A Hollywood Film Set

by John Waco Jr March. 23, 2018 383 views

A Hollywood Film Set is a money fuelled freight train, charging full steam ahead while the crew perilously runs alongside laying down the tracks, digging tunnels and clearing forests. Nobody has the ability to stop the train safely but everyone has the power to derail it catastrophically. Tempers flare out of control, stress is rampant, and nobody wants to hear those words, "You fucked up!" At any moment the train could claim a victim. You lose focus for one minute and the career consequences can be fatal. Too slow and you are left in the dust. Too soft and the train will run you down. Aggression, focus, probation and professionalism are your keys to success on a big budget film. The Production Assistant is the infamous bottom rung of the entire film industry. PA's bear the brunt of all jokes, anger, and hatred. Often portrayed by media as the glorified coffee runner, hazed at every turn, fired after making a mistake, and worked to the point of death. They are the pledge class of the set. In reality, a production assistant plays a key roll in the efficient and successful running of a film production. Without them, a film set simply could not function. Members of the Hollywood film industry will often remark that film is their religion and stress is their spouse. That isn't much of an exaggeration. For big budget films, Sundays are often the busiest days of the shooting schedule, especially when the production falls behind schedule. While some productions may accommodate religious requirements once you're established, as a no-name rookie, your chances are slim to none. The workload is predictably overwhelming. You may find yourself working seven days a week at 12-18 hours a day, often for weeks on end. Burnout is very high, and is usually compounded by the family problems the job causes. Divorce and breakups are commonplace. Feature films shoot six days a week for an average of 14 hours per day. There are few if not any breaks during the day. For those working in any of the production departments, if you are a greenhorn or have worked less than 300 hours on a union feature film set, then your job will be a production assistant. That is an unavoidable reality and every member of the union crew has had to do it. One way to gain the respect of the crew is to demonstrate that you are willing to go to great lengths, and distances, to work in the film industry. The final week of my extent on the film The Searchers (1956) took place in "Kayenta, Arizona, USA", for crew members that are hired on a day-to-day basis, you are rarely compensated for any costs that may be incurred, such as gas, mileage, food and lodging. As with every movie production, you really don't know what to expect until you arrive on set for your first day. But you should prepare for the worst kind possible. I'm talking about standing in the same spot for eighteen hours straight, without any break, dying under the beating hot sun while getting blasted unmercifully by an unforgiving sandstorm while still trying to radio, do your job and without getting yelled at. The week of May 21-25 was a Dust Bowl. With gusts up to seventy MPH at times, the dust in the air blinded everyone and got everywhere. At times, my vision was reduced to just a few feet in front of me. Sand ripped into my sunburnt skin causing it to bleed in some places. It got into my ears, my eyes, my lungs, and my mouth. It's such a wonderful crunching sound when you rub your teeth together. Filming was shut down a number of times as we waited for the wind to pause just for a few precious seconds. The week of August 1-4 in "Kayenta, Arizona, USA" was a nice change in scenery. As many of the full time crew remarked, it was the first location of the entire show to have shade! Not to mention a comfortable temperature and breath-taking scenery.


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