I'm a PA based in New Orleans. I moved here in January of 2022 to begin working in the industry after spending most of my 20s in a career I hated. I love being on set more than almost anything - I'm a trans woman, and before my transition, film sets were the one place I always felt to be most like myself. Though I'm often the only person on any given crew from my community, I've found sets to be a safe place for me as I've undergone my transition. I was lucky to have steady work all the way from January to December of 2022, but as soon as the new year rolled around, everything ground to a halt. I only worked one day total for the entire month of February as there were no big shows in town, and even the smaller digital and corporate shoots I've been lucky enough to find to pay the bills have been sparse the rest of the year. After only one weekend gig in April and no other prospects on the horizon, I finally landed a restaurant job at a children's museum. Luckily, or perhaps not, my first day at that job came a week before I was called to 2nd AD a low-budget, non-union feature out of state - I was let go from the restaurant while on that set. I'm luckier than most that since that feature, I've not yet had to search for a replacement job, but that may change very soon.
Last year, I was the basecamp PA for a Shudder-produced horror movie. Every single day on that set was a struggle, with a million fires to put out the minute I landed at base. The location was the same for the entire shoot, and it was a miserable place to be - a small, cramped, ancient plantation house in the middle of a south Louisiana jungle at the beginning of summer, with no air conditioning. Eventually, the production had to shut down for a couple of days due to the director and one of the principal cast members catching COVID after numerous close calls - I quit the next day. But before that happened, I was incredibly proud that, with all of the things going horribly wrong on that set, basecamp was never one of those problems. Talent was ready for set quickly and efficiently and delivered to set exactly when they were needed, and though their trailers kept breaking down, we were quick to get transpo resolving those issues. I did my best to keep my people happy. I had to Uber lunches in for cast every day because our rotten catering situation left our mostly vegan cast without options that fit their diets, and it warmed my heart how happy it made them to have good, quality food waiting in their trailers for them. They were so happy at base that after I left the show, the 2nd AD forwarded me a text where one of the cast members had asked for me specifically to come back. I almost did.
That 2nd AD brought me onto her next show, a Sony Pictures biopic, and I worked my way up from being an additional PA to eventually becoming staff and being put on First Team. The cast considered me reliable, always keeping them comfortable and getting them what they needed and wanted, sometimes even before they had to ask for it. Sometimes taking care of the cast the way they wanted made it look to my bosses like I was slouching. Once, I remember being halfway to crafty to grab a drink for our Number 1 before he went back to base, all while the ADs were talking continuously over Channel 1, making it so I couldn't ask someone to go get it for me. Suddenly the 2nd 2nd screams at me on walkie because Number 1 wasn't under an umbrella and that he ALWAYS needs to be under an umbrella. I quickly turned tail to do what she said, only for him to turn me and my umbrella away, as he always did because he didn't like having someone holding an umbrella over him. It's the little things. One of the supporting actresses quickly picked me as her go-to PA for anything and everything she needed. That actress had custom hats made for specific crew members she liked as wrap gifts, embroidered with their own names. I was one of only two PAs who got one.
I take a lot of pride in my work as a PA, and while my experience is not nearly as bad as many others have had it, there are lots of ways that this work is undervalued. On sets with tough schedules and uncomfortable conditions, a PA being on top of their game can make all the difference to talent and crew to keep the show rolling and keep people comfortable and safe.