Are You a Victim of the PA Paradox?

10 Ways to Guarantee You Never Work On Set Again

Maybe you're fed up with 12 hour days and frustrated with big shot producers who abuse their crew. In short, you need a way out. Don't worry, I understand, and I'm here to help with 10 ways to guarantee you never work on a film set again.

Freelancing in the film industry has the potential to be one of the greatest jobs. You get to travel to different locations, you get to meet tons of new people, and you get to eat for free.

But maybe you’re fed up with 12 hour days and frustrated with big shot producers who abuse their crew. In short, you need a way out. Don’t worry, I understand, and I’m here to help with 10 ways to guarantee you never work on a film set again.

1. Don’t show up on time

You should set the precedent early on that you don’t want to be there by not showing up on time. Showing up early is for people who want to spend more time on set than they’re paid for. By not showing up on time, you will give the impression that you are unmotivated and irresponsible — two factors that will surely help you fail to get more work.

2. Talk back to those higher up

It’s annoying when those working above you tell you you’ve done something wrong. Just because they have years of experience and methodology under their belt doesn’t automatically mean they know what they’re talking about. You should always talk back to them to show that their methods are outdated and you know a much better way. These people are usually stubborn so, despite your best efforts to show them a new trick, they won’t want to give you another job cause they’re stuck in their ways.

3. Don’t prepare accordingly

Why would you take time to prep for a job if you aren’t going to be paid for it? You have time to learn about the camera on set anyway so there’s no need to spend extra time reading up on it. Also, if you don’t know how to do something, don’t learn it. They shouldn’t assume you know everything — they hired you for your skills and that’s not one of them. That’s their fault.

4. Blame others for your mistakes

If you actually do make a mistake, convince yourself that it was somebody else’s fault and blame it on them. There’s no need to apologize and own your mistakes when it wasn’t you who did it in the first place. You have a right to defend yourself even if it wastes time and puts everybody in a bad mood. If you can blame it on the person hiring you, you can guarantee they’ll never call you back again.

5. Lose or destroy equipment

You should take great care to not keep an inventory of the equipment in your department. You’re not there to be a housekeeper anyway, so why would you bother keeping things clean? Losing somebody’s precious piece of gear is a surefire way to make them angry and never want to hire you in the future. Bonus points for the more expensive the gear is and also if you find it later — but broken.

6. Find a bit of “me” time on set

12 hours is a long time to be working — too long — and you should be able to take a break now and again even if everyone else has been working the same amount. They’re not like you, because you need to have your “me” time or else your day will be ruined. You should make sure to not tell anybody that you’re going to take a break and find some isolated place out of the way so you can’t be found, otherwise your me time could be ruined by people upset that you aren’t on set.

7. Make the crew know you’re not on their side

Everyman for himself is the battle cry of the crew member who doesn’t want to work again. Make sure you adopt this wholeheartedly and be as abrasive and mean to the rest of the crew as possible. You shouldn’t remember their names, don’t introduce yourself, and certainly don’t become friendly with them throughout the shoot.

8. Have no sense of urgency

Nothing gets a producer’s blood boiling more than a slow crew. Since they are heavily involved in the hiring process, make sure you enact this step to spread bad news about your reputation. A spoiled reputation will make sure you don’t end up on set again. You should move at your own pace and always find yourself getting distracted on the way to do something.

9. Be as inefficient as possible

This one will piggyback on the success you have with number 8. Make sure you do activities in an order that makes no sense at all. If you’re a camera assistant and you go to fetch a lens: stop and fill out camera reports first, check the battery situation, prep the slate and then go find the lens. You undoubtedly will waste a lot of people’s time in the process and lost time will equal a lost job.

10. Complain at every chance you get

I cannot stress to you how important this step is if you never want to work on a set again. You must complain all day, every day, as much as possible. The number one thing people hate on sets is somebody complaining about the situation. You should remind them at how miserable you are and how it’s all unfair. They might counter back with how everybody is in the same boat, so suck it up and move on. You should note that everyone else are lemmings and you’re not afraid to speak your mind.

But don’t think that complaining about work is good enough to guarantee you don’t get another gig. Make sure you complain about the details too: craft services, call times, the fact that you could direct better than the director, and you should definitely complain in large generalizations like “this sucks,” or “this is the worst shoot I’ve ever been on.” Complainers are never liked so it will decrease your chance of getting a job and you’ll be home free to get out of Dodge.

Of course, if you do happen to want to get more work in film, then do the exact opposite of everything listed above.

  • Adam Richlin

    Other winners:

    Being passive agressive on set, cutting people in line for food (or not respecting the order… a 2nd AC doesnt eat before the DP), being *completely* antisocial, being the guy that always has the perfect snarky comment…

    And the worst of all… being the guy who just wont shut up.

    • Evan

      Definitely! Although I’ve worked with DP’s before that urge their AC’s to eat before them, which was nice.

      Snarky comments kill me, especially combined with the guy who wont shut up. And passive aggressiveness gets nobody anywhere.

      All great tips for those of you looking not to get work! :P

      • rodbranch

        Because this article isn’t passive aggressive, lol. Granted, it might help some people out, but hopefully when you notice people who are new and still finding their way, you give them a heads up that certain behaviors don’t fly rather than just laugh at the prospect of them never getting work again. It’s a tough industry and can be a huge shock to newbies.

        There ARE people higher up who don’t know what they’re doing, who blame lower ranking crew for their mistakes, and who put them through hell because of it. There ARE situations that legitimately aren’t fair (such as the time I was on a show and the producer was having the PA’s run out and buy select crew members red bulls, cigarettes, whatever they wanted, not asking lower ranking crew if they needed anything and not stocking the craft services table with anything besides old coffee and room temp water). To not pass their name along because because of these black and white rules of having to be perfectly pleasant, ass kissing, whipping boys is part of the industry’s problem. There are some sets where they’re lucky their crew hasn’t walked. I don’t think it’s fair to treat it like a job we should be considering ourselves honored to have to the point where we allow ourselves to be abused out of fear of never getting work again.

        Like, jeez, some guy gets stuck in traffic and he is blacklisted but this ahole sound person who sleeps on set in my region gets hired again and again.

  • AR

    Another fun story… I had a PA who came to set in a suit and tie. His explanation is that he was pledging for a fraternity and had to wear the suit for a week. Odd, but… ok. Needed the extra pair of hands much more than production’s desire to fire him.

    We were shooting in this rented mansion. We lost him for about an hour, and no one could find him. He got sweaty moving sandbags, so he went to take a shower. In a house none of us owned. His explanation on that part was that he “wanted to be looking his best to be professional.”


    • Evan

      Haha I love this. Thanks for sharing it with us Adam

    • FB

      Years ago, before I even started working on set, a PA showed up on set wearing a tuxedo, a tie, and a high hat. I cannot even imagine the amount of jokes and pranks he was subjected to, but he stood his ground. Now he’s one of the top 5 assistant directors here (he’s dropped the tuxedo, though, but still dresses way more elegantly than your average crew member).

      In the end how you do your job is more important than how you dress :-)

  • Harold M.

    What’s amazing about this list is that every now and then you bump into people who actually should read it before going to work…One would think that these items should be common knowledge.

    • Evan

      Yep, very true Harold. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t writing this post with one person, or multiple people, I’ve worked with in mind for each item on the list.

  • Lindsay

    As a lowly BG performer I learned a few things, better and hour early than a minute late being one of them. But mostly I learned a lot about what not to do by example. Among my personal faves was a trainee grip wearing boots who tapped his foot on the dolly track incessantly during shots, as though it was his personal bar rail. He was shown great love as he departed set.

    • Evan

      I can imagine that the AC and the dolly grip were not too pleased about that! Feel bad for the guy though, sounds like he didn’t even realize what he was doing wrong

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