“Hurry up and wait.”
This may as well be the motto of production. From call time to wrap, there are constant moments of pressure to hustle somewhere, followed by seemingly endless moments of standing around waiting for things to start. This is especially true when you’re a PA; your superiors will expect you to be on time so they they can immediately start ordering you around (I kid, but only slightly), but as your job is really just to be on hand for all the little things, your directions may be few and far between.
It starts right at call time. You should be ready to go at the exact minute of call. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will be. It might take 20 minutes for everyone to get there, and you might be tempted to hang out at crafty, munching on chips and playing on your phone. Don’t. It might be boring, but no matter how long it takes everyone else to get their act together, it’s up to you to—that’s right—hurry up and wait.
If you’re driving a van, hurry up and pull that van around, and then wait in it. I once spent about 80% of a week-long shoot waiting in a van, and that’s only a mild exaggeration.
And, of course, every shot will have you hurrying up and waiting. Hurry up and bring that light over. Hurry up and grab a stinger. And then wait while the grips, juicers, gaffers, camera people, directors, and everyone else put everything together. Sometimes it might take 15 or 20 minutes or more before anyone’s ready to even start rolling, just for the first take of a single shot.
Even if you’re an actor—especially if you’re an actor, really—your job is still to hurry up and wait. Hurry up to get into hair, make-up, and wardrobe, and then wait until they need you on set. Hurry up onto set, and then wait while they finish up last-second lighting and camera set-ups. Hurry up into the shot, and then wait while they check focal lengths, sound gets ready, 2nd AC does the slate, or the director is still figuring out final details. But then, if you make it to the big time, that’s what stand-ins are for, right?
In reality TV, you get the extra bonus of waiting on talent. Hurry up and get to location and get all your equipment set up, but then you still have to wait for some undetermined amount of time for all of your talent to actually show up. The key is to always be as ready as possible, as quickly as possible, so that when things do get going there’s not much time wasted at that point.
Then, once you’re wrapped, hurry up and load out equipment and pack everything up, and then wait to fill out your time sheet, return your walkie-talkie, or make sure your boss doesn’t need you for anything else.
It can be frustrating to get to set and to rush around all day, only to find when you get anywhere that it’ll be 20 minutes until anything actually happens. Especially when you have to be on constant alert in case anyone needs you. But, as is often the case when working in production, it’s one of those things that you just have to be ready for. It might be high stress sometimes, but you’re almost certainly guaranteed at least a few minutes of waiting to recover!