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What I Wished I Had Been Told When I Started as PA and Intern


Ashleigh NicholsLooking back over the many years I have been working in this crazy industry, I reminisce over all the things I wish I had been told as I started my career path, and what I have constantly told people throughout the years as they work for and with me. I thought I might share some of them here. These pointers are aimed towards the fresh to our industry, but I still follow all of these suggestions.

1) Be on time and ready to go.

Traffic in LA can be bad, but do your best to be on time, if not early. When you are late it looks bad on you, and on the person who hired you. This is a job, you should to treat it like one, even if you are donating your time to help a buddy out. Showing up 5 minutes late can throw off the whole day If you are going to be late due to a massive backup on the 101 or something call and let someone know, it is the least you can do. When you do get to set make sure you are ready to work right away. When people see you, whether you are on the clock or not they are going to ask you for help and telling a stressed out producer that you need a few minutes to wake up or get settled is not always a fun thing for you or the stressed out producer.

2) Carry a notebook.

Carry a notebook…yes pen and paper, with you at all times. When I ask someone to do a task that has several steps of instruction it is bothersome when a piece of that is forgotten and it sets the project and me back. Also, you never know when someone is going to give you a lot of info in one time that you have to remember and then as you rush back to your desk you get interrupted with another task…thus making you forget what you should have written down earlier.

3) Listen and make sure you know what is being asked of you.

This one is really important. Basically, listen…really listen and ask questions if you do not fully understand. I promise, asking questions will be better then doing something wrong.

4) Be ready to learn, as it is not your coworker’s job to teach you.

As you are gaining experience and figuring out what you want to do in our world, you need to remember that it is your job to learn, and nobody else should be expected to teach you. You were hired because of a skill set; and if you don’t already have that skill set, learn that skill set.

5) Call in the coffee order before you get to Starbucks! Trust me.

Okay… getting a large coffee order is like an initiation to this crazy world. You will at some point have to get a really large coffee order. It will be a challenge; chances are high that a coffee will be made wrong. Stay calm, and help yourself out by calling the order in before you get to the coffee shop. Do not upset the baristas and try to order 19 coffees 5 teas and 6 hot chocolates, most of which will have special instructions when you get there, thus building up and holding up a line of 12 people…12 people in need of caffeine by the way. Also… do not under any circumstances forget to tell them to write peoples names on the cups. You will not be able to tell the difference between a Grande latte with an extra pump and a Grande decaf latte. Also… check the order before you leave…again just trust me on this one.

6) Closed toe shoes on set.

This one is simple, when you are on set or scouting… do not wear flip-flops. Wear shoes that cover your feet. It would suck if you had some gear dropped on your feet, or your sandal got caught on a cable and you yanked a camera out of someone’s hands with your toes.

7) If you are being asked to do something, there is a reason for it.

Generally…nobody is asking you to do something to just “boss you around.” I have been accused of this and then I had a very rational explanation as to why I needed something done and it made everything very awkward. If you are being asked to run an envelope to set quickly, somebody needs that envelope and they probably need it pretty quickly in order to do their job. We are a team and you are part of that. Do what you are asked and do it well.

8) Know your on-set and Production Office slang.

Do you know what a “hot brick” is? Tell me how many “sides” we need. Which department can you typically get an “Apple Box” from? How many paper cuts have you gotten while “Collating?” Our industry has a lot of lingo… make sure you know it.

9) Learn to make a pot of coffee.

Keurigs are great, but they are not great for the environment and a lot of Producers are trying to be more green and they are getting rid of the Keurigs and going back to the good old coffee pots. I am always amazed (and super annoyed) when people cannot make coffee. I will show you once, but having to make it all the time is not what I want to be doing when I have a team of people working in my office or running my set.

10) Let’s face it you don’t want to PA forever.

Do the best you can do, every day. You took the job you were offered for a reason, whether to help a friend out, or you got offered a gig with a director you highly respect. You want to move up, and you should want to keep working with these people again, so impress them, be at your best, make connections and get your next gig.


Ashleigh Nichols

About Ashleigh Nichols

Ashleigh Nichols resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Eddie, and their Chihuahua mix, Nova. Together they work on their own projects as a wife-husband directing/producing/writing team. Through Owlet Pictures, they created the web series Coffee Shop Squatters, and the award winning short film Summer of the Zombies. Ashleigh is also working on a dramatic feature and creating a new web series, set to shoot later this year. While not working on her own projects, Ashleigh is currently an in house Production Manager at Ampersand Media. Before going in house she Production Managed several shows/Pilots for Comedy Central, HBO Go and Vh1, some of these include: The Jeselnik Offensive, The Burn, The Ben Show, Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! and Parental Discretion S2. Ashleigh is also honored to have Co-Produced the indie film The Historian, currently touring on the festival circuit.