Call time was 4:30 AM. I started the day dark and early at 3 AM. The weather was damp and in the low 30s. Shivering, I drove to a parking lot in downtown Nashville to meet the rest of the production team.
We road a shuttle to our first location. It was a nearby building, and while all the shots would be interiors, breakfast would be staged outside in the cold. The rest of the production assistants (PA) and I hit the ground running once we arrived. Tents, tables and chairs went up. We broke out portable heaters. Trash bags were deployed and walkies distributed. There was a long day ahead of us.
My goal is to write and direct film. Nashville seemed like the right place to start for me, so I moved in August of last year. My parents helped me settle into my tiny one bedroom apartment, I drove them to the airport and we said goodbye. It was all up to me now.
I didn’t have many expectations when I arrived. I knew I’d be the bottom of the totempole. I was prepared to do anything. Sweep floors. Run errands. Keep smiling on the tough days. But I think I had an unconscious expectation that I couldn’t shake. That in six months people would be falling over themselves to get me to direct projects.
That hasn’t happened, yet. And I’m not disappointed really.
I just realize now that this is a much longer road.
Every film set is a high pressure situation and PAs are there to relieve as much of that tension as possible. We pick up trash, distribute water, keep pedestrians off set, make supply runs, etc. If there’s something that needs to be done and no one is assigned, PAs are it.
When the executive producer called me inside around midmorning, I made a beeline to his side. He had a problem that needed fixing. The clients of the shoot needed to review voice over auditions for use with the commercial. For some reason they couldn’t access them online.
I had a few.
My solution was simple in theory, but circumstances complicated things. The hard copies of the files were not on set. We had to download them.
“Do we have internet?”
Thankfully, my internet provider offers free wireless access all over the city. I set up shop in the hallway on a tired, yellow sofa with a borrowed laptop and busied myself downloading files, re-uploading them and organizing them into neat playlists. I was still at work when we began packing up to move to the next location. When I finished sending the new links to the clients, everything was already loaded onto the vans.
I felt bad. My fellow PA’s had to pick up my slack while I chilled on a couch with a computer. PA work is physically taxing and requires a lot of stamina. Many shoots are a full 12 hours of constant exertion. Here I was putting my feet up in the middle of it.
On top of that, was this film work? I’m supposed to be directing short films by now and strutting around festivals. PA work is at least contributing to a film production. But this. This is tech support for the computer illiterate.
Then the executive producer plopped down next to me and said:
“I knew you were the right one to ask. Thanks.”
People have told me I have talent when it comes to film. I believe them, but I also know I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me. I’ve only made waves in the little pond and that’s a long way from making a splash in the ocean.
That said, I’ve been so focused on “doing film” I may have been blinded to my other skills. That tech work wasn’t strictly filmmaking. Yet, my computer savvy contributed to that production in a significant way.
I built myself a box and labled it “Filmmaker.” Looks like it’s too small.