Friday, June 30, 2006

Production Diary: Day 9

This is the day I was two hours late.

For the first week, week and a half of this shoot, our parking situation was in a terrible state. The night the day I was two hours late there was this whole issue with parking the trucks on this dock and I ended up getting back home after 11:00 because I was making sure some other drivers were squared away. The next day, we were shooting in the park, and I was looking at maybe four or five hours of sleep.

Waking up is usually okay for me if before I go to sleep I say to myself "okay, I have to get up at this-and-this time, I'll be asleep for this-and-this many hours." I get in trouble if 1) I am too tired to do the math that lets me know when I need to wake up or 2) I feel I could never reasonably be expected to actually wake up at that time.

That night I set the alarm on my phone, but I didn't put it out of reach, and some time after the alarm rang but before I woke up I managed to turn the alarm off and return to sleep. I woke up well rested and on top of my phone, which was ringing. It was a call from our very level-headed, very long-suffering 2nd AD, who was wondering where the hell I was.

My cousin the revolutionary says there are two first rules of film: 1) eat when food is presented to you; and 1) know your lines and be on time. I've worked as a producer (although I'm not what you might call "qualified" to do so.) I know the importance of rule 1). I knew that this was the first time I really had a decent chance at being fired.

I worked my ass off that day. I'd worked my ass off every day of the shoot before then, but that day all eyes were on me because even though we were short staffed and even though there were a lot of people who hadn't been working as hard as me, it was still a very real possibility that I was going home that night for good. At one point I took a broom and swept six blocks of 5th Avenue. That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

I think a lot of people spoke up for me. I don't know for sure. At the end of the day the Line Producer took me aside and said "Do this every day and you can keep working on this film. Fair?" Yup.

Looking back, this was the turning point in the film for me. This day was the day I let a lot of bullshit go and just worked my ass off to stay on that film.

Whatever I was before, from Day 9 on I was a professional PA. It took about three days before I knew everyone knew I was a pro. I did my job, I did my best not to do other peoples' jobs, I didn't complain, I probably talked too much on the walky and always will, but I was good at my job and nothing made me happier than never getting too worried about being fired ever again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Production Diary: Day 7

Jesus Christ, was this a bad week.

Looking back, I think my biggest mistake was giving up my day off. We only get one a week, and I volunteered to spend mine taking equipment back to Jersey in a poorly-planned run we didn't even really need to take a truck for. I'm sure this is what led to the three horrendous low points that defined this week.

E.B. White said wars never happen for just one reason, but for a whole mess of reasons. And my driving instructor at the JCC said car accidents never have just one cause, but result from a series of mistakes any one of which, if prevented, could have prevented the accident. Managing to get my car towed was like that.

I am charged with driving the lead car for an actor the next morning. The first problem is that the production office has left a message changing his call time from 8:00 to 9:00, but the actor hasn't called back to say he's gotten the message, so I have to show up an hour early in case he's ready to go then.

I pick up the rented car from the production office, I get to the area early, and I park legally a few blocks away for coffee and breakfast. Before 8:00, I pull the car around to Washington Square Park, and it is here that I make my fatal mistake.

I don't park directly in front of the actor's brownstone, I park around the corner because I didn't take the right approach to WSP and I didn't want to pull the car around in case the actor emerges from his building and I'm not there, and because I'm not parked in the right spot, I don't stay in the car. Aspiring PAs: STAY IN THE DAMN CAR. Man, do I wish I'd stayed in that goddamn car.

Now that we're all clear that this whole thing is my fault, we can finally get to the part that isn't my fault. My phone suddenly switches to something called "car kit". I can no longer receive or make phone calls, although I can see the calls coming in, so now I'm scrambling to find quarters and a pay phone and sending text messages to find out what's happening with picking up this actor. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am still finishing my coffee.

Then I see an NYPD tow truck putting a hook on my car.

This is when I panic.

There is a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. I start running towards the truck (throwing out my coffee on the way). Not for the first nor the last time, I contemplate the end of my young career in the film business. What am I going to do? Go back to writing for Bay Currents, Sheepshead's Bay's free semi-bi-weekly paper?

As soon as I reach the car, it becomes clear that I am already far, far too late. I make a pathetic display of trying to persuade the tow truck driver that there is some way for me to escape my horrible fate. If this scene were in a movie, it would be dismissed by critics as pointless, cliched, extraneous to the plot and too sad to be funny.

ME: I thought I was only going to get a ticket!
TOW TRUCK DRIVER: Oh, you got a ticket all right.

Soon the car is gone, leaving me with only the location of the tow pound, the car's registration, and a very few options. Arthur Miller said that a lot of playwrights make the mistake of not explaining why their main characters don't just run away. Personally, whenever I'm considering running away as an option, I always picture myself hopping the PATH train to Hoboken, N.J. Instead, I called the 2nd AD.

If you don't know much about the film business, the job of the 2nd AD is to have her patience tried. That's all she does, all day long. On paper, the 2nd AD is responsible for most of the paperwork that's required on set: actors' release forms, call sheets, stuff like that.

When a film shoots on location, that means the 2nd AD is working out of an office that is near the location, and by "office" I mean whatever the location department can dig up at the last minute. Basements, churches, a table at a Greek restaurant, the back of a pizza place. Our 2nd AD told me about one shoot where she'd worked mostly out of a car.

2ND AD: Richard, how are you?
ME: Bad. The car got towed.
2ND AD: What do you mean the car got towed?

I know we had a good 2nd AD because this phone call was as close as she ever came to losing her cool.

After this, it was "oh, these things happen," and my phone spontaneously started working again, and I got to ride to the set with the actor and it took two days and several hundred dollars of production money to get the damn car back, but I wasn't fired. Still, definitely a low point - and I sure as hell wasn't asked to drive a lead car again.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Production Diary: Day 2

Today was a driving-around day. This morning I had to drive a lead car for the second male lead, who would follow in his own car. I was a little anxious because there were literally four different correct routes from Manhattan to our location in Flatbush, Brooklyn depending on the time of day and whether or not you were driving a truck (I was before, and now I was not.)

Everything went fine except for a little confusion about getting in the correct lane for the Brooklyn bridge, until we get to the tricky part: the turn off from the BQE to Ocean Parkway. It's closed (because it's before 11:00 a.m. - stupid, stupid), I'm in the wrong lane, and now I don't know what to do and I have to take the next exit.

Now I'm starting to get a little panicky because the actor following me keeps checking a map in his passenger's seat and I'm sure he's going to figure out that I'm going the wrong way. I stumble across the route to location for commercial vehicles - which is longer and not terribly convenient, but will get us there. The whole way to location I'm checking the rearview mirror and getting more and more nervous about this actor looking at his map.

Finally we start to get near where we're going. I'm terrified the first thing the actor will say to the line producer when we get out of our cars is "where the hell were you taking us?" and I will be fired from my first-ever feature film job on my second-ever day of production and that'll just be it for my career.

Then I notice that despite the fact that we are now passing signs that say "This way to" and the name of the film, the actor is still looking at the map on the passenger's seat. Not only that, but mere blocks away from the location itself, this actor is not only looking at his map, but also making some sort of strange gestures with his hand. And now he's talking to himself.

Then I realize that he's just been studying his lines this whole way.

After that, the rest of the day went pretty well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Production Diary: Day 1

This was the first day of production and it was a long, hard day. I am part of a somewhat inexpert staff of production assistants, including myself. This is my first feature (full-length) film, but many of these PAs have never been on a film set before.

The line producer threw me an interesting curveball today. He asks me for the keys to the truck, and I say I don't have them. I check my pockets. I do have them. I run to the truck and give the line producer the keys. He's about to ask me to move the truck, but he sees the state I'm in (I can usually tolerate a mistake unless I make it myself), and says nevermind, he'll do it himself. Then he says "you need to calm down," as in, as a general rule. It was a quick and inciteful observation. I mean, huh.

On the back of the wardrobe truck, the director of the wardrobe department asks me if I know what firewatch is. I tell her not only do I know what fire watch is, but I've assigned PAs to do it myself.

"You've done films before?"


"Somehow I got that impression."

Most essential film nomenclature of the day: a charged walky battery is a "hot brick," as in "I need a hot brick [now]."

Most charming film nomenclature of the day: When something is going somewhere, it is "flying in," as in "hot brick flying in."

Least charming thing of the day, or, like, ever: I sweat like a hot pig.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Production Diary: Pre-Production Day 2

My production life is so different from my regular life that there's almost no way to compare them. My waking hours are different, my clothes are different because nothing can destroy clothes like a production, I go to different places, vehicles handle differently, I meet new people and my old friends disappear.

Fantasy of the day: After learning more and more about the limitations of this truck, I started thinking about the London Knowledge and how the guys studying for it studied the layout of the city from their vespas. For a moment I have a clear image of myself, ripping through New York City on a vespa.

Oddly gratifying moment of the day: I am trying to engage my ride along in conversation by telling him how hard it is to turn on to McDonald. He seems a little dissinterested until I say "Have you seen The French Connection?"

Without missing a beat and with what can only be described as unbridled enthusiasm, he says "We're going there?!"

Surreal moment of the day:
I get off the train in Carrol Gardens and think "Wait, is this neighborhood still here?"

Today was also the day I realized that while I was enjoying my sunglasses, I had completely lost my regular glasses. This is what you call a big-small problem. Here is me calling my overworked cousin trying to convince him to get my spare set of glasses from my apartment and bring them to me:

ME (in a frenzy): Cousin, the sun sets in an hour, and I'm starting to get really worried about turning in to a pumpkin with this sunglasses thing.
MY COUSIN THE REVOLUTIONARY: What the hell are you talking about?

Post note: they were stuck behind the seat of the truck.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Production Diary: Pre-Production Day 1

The most exciting thing I did today was to drive a truck of reasonably intimidating size without incident. It turns out this one is a bit larger than the truck I drove a few weeks ago, but I just put on my sunglasses, adjusted my mirrors and talked with my ride-along, and I was fine.

The most surreal thing I did today was to sweep out the back of the truck I'll be driving for the next month and think "There are many like it but this one is mine."

Everything's Happy Underground

I am working on an independent feature production for the next month or so. I'll be driving the wardrobe truck for the production, which means that every fire watch I'll get to try on the lead's dresses. Plus I'm getting paid! It's a win-win.

For the past three days, I've been preparing to go underground. Once the production starts in earnest by the middle of this week, I'll be doing nothing except sleeping, working and eating until things wrap around July 12. That means two things: one, I have to get in all my laundry washing, prescription fufilling, car bomb drinking etc. now, and, two, those who read this blog are going to get very used to reading what I write when I'm half asleep. It's not like you haven't seen it before.

Coming up: production diary!
Also: recycled photos of lego men!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Where I've Been: Sun., June 4-Sat., June 10

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

Where I've browsed in the past week, suckas!

Sunday, June (223)

Monday, June (36)

Tuesday, June (124)

Wednesday, June (81)

Thursday, June (79)

Friday, June (116)

Saturday, June (112)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Link Seminar For My Mom

I target my blog to people I know but don't see very often. As a result a significant part of my "audience" is, right now, at this very moment, reading the first blog they've ever read in their lives.

These people may be missing out on the significance of my links. Mine is a hyper-linked brain, and, as Tony Pierce says, links are what seperate bloggers from apes. I think clicking the links on my blog makes it funnier.

Okay, let's be honest. When I'm talking about my audience, I'm talking about my mom.

Mom, who hates computers in general and hers in particular, never clicks a link because she can never find her way back. Mom: click the back button. It's up there in the top left corner of this window. Go ahead - click that link for "back button," then try it out.

Welcome to the future.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Something Strange About My Friends

I have a lot of friends. I always have. Having friends in New York is different than having friends in school - at school, whatever I was doing (like, say, eating lunch) I was doing with a lot of friends. Here in the city, and this is the strangest thing, there is usually a particular thing I do a with particular friend to the exclusion of all other things, and I don't do that one particular thing with anyone else.

I have a friend I see movies with,
I have a friend I see plays with,
I have a friend I hang around Central Park with,
I have a friend I work with,
I have a friend I listen to (although lately she's gotten better at listening to me, too),
I have a friend I go to new restaurants with,
I have a friend I see in his apartment where we always watch T.V.,
I have a friend I used to work with,
I have a friend I live with,
and I have a friend I always go to the same restaurant with.

Sometimes a friend will break a pattern, and the phenomenon is more constant with some friends than with others, but, still, the consistency is a little creepy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Boris is Back From the Hospital

Boris, my friend the sheep / Russian Spy, just got back from a stay at Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx. Boris had sneaked on to a small cargo plane Phibs (penguin / criminal mastermind) was flying out of Islip, but Phibs figured out Boris was aboard, grabbed a parachute and a few kilos of cocaine he'd hidden on board in a new car, set the plane on a crash course for a LIRR train, and jumped out.

Boris, really more of a ground guy, couldn't gain control of the plane, and just before the crash, he hid inside the car. Of course the airbags protected him, but then the car caught fire and Boris was caught inside a car engulfed in flames inside a crashed plane inside a train. Thankfully, Boris remembered the biggest threat to people in a fire is suffocation due to smoke, so he opened a window.

Then a secondary explosion from the plane knocked the train off the tracks and in to the East River, where unfortunately it hit a water taxi full of tourists, all of whom were instantly killed. Now Boris was inside a flaming car inside a plane inside a train on a sinking ship. Of course Boris remembered that he needed to equalize the pressure between the boat and the river he was sinking in to, so he cracked his other window.

The boat, the train, the plane and the car sunk down in to the East River, where unfortunately a submarine was pulling in for Fleet Week and ran straight in to them. After exchanging insurance information with the captain of the vessel, Boris swam to the surface. He found himself within a few blocks of a subway stop. and as he walked that direction, he fell and sprained his ankle.

The hospital let him out the next day. Now he's fine.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Triangulate Myself With Popular Music

I've mentioned before that I know nothing about music. Instead of constantly listening to new music like Speedrail does, I become fascinated by a very few bands that I never stop listening to. To me, it feels like these bands - They Might Be Giants, Parliament and Sufjan Stevens - grew up in the world that only I'm from. Sufjan is like my mind, Parliament is my heart and TMBG is my soul. Whatever it is that these three groups have in common, that's who I am.

They Might Be Giants
The first album I ever heard (aside from the four albums my mom listened to when I was growing up) was Flood by They Might Be Giants.

Shannon Garrity described TMBG lyrics as "catchy yet enigmatic" (Modern Tales subscription required, or take my word for it). TMBG is very funny, but it's a funny kind of funny.

They sing songs about a wide variety of topics - one personal favorite is the biopic "James K. Polk" - they love an odd little narrative, and always seem to be describing something very precisely, although it's often difficult to say what.

Sometimes I don't listen to TMBG for months at a time because my favorite songs are so much a part of me that I don't have to listen to them. TMBG is my childhood, and it's the child that's still a lot of who I am.

Normally you couldn't say "Parliament" without saying "Parliament/Funkadelic" or "P-Funk," since the two bands are closely intertwined, but the albums I'm talking about; Fukentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome, Mothership Connection and The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein; all say Parliament on the cover, so I'm sticking with that.

Like TMBG, Parliament and especially their leader, George Clinton, seem to have a personal world that they understand completely but no one could ever adequately explain to anyone else. In Parliament's case, this is a mythology involving aliens (afro-nauts) from a universe of funk who hid the secret of the universe below the pyramids and, meh, it goes on from there.

I love funk. I have said before that I think it is the highest form of art, and I'll stand by that. I even went so far as to work for a funk musician's company for a year. Funk and Parliament especially tap in to whatever it is that brings me joy.

Sufjan Stevens
I liked Sufjan Stevens and the Illinoisemakers until I saw him live at Bowery Ballroom here in New York, and then I loved them. That was the greatest concert of my life.

Sufjan's current project is to write an album for each of the 50 states (so far he's done Michigan and my favorite album, Illinois.) He reads a lot of material about each state, finds some stories or places that resonate with him, mushes all that up in his mind, and these songs are the result.

Unless you're a state local, there's no way to know from the songs what exactly the material is about, and, as a result, what you end up feeling by listening to the album is that you understand the medium better than the material; you understand Sufjan himself.

If you read some of Sufjan's lyrics, you can see that this is an eloquent, intelligent guy with a sense of joy about the world. What I realized only once I saw Sufjan play live was how funny all of his music is.

Sufjan isn't ironic, nor is he overly sentimental (although Speedrail pointed out that on Illinoise, Sufjan talks about crying, like, eight times). Sufjan's songs are completely heart-felt, and he's still aware that what he's doing is hilarious. I could compare it to Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, but that's as close as I'm going to get.

[Edit: I just realized I went through an entire post about Sufjan Stevens without mentioning Katrina Kerns. So, yeah. Katrina Kerns.]

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My Cousin the Revolutionary Has a Blog

My Cousin the Revolutionary has a new blog! He claims the only way to get him to update is if I keep linking to it, so, unfortunately, this will be the end of my using my frequent references to him to link to other revolutionaries that I feel he would endorse. However, it does gives me my an opportunity to brag about those links. I've listed the lot below.

My cousin, who is also my roommate, earned his epithet primarily because of his involvement with the NYU Tuition Reform campaign. In the parlance of our apartment, NYU tuition reform and related activities are referred to as "the revolution," as in "I'm having dinner with Ava and then I've got the revolution from 9:00 to around 10:30."

My cousin is also a good bit more left-leaning than I am - I am a Democrat with a robust enthusiasm for capitalism - which would lead to some very interesting discussions around the apartment. These would usually end in my saying "Well, why don't we just organize the proletariat against the bourgeois masses?!"

So that was also a factor.

There's a tongue-in-cheek element here (my cousin would not actually like to fuck tha police), but I'd feel safe saying all the links I've connected to my cousin are things he endorses, at least in sentiment, right down to the orange juice.

Do you like what my cousin's about? No? You're probably right. Go to his blog and brow beat him until he's forced to respond. I know I will.

And cuz? You're welcome.

Fuck tha Police
Wake Up Walmart
My Cousin's Current Blog
ABC News Interns
Mao Zedong
Gil Scott-Heron (Best Known for "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised")
My Cousin's Former Blog, for his digital journalism class at NYU
Permanent Revolution
Washington Square News article on NYU's Tuition Reform Action Committee-Organized Town Hall meeting
Napoleon I of France
Orange Juice is Good for You
Karl Marx
NYU Tuition Reform Campaign official website

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Closest I've Got to a Reel

Got the word from the wonderful director Alec Brownstein that Trevor's in Heaven, a short film had some involvement with, is now online at Google Video here. They've been up for awhile, but you can also see three short commercials I produced here (the first three listed there). Let me know what you think, and feel free to tell your friends. It is never too late or too early for breakfast or a meme.

Where I've Been: Sun., May 27-Sat., June 3

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

The first, median and last sites I visited each day of the past week. I always thought of this as something I did on Saturdays when I didn't want to think too much, but Cousin Barles says this is one of his favorite regular features. Of course, I don't have any other regular features, but I guess I'll keep it around for now.

I just realized this totals over 650 page views this week - other people must have more, but it still seems like a lot. I know I've started reading blogs as regularly as comics, but I don't think that's it exactly.

The way I browse reminds me of when Eric Kraft's character, Peter Leroy, gets a new set of encyclopedias in Where Do You Stop? When Peter comes down for dinner the evening after the encyclopedias are delivered, his Dad asks him what he learned from them that day, expecting a couple of factoids. Instead, Peter talks for the rest of the meal about all the stuff he's read. Each entry in the encyclopedia took him to another entry that took him to another, and before long, he knew more than anyone wanted to hear.

I do the same thing.

Now that I'm calling out lurkers (talking to you, Marmo!), I'll also open the door to questions about what exactly I was doing when I browsed to some of these sites. I promise all my answers will be almost completely true.

Sunday, June (2)

Monday, June (88)

Tuesday, June (77)

Wednesday, June (125)

Thursday, June (138)

Friday, June (174)

Saturday, June (57)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What You’ll Need to be the Driving P.A. on an Indie Shoot in New York City

This weekend I worked as a production assistant on an HD video project directed by Full Stealth (link via Speedrail). This was a fun shoot; F.S. is one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic people I know, possibly the most high-energy person alive, and the director sets the tone for the shoot. We also had an exceptionally enthusiastic and talented cast and crew. For my part, I was a fairly competent production assistant.

Do you, too, want to be a fairly competent P.A.? Here's what you'll need:

A Valid Driver’s License
Both Full Stealth and my friend Victor, the main producer on the shoot, had let their driving licenses lapse (because who needs a driver’s license in New York City, right?) As a result, my major responsibility on this shoot was driving the van.

To be consulted before, rather than after, leaving the last location. In New York, there’s a tricky issue in which avenues run North and which run South. I prefer to figure it out before I get rolling. I like to carry Streetwise Manhattan and Brooklyn.



The Not-For-Tourist Guide to New York City
When I wasn't driving, I was a regular P.A. NFT was invaluable in finding a liquor store on a Sunday when the director and the band had to have some Petron for a shot (I mistakenly got him Citron instead, but he made do.)

Love for your Mirrors
I kept trying to check my blind spot through the rear windows despite the fact that cargo vans do not have rear windows.

A Ride Along
This is a person who's job is to ride in the passenger's seat, be a sounding board on my opinion about the route I'm taking and the actions of the driver in front of me, and help me parallel park. Indispensable, and surprisingly easy to talk to - I could give you a run-down on the careers of at least three ride-alongs from this shoot alone.

Two to Seven Dirty Words
I don't usually curse like anything but the most mild-mannered of sailors, but driving this van in Manhattan I was cursing at a level I usually reserve for Spurs games.

Because of how the New York is laid out, there is almost always someone pulling in to my lane. Saturday night, I dreamed I was in the van, surrounded by a sea of taxi cabs.

Sunday night, I dreamed I was parking.

A MetroCard
Driving made me realize that New York is a walking city. I’d known it before, but looking up the middle of an avenue at the beautiful canyon of buildings had made me suspect otherwise. Now I know that when I'm driving in New York, I can’t look at the scenery because I’m too busy waiting for someone to swerve in to my lane.

Actors’ jobs are harder than I thought. Facing a 6:00 a.m. call, I was considering the merits of picking up a copy of Backstage and heading for a cattle call. Acting seems easier than heavy lifting.

Not necessarily so. Film actors have to do the same thing 16 times in a row. You could argue that this is easy when the task is reliving the death of your dog to produce a simulation of the emotion of sadness, but you can't argue that it's easy when it's rocking out to a song (headbang injuries) or even climbing a flight of stairs in heels. That takes endurance.

A Sense of Responsibility, Not Liability
There is a fine line between asking for the information I need to do the job and being a whiny bitch. Producers are busy; the problem they assign to me is not the only one they have to solve. I can ask them the best way to get something done, but I learned there was about a five-minute limit to each discussion.

The worst thing a P.A. can do is to not act responsibly - show up late or high, crash the van, shit like that. But if you have a P.A. who is complaining that he can't do things when he can and who's not willing to be liable for his assigned problems, then he's just as useless.

Working knowledge of The A-Team
I'm happy to declare that A-Team is now a verb. It means to pull a van over in a place where parking is impossible, put on the hazard lights, have every available crew member load equipment in through all available doors, pick up a ride along (generally the assistant cameraman with the camera on his lap) and speed off in to traffic.

I know I found myself whistling the theme song, and I’m sure I heard Full Stealth doing it, too. Later, we decided that if we were the A-Team he would be Hannibal, Speedrail would be Murdoch and I would be Mr. T.

No Outstanding Warrants For Your Arrest
I had one very specific moment of paranoia on this shoot. I was standing just inside the Astor Place subway station with a walky and a beautiful young actress. My job was to cue the actress to walk up the stairs.

Suddenly, I felt like I recognized everyone coming down the steps of the subway but I couldn't place them. It took me a minute to realize that this was because everyone coming down the steps was trying to figure out who I was. I normally pride myself in blending in to my surroundings, but a walky and a beautiful actress make a man pretty interesting to passers-by.

To be a production assistant is to be a small cog in a medium-sized machine. It had been awhile since I had worked on a shoot that I hadn’t produced myself, and the biggest difference was that I did not always know what was going on.

The job of a P.A. is to solve problems, but because real understanding of what’s happening on a set is limited to the director, the producers and key crew members like the director of photography, it is often impossible to understand whether these problems are important.

At one point, I got back from parking the van and a producer told me that the D.P. had left his bag, which contained all the tape stock, in the van.

Because I am not what you would call a prodigy at parking, the van was two long avenue blocks away, where I had found a safe spot next to the cross walk. I hurried to the van with an image of the entire crew standing around, tapping their feet, awaiting this tape stock.

I found the bag, hurried back, rushed in to the studio, announced (rather loudly) "tape stock," and was immediately sushed by a room full of people who were happily making do with the remainder of the tape that had been left in the camera from the day before. Hi. My friends call me schmuck.

Another time I went on an errand to buy a smoke machine. I was not in any deliberate rush, but I took a cab back with a producer's consent and casually walked in with the smoke machine just before the next shoot was going to start. I was, quite to my surprise, the hero of the hour.

A Book
For fire watch. I'm reading the Fall '04 McSweeney's.

A Dotted Line
To be a fairly competent P.A., you must be willing to do the one thing that you don't want to do. For example, my cousin the revolutionary once put on an NYPD T-shirt and diverted traffic away from a shoot in Chinatown, which, by the way, is illegal.

One woman demanded his badge, then threatened to report him to the real cops. He just powered through it. In the rain.

My least-favorite thing to do on a film is returns. I hope I'm not outing anybody here, but it's a common indy film practice to buy something that we need, usually as set dressing, and return it after a shoot to save money.

I hate interacting with service people at all, and I hate asking for things from them even more, but I was the one driving the van, so of course I was asked to do returns.

I'm not going to talk about doing returns for this shoot, but I will tell you a story that I'm pretty sure has just hit the statute of limitations.

We once bought a bunch of sheets to rig a giant screen on a stage. The next day, I had to return the screen to a large store that will remain nameless.

I stood in line, I told them the sheets didn't look right on my bed, and I gave them back. I was asked about the industrial-level dust and filth that the sheets had collected from the stage. I said "my bedroom is really dirty." They took the sheets back, but you can see why this sort of thing leaves a bad feeling in my mouth.

Have the line you won't cross, but make sure it's a dotted line.

A Life (For Purpose of Flashing Before Your Eyes)
At one point I could have hit a family of three (man, woman, tram) while pulling across traffic in to a gas station. One of the producers was in the passenger's seat, a nice woman with her own company and everything, and she yelled “look out!” It was like a parody of a potential traffic accident. I had plenty of time, I slowed down, and I didn't come anywhere close to hitting anyone, but I won't be asking that woman for a driving job.

A Sense of Scale
Because I haven’t done that many of them, each shoot is still a life-changing experience for me. It's nearly impossible to explain to someone who has not spent the day working on a shoot what that day's shoot was like. If you watch Truffaut's Day for Night and Apocalypse Now at the same time, maybe you can come close.

A Couch
For collapsing after three days of this. I have a working theory that any finite amount of stress is okay if I know how many days of it to expect. I'll get to test it soon: I'm driving a grip truck for an indy feature, six-day weeks for one month, starting in just a few weeks.