Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 8

Ok. So we’ve talked about how to act on set but what about all those strange terms you hear being thrown around? Every department has their own terminology and things may vary from set to set, but here are some standards you’ll hear on most sets in Part 8 of How to be a Good Production Assistant.

Learn set language and walkie talkie etiquette.  Here are a few terms off the top of my head.

Rolling, Speeding or Speed:  The camera and/or sound is recording so be quiet! 

Room Tone:  The audio mixer is recording the sound of the area you are in.  This means you have to be extra quiet.  That means no sniffing, shuffling your feet, turning pages in the script, whispering, breathing heavy or texting.  It usually lasts about 30 seconds and it will feel like the longest 30 seconds of your life.  Watch “Living in Oblivion” for a good example of this.

Over Under wrapping:  If you don’t know how to do this, learn, and don’t pretend that you do.  And don’t go wrapping any audio cables if you don’t know how.

Bogey:  Someone in the shot that shouldn’t be there.  Usually this happens when you’re shooting out in a public location and even though you’ve got an area fairly blocked off, someone unknowingly wanders into the frame.

Sticks:  A term often used for a tripod and sometimes for a slate.

Stinger:  A thicker extension cord specifically for lights and heavier duty gear.

Half Apple:  Apple boxes are a piece of grip gear that come in the following sizes:  Full Apple, Half Apple, Quarter Apple and a Pancake (1/8 Apple).

Lock it Up/Lock it Down/Lock-Up/Lock-Down:  All are terms used to mean, nobody should be coming in or out of the set, talking, whispering, moving around, etc.

What’s your 20?:  Where are you?

ETA:  Estimated Time of Arrival

Walkie check:  You say this when you first get a walkie talkie handed to you.  If it’s working properly, someone will respond with “Good check.”

10-100 or 10-1:  I’m going to the restroom but it should be quick.

10-200 or 10-2:  I don’t know too many people that actually use this one, but it means I’m going to the restroom, and I might be a while. Hint, hint.

C-47, bullet, peg, etc.:  Clothespin

Spike:  Usually a piece of tape that marks where the talent is supposed to stand.

Last Looks:  Last chance for the hair/makeup and wardrobe to make sure the talent is looking their best before the camera starts rolling.

Give me an On/Off:  Checking the usefulness of a light by turning it on, then off, then on, then off over and over until the DP determines if he wants to use the light or not.

Call Time:  This is what time you need to be there.  Actually get there 10 minutes before call time.

There are so many more that could be listed here and a lot of these you’ll learn on the spot. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask what something means. It’s a lot less embarassing to ask right away about a certain term than to pretend to know what something means and end up causing a problem, confusion or just looking silly.

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How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 7

In part 6 of this series, we talked about how and when to ask questions. No one expects you to know everything so you’ll most likely have questions, but there’s a big difference between asking questions to help you complete a task and asking questions because you think have a better idea of how to do something.  Part 7 of How to be a Good Production Assistant talks about why it’s important to be seen and not heard.

Be seen, not heard.  If you really have nothing to do and you’ve already tried all the suggestions from Part 4 of this blog series, don’t just slink away to a far corner where you can play Words with Friends on your phone assuming someone will call you on the walkie when they need you.  Being seen means you’re available to help and more likely to be in the right place at the right time.  Being “not heard” is just as important.  There’s nothing more frustrating than a PA (or any other crew member) trying to give suggestions without being asked.  If there’s something you really think is important to share, go to the person directly above you.  If you’re asked for your opinion then by all means share away.  That’s not to say that your opinion is not valid, but keep in mind that you were probably just brought onto the project for that day, while the director and client have been working on it for weeks and even months.  A good director will often pull ideas from his surrounding crew, but this isn’t always the case.