How to become a Production Assistant

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Everyone knows the formula: you enter a film set as a young, unrespected servant to the whims of a film set, where you’re able to soak up everything you need to know about working on a set.

So the first step is getting on the film set which has got to be easy right? I mean it’s not like there’s secure sets – anyone can just walk on there right?

But if you want to get paid and not potentially kicked off the set, there’s a whole other set of protocols. First you need to find out what productions are coming to a town near you. This information is usually on a state sponsored page focused on the arts. If you live in one of the ever increasing states that offer films tax incentives they usually have an entire website dedicated to the productions coming into town (and if you’re not why are you even reading this. Get up and find a state that does and put your other foot in the ground there. Seriously you’re not going to get any chances if you don’t have a ton of opportunities coming into your area)

Once you find out what productions are coming near you, take a look at the emails that are next to each listing. Now completely ignore them because that’s what the actual production officies do with those same emails. So you don’t have to waste your time trying to come up with some nice witty paragraph about your “skills” and “experience” so the reader can think you’re halfway competent for their job.

But the film industry cares none for that. Notice how almost anyone can get experience in the film industry by starting off as a P.A. So remember that as you look at these listings. They will literally take anyone who can at least take direction and then manage to carry out those same directions. I was just talking to a location manager about becoming a P.A. and she mentioned how during one production, one of her friends was a P.A. who suddenly had to find 4 other P.A.s for that day. Her methodology in finding these potential candidates? Making a post on Facebook and recruiting anyone who answered. Literally all these people had to do to find work on a set was to do the exact opposite of working.

So what do you do instead? First you have to find out where the production offices are for each film being made. It’s best to focus more on the films that are in pre-production first since these are the ones that will more likely be hiring. Films already in production may need additional people down the line so definitely still check up on them also.

So after you find one office, the good news is usually different production companies rent out offices in the same building. So if just find the location of one office, you’ll most likely find a little cluster of other ones huddled together in the same vicinity.

Before you head to these officies, make sure you have some form of paper with your name and phone number on it since that’s literally all they need. And a flexible schedule. So you get into those offices, find someone who will at least make eye contact with you, and offer your information for them to hold on file.

Next step is to repeat this process at as many offices that you can find until you finally find one that is desperate enough to take you. And kiddo once you are in, you hopefully will get the network connections you need to actually continue in the industry.

So go forth and try these handy little steps! Or if that doesn’t quite work out, you can always try and be an extra instead.

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Eraserhead

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(Note: Most of this post is taken from a essay I wrote in a past course. There have been some edits made)

First off I have to mention that David Lynch is one of my favorite auteurs and I believe this man is a genius, even though I may not really understand his point. Either way I am a big fan of his When examining a film, it typically helps to know what is going on in said movie. However, if you have chosen to watch a David Lynch film, this is an aspiration that you will most likely not reach. Lynch is known for unusual plot lines that don’t always seem to connect to the viewer, and usually causes people to wonder what the hell they just viewed. However, there is a method to his madness (cliche but seriously applies in this case). I will explore the film Eraserhead, one of Lynch’s most famous works, while also trying to figure out what was the meaning of this film. To summarize my idea in one simple line, I believe this movie addressed the terror of (forced) marriage and responsibility.

Before the idea of marriage is introduced to Henry, the concept of what it entails is brought up in the very beginning of the film where we see Henry floating around what looks like another planet. This could introduce the alien concept to his current lifestyle (i.e. marriage). Although the planet seems somewhat more rounded and smooth, a closer examination of the “planet” reveals multiple craters that are deep and look difficult to traverse. Could this mirror the idea of childbirth in this film? Childbirth is typically viewed as a blessing for people who view the act from the outside. However, once the camera zooms into the planet you see the craters and unevenness. Does this present the idea of something thought to be beautiful is actually unappealing up close.

 

Following this vision of the planet, there is the man who seems frozen with skin that resembles bark on a tree. A tree, which is although continues to grow, still remains stationary in this life until it dies and leaves behind a stump. This imagery could be the result of an unwanted pregnancy (which in turn may lead to an unhappy marriage), and being in this confined arrangement drains the life out of the person, leaving them a frozen stationary being.  Then he pulls a lever, which sucks away what looks like an umbilical cord from Henry. The use of the umbilical cord (at least that’s what I assume it is) seems to represent the upcoming pregnancy that Henry will be faced with. Connecting this with the man who reeks of hopelessness, the implication seems very clear of the attitude of this unplanned pregnancy.

Playing off the idea of regretful decisions, the sound effects seem to enhance this idea. For instance when Henry was first meeting Mary’s parents there was an odd rubbery sound in the background. Now this may sound a bit odd, but it almost sounded like a rubber condom being rubbed back and forth. Henry becomes increasingly uncomfortable in this scene, as if being haunted by a past mistake. A broken condom perhaps?  There is also the scene where Mary leaves after the first night at the apartment, and before she leaves she reaches to get her suitcase from underneath the bed. As she is doing this, she repeatedly rocks the bed back and forth, which also denotes sex. Once again, this sound (and action) terrifies Henry, potentially once again reminding him of his mistake.

Going back to the idea of the umbilical cord, I will examine one of the more popular characters to arise from this film.

looking at the scene of the girl with the exaggerated cheeks, she slides back and forth across the stage as other cords fell around her. She was careful not to step on any of them at first, but eventually begins to deliberately step on two of them. When you look at the woman, she seemed to have an exaggerated image of innocence.The grotesquely plump cheeks, the angelic dress, the childish demeanor. This woman could be the embodiment of Henry’s subconscious, a sort of warped form of innocence that he still holds onto. Maybe he feels he is the victim and this situation and internally feels resentment towards this birth. (Side note – relating to the idea of innocence, towards the beginning as Henry is show walking through an empty, desolate wasteland in high water pants, which almost demonstrates immaturity (having pants that don’t fit quite right). Once he enters the  elevator clutching his package, where he looks small and innocent as he clutches the package the same way a child may clutch a teddy bear)

As the movie progresses, there is the increased conflict felt from Henry towards the “baby”. There is the imagined sequence where Henry’s head falls off and he is taken to a  pencil machine operator (according to the credits), the operator examines the head and says that it is ok. Although pencil machine operators do not typically make the best therapist, maybe this helped to sharpen Henry’s view of his surroundings? Then as the operator brushes away the pencil dust, this almost represents the freedom that Henry may now experience as a result of the diagnosis. It almost tells him that he is not the guilty person in this family and what’s really destroying his psychosis is the baby. In the following scene, the image of the baby becomes more sinister and mocking when Henry comes out of his dream. The only way for Henry to heal himself and the marriage is to destroy the nuisance. Once he does this, he is free as the dust that swirls behind him. He is free to reclaim his innocent past, free from the responsibilities that dragged him down. The world seems brighter and he is free to drift off with his subconscious (potentially signaling a loss with the real world and instead embracing the comfort of his imagination)

All images are from Google. I retain no rights.

What is this blog all about?

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This blog is all about the world of cinema from a completely unprofessional, self taught film enthusiast.
I will try and include production terms and concepts and whatnot to help one become more familiar with the workings of a film production. What are all the different positions on a film set? What sort of terminology should one expect for these different jobs? What is a production assistant expected to have to do? (besides being everyone’s personal bitch on set)
Also there will be the random informal film analysis and/or review mainly because I personally enjoy analyzing films. Besides, what king of film enthusiast would I be if I didn’t dissect a film? I do have to warn the reader that I have an untrained eye for everything I am viewing, so I can’t guarantee the most professional analysis. Then again it is an informal analysis so….
Since I am an aspiring filmmaker, I may include some personal works of mine. Usually these productions will be incredibly low budget and may not have the best quality, so just a warning these videos may not always be the prettiest.

While in the future I may pursue formal education of this field, for now I will try and teach myself what I can. Or I may get lucky and learn enough to finally be able to work on a film set. Either way I’m hoping to delve further into the world of cinema and production while at the same time dragging everyone else here with me.(Side note –  I will not include film descriptions of films I analyze since this is not an essay for class and I trust people know how to Google.)