup somewhere for prolonged periods of time. Also reusable water bottle.

But truth be told, PA really doesn't need "gear" so much as a good attitude, attentiveness, the ability to smile even when getting poop on, and anticipation. If you can start anticipating what needs to be done before you're asked, well in my book, you're golden.

 

Also don't tell anyone about what you're doing unless asked-- i mean outside of the shoot-- you're not a director or anything when you're a PA, ya know?

Personally I always try to talk to the PAs on sets, ask them what they want to do, what they have done, what interests them. And I always try to say thank you. Works out pretty well too as often times, they'll pick up when they know I need a coffee or something similar (and though it's not their job) it'll appear magically, often with a smiley face on it.

Thank you so much for your input. I will definitely follow your advice and continue to get better. I think I have the attitude part down, because I feel lucky to be getting a chance at doing something I am passionate about. Hope you have a great day.

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I read this earlier today, before Adrian answered, and my first thought was this; the "good attitude" is there or he wouldn't be asking this question.

 

Good attitude with a good work ethic will get you very far. So much of production is problem solving. If you are often the first to try to solve the problem, or even better, happen to be a good problem solver, as well as the first to try, you'll do well.

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I read this earlier today, before Adrian answered, and my first thought was this; the "good attitude" is there or he wouldn't be asking this question.

 

Good attitude with a good work ethic will get you very far. So much of production is problem solving. If you are often the first to try to solve the problem, or even better, happen to be a good problem solver, as well as the first to try, you'll do well.

I really appreciate that Justin. Thanks for the great advice. I just want to be prepared, and as a film student, not look like a "noob" (for lack of a better term). I don't think I am though, because I have been studying a lot and preparing to look as professional as I can. Thanks for your time.

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What Adrian said.

 

First thing: good pair gloves. See many new PA's will show up with no gloves, 'cause they don't need 'em. They're real men! By the afternoon their hands hurt or are scratched up, they want to borrow gloves or are hunting for a dollar store to buy some cheap ones. Doesn't have to be expensive Setware brand, just a good pair of flexible, well fitting cowhide or calfskin gloves. Pigskin gets stiff from rain and sweat, goatskin is okay, I find that doeskin are the best.

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What Adrian said.

 

First thing: good pair gloves. See many new PA's will show up with no gloves, 'cause they don't need 'em. They're real men! By the afternoon their hands hurt or are scratched up, they want to borrow gloves or are hunting for a dollar store to buy some cheap ones. Doesn't have to be expensive Setware brand, just a good pair of flexible, well fitting cowhide or calfskin gloves. Pigskin gets stiff from rain and sweat, goatskin is okay, I find that doeskin are the best.

Thank you JD. This really helps me prepare! I really do appreciate your help.

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Don't be seen in the company of, or admit to owning a (reliable) car. Some shoots will run you ragged, you'll always be the gofer and learn little, except that you can't fit 8' sections of dolly track in a sedan trunk.

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This and a functional smart phone with a good battery.

Sorry for the late response, I have been studying for my finals. I appreciate your help, this is great advice. Thank you!

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Don't be seen in the company of, or admit to owning a (reliable) car. Some shoots will run you ragged, you'll always be the gofer and learn little, except that you can't fit 8' sections of dolly track in a sedan trunk.

Thanks for the precaution! I will keep this in mind for the future. I really appreciate your input!

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I wish I'd joined this forum before I did my first PA gig on a big production (for Kia). It was quite a learning experience.

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I wish I'd joined this forum before I did my first PA gig on a big production (for Kia). It was quite a learning experience.

Yea...it is awesome that I am getting feedback. Thanks.

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The discussions here have been very informative, something I realized early on once I discovered it. It's just that I found it after that PA gig. :)

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It only slightly sucks. Some of the other experienced PAs took a few minutes out to tell me the protocols and all before production began, so it wasn't like I was being thrown to the sharks. :)

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It only slightly sucks. Some of the other experienced PAs took a few minutes out to tell me the protocols and all before production began, so it wasn't like I was being thrown to the sharks. :)

Awesome man!! That is a cool thing. I am just happy people are willing to help and provide assistance.

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Depending on what kind of shoots you're doing, knowing how to
wrap cable is essential.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-74OEVUOKOw

 

Also having a good knife or multi-tool might be handy.
Also having a basic health kit for yourself (asprine, vitamins, pepto, etc) might help you get through long days.

 

If possible ask the production director what gear will be used in the production (cameras, tripods, audio, etc). Most of the time the
manuals are available online. Sometimes basic gear can be more complicated as it seems.

 

Always use every shoot as a learning experience and ask as many questions
as you can, but pay it forward and help the new kid when they come along.

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Depending on what kind of shoots you're doing, knowing how to

wrap cable is essential.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-74OEVUOKOw

 

Also having a good knife or multi-tool might be handy.

Also having a basic health kit for yourself (asprine, vitamins, pepto, etc) might help you get through long days.

 

If possible ask the production director what gear will be used in the production (cameras, tripods, audio, etc). Most of the time the

manuals are available online. Sometimes basic gear can be more complicated as it seems.

 

Always use every shoot as a learning experience and ask as many questions

as you can, but pay it forward and help the new kid when they come along.

Thank you Robert. This was very informative. I appreciate it!

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Bring a warm fleece jacket. I know it's LA, but as a PA you'll probably have more than a few 5am call times. Sunscreen and hat.

 

Also, I recognize that this may be a sensitive subject but specifically for women working on set I would make a few suggestions. Dress like you are going to work at a hardware store - jeans, sensible shoes, thick t-shirt or button up. No leggings, short shorts, tank tops. Tie your hair back and leave it that way. You want everyone to see that you are there to work, full stop. I know it seems obnoxious to be told this (by a man no less), but film crews are still mostly men and there is still a boys club culture on set. To fit in, you do have to become 'one of the boys' to a certain extent. If you are someone who naturally gets hit on a lot, guaranteed it will happen on set within the first few hours. Prepare accordingly.

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Bring a warm fleece jacket. I know it's LA, but as a PA you'll probably have more than a few 5am call times. Sunscreen and hat.

 

Also, I recognize that this may be a sensitive subject but specifically for women working on set I would make a few suggestions. Dress like you are going to work at a hardware store - jeans, sensible shoes, thick t-shirt or button up. No leggings, short shorts, tank tops. Tie your hair back and leave it that way. You want everyone to see that you are there to work, full stop. I know it seems obnoxious to be told this (by a man no less), but film crews are still mostly men and there is still a boys club culture on set. To fit in, you do have to become 'one of the boys' to a certain extent. If you are someone who naturally gets hit on a lot, guaranteed it will happen on set within the first few hours. Prepare accordingly.

Thank you Satsuki! That is great advice for woman, I hope they can see this post. Thanks for your input.

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Depending on what kind of shoots you're doing, knowing how to

wrap cable is essential.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-74OEVUOKOw

 

Also having a good knife or multi-tool might be handy.

Also having a basic health kit for yourself (asprine, vitamins, pepto, etc) might help you get through long days.

 

If possible ask the production director what gear will be used in the production (cameras, tripods, audio, etc). Most of the time the

manuals are available online. Sometimes basic gear can be more complicated as it seems.

 

Always use every shoot as a learning experience and ask as many questions

as you can, but pay it forward and help the new kid when they come along.

 

Audio/video cable or power cable? They wrap differently. Ask someone in that department how they want he cable wrapped before you just dive in. No one wants to have to re-wrap your cable because: it's just wrong: wrong size coils: etc. My preference is that experienced members of the department wrap, PA's carry, load and push carts, until you're a known commodity. Ask, ask, ask! Don't assume what you seen in a 'Tube video is correct.

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Bring a warm fleece jacket. I know it's LA, but as a PA you'll probably have more than a few 5am call times. Sunscreen and hat.

 

Also, I recognize that this may be a sensitive subject but specifically for women working on set I would make a few suggestions. Dress like you are going to work at a hardware store - jeans, sensible shoes, thick t-shirt or button up. No leggings, short shorts, tank tops. Tie your hair back and leave it that way.

 

Think about it, for everyone, 10, 12 or more hours in the same socks and shoes, boots or sneakers. Just my preference, bring a change of both, maybe bring an extra shirt too. Eventually you'll want to get a set of rain gear.

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