Guest Post: Melanie’s Experience as a PA in Hollywood

A couple weeks ago, fellow Hollins screenwriting student, Melanie Moses, flew to Hollywood to work on a real live set. She was kind enough to share her experience. In her own words:

“I remember being five years old, dressed in a tutu, telling my kindergarten teacher that someday I wanted to be famous and make movies in Hollywood. Fast forward thirty years (I know, I can’t beleive I’m a day over twenty-one either), and I’d nearly finished my MFA in Screenwriting at Hollins andhad several scripts under my belt, but Hollywood still felt like a far off dream.
During my final summer at Hollins this year, I talked incessantly about my vision for creating a web series, and about how excited I was to meet Hunter Phillips and Robyn Paris who created the web series The Room Actors: Where Are They Now when they came to speak to us in July. When the event came, Tim and Amber Albaugh introduced me to both Hunter and Robyn and afterwards suggested that I reach out to Robyn about the opportunity to help with Season 2 of TRAWATN. I was a little nervous. Who would want someone on set who’d never done anything like that before? But Robyn was incredibly gracious and said she’d love more help, and she asked if I’d like to come to LA and help as a Production Assistant (PA) for this shoot.
So, in late September, I found myself on a flight to Los Angeles for the first time. I spent a few days sightseeing (yes, In-N-Out is really that good and no, the Hollywood sign is not that impressive) and visited with friends. Robyn texted me and asked me to run a couple of errands the day before filming began and I quickly learned that in Los Angeles it takes at least an hour to get anywhere- the myth about LA traffic is for real, y’all. Nevertheless, those errands got done, and things just got busier from there.
That night we were sent the call sheet. I’d never seen one before and therefore had no idea how to read it, so I sent my amazing fellow PA (turned Wardrobe Designer- you go girl!) Ashley Stratton a message and she walked me through it. The call sheet covers who in the cast/crew needs to report for work and at what time. It also covers the addresses and any pertinent information for each location being used that day, and the schedule for shooting. Basically, it’s your bible for the next day.
The next morning we were required to be on set to start preparing for our first day of filming. My anxiety made a cameo, but I rolled up on time and with the gear I was asked to pick up the day before. There was no time wasted- as soon as people began arriving, work began in earnest. Within twenty minutes I was asked to run to Target to pick up some additional wardrobe items and props. And then again. And one more time.
Being a PA basically means you have a hand in every role on set. You have to be ready to rush out on an errand, help out with craft services (“crafty” for those of us in the biz…ha), clean up, haul equipment, whatever is needed. So my job for the four days on set was constantly changing and evolving. For someone like me, who is a “helper” according to most personality tests, this is an ideal role, and it’s a great way for an industry noob to learn about the filmmaking process.
Throughout our four days of filming, each workday about twelve hours long, I ran errands, picked up lunch, ensured the set remained secured and quiet, assisted with creating props, and even served as an extra in one of the scenes. I got to watch the process of setting up cameras, staging shots, perfecting the wardrobe, managing props, running sound and lighting, directing the scenes, and working as script supervisor. I tried to ask questions while scenes were being reset or while we broke for lunch, and everyone on set was incredibly gracious and helpful in explaining their role and what was going on. At times it was overwhelming to take it all in, but the good news is, working as a PA on set is a LOT of sitting around waiting until you’re needed to help in a hurry. It gave me a chance to process and observe, and it was incredible to see everything coming together.
Another benefit of working on TRAWATN was that I was able to meet a lot of talented people. In the four days we were shooting, we became a small family. You have to have a lot of trust in other people to do their job and to do it quickly (and expertly) in order to make this work. There’s a little bit of a learning curve at the start but it amazed me how quickly we settled into a rhythm and a pattern to get everything done right. I built relationships with people on the set who work in the film industry full time, in art departments, as script supervisors, writers, producers, actors… and we’ve stayed in touch! I talked to them about my writing, projects, and goals, and now that I have this network, I have a lot more people in my corner to make sure I achieve the things I dream of.
The experience I had working for Robyn on TRAWATN was really incredible. I learned more than I expected, I made important connections, and I gained confidence in myself that my dreams really are possible. Beyond that, the connections I’ve made at Hollins have led me to many places I never expected. I’ve gained so much from the people I’ve met there- students, faculty, and guests. Take advantage of that! Go to the events, gather the courage to speak to the guests about their projects and don’t miss the opportunity to pitch yours! You never know what will come of it.
Write on,
PS- Did you check out The Room Actors: Where Are They Now yet? If not, here’s the link!
And don’t forget to check out Season 2 when it drops very soon! You don’t want to miss my big break! ;)”
The talented and beautiful PAs of TRAWATN between shoots.
TRAWATN2: Between scenes with the legendary Mindy Sterling, Emmy winner Patrika Darbo, and Kyle Vogt from The Room!
TRAWATN6: Behind the scenes shot of Ashley and I as extras in a bar scene with Robyn.

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