The film industry is very competitive, and it can be difficult to break into this line of work. Those who are inclined towards the technical side of things, usually start out as Production Assistants (PAs). But, whatever your aspirations, the best advice one can give is: make contacts – who you know can be just as important as what you know. However, this does not invalidate experience and hard work, which are the cornerstones of a good PA.
There are also many different types of Production Assistants, and you could experience all of these jobs during your career in film:
- Set PA: Works on the set and may assist security with crowds and traffic control, or escort actors to and from the set. They often assist in every department as well. Office PA: Works in the production office, and may perform general office work: answering phone; making copies of scripts; contracts and other documents; running errands; and assisting with scheduling and shipping.
- Location PA : Delivers contracts; puts up signs to direct workers to the set; makes and distributes maps to locations; cleans up locations after filming; runs errands.
Education is also key to becoming a PA, and we advise you to take an orientation course, (although this is not mandatory), as this will make any helper PA work you do much easier. This Orientation provides the following:
- Information about the realities of working in the film industry.
- An overview of the jobs that make up a film crew.
- A preliminary screening mechanism for entry into the industry.
- WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).
- A standardized set of expectations, vocabulary and knowledge about working on he set in BC.
With this brief glimpse into the film industry, you can use real knowledge to determine if this is a career for you, and will save you from discovering this the hard way – on set. Once you have taken the course, and if you still want to continue in film, becoming a member of the DGC May be your next step.
The Director’s Guild of Canada (DGC) is a labour organization that represents key creative and logistical personnel - Directors, Production/Unit Manager, Assistant Directors, Location Department and Production Assistants. DGC members are always given preference by union productions, and the first three PAs hired must be DGC members. Additional PA positions must also be filled by available members, or Permittee Logbook Holders if no members are available. In order to gain employment with union productions, DGC membership is imperative.
Becoming a Member of the DGC
All application forms can be found at the DGC website at www.dgc.ca
The first step in becoming a full member of the DGC is to fulfill the requirements of the Permittee Logbook Holder program:
- Minimum of 19 years of age.
- Canadian Citizenship or Permanent Resident status (i.e. birth certificate, valid passport, Canadian Immigration landing papers).
- Updated resume outlining a minimum of one year of any full or part-time work experience or educational background.
- Completion of Grade 12 or GED equivalent or successful completion of at least one year of accredited post secondary education.
- 30 days of work (proved by submitting pay stubs) as a Helper PA under the DGC BC Collective Agreement. These days do not count towards the 150-day requirement for Associate Membership eligibility.
- Traffic Control Certificate (Must be issued by the Safety Network. Please refer to: www.safetynetwork.ca.
- Safety Awareness (SHAPE only)
- Successful completion of the DGC BC Film Evaluation Exam. This is administered at the DGC BC office after all of the above requirement have been
- fulfilled. Please contact the DGC office for test dates and time: 604 668-2610. Once you have completed all of the above requirements and passed your Film Evaluation Exam, you will be registered a logbook, and Permittee Logbook Holder status. As a Permittee Logbook Holder, several things will be expected of you by the DGC, which will be evaluated quarterly:
- A Permittee Logbook Holder must acquire a minimum of 100 paid days of work under the DGC BC Collective Agreement over a one-year period, or request an extension in writing. Failure to attain 100 paid days of work per year without submitting a letter of explanation to the DGC BC office will result in suspension and/or termination from the program .
- Logbooks must be submitted to the DGC BC office for review and photocopying on a quarterly basis (every three months, from the last submission). Failure to provide a logbook will result in automatic suspension from the program. Logbook pages can be faxed to the office, with a cover page that confirms your identity.
- Permittee Logbook Holders must complete all information as an outline in the logbook (including supervisors’ signatures) in advance of submitting to the DGC BC office. Production Coordinators, Trainees and Key PAs may not sign logbook. You must have a DGC Member working in a Full Member category sign the logbook.
While working as a PA with Permittee Logbook status, you will learn invaluable lessons. This is the time during which you should polish all of those skills taught to you through the various certificates and workshops that you have been required to take. Further, this year will work towards your eligibility to become an Associate Member of the DGC.
Associate Membership Eligibility Requirements:
- Individuals must have acquired all Permittee Logbook Holder Program Requirements.
- The applicant must have acquired a minimum of 150 paid workdays over three separate productions. No more than 30% pf this time may be spent off set, and the
- remaining 70% must be spent on set working as a PA Assistant Director (AD).
- The DGC will require formal training prior to membership, and this training is currently being developed.
- The number of individuals admitted to Associate Membership will be dependent upon the ratio of Full to Associate Members and/or available seats in the apprenticeship/training programs.
Once you are an associate member of the DGC, you will enjoy all of the perks of full
membership, however, you will not be permitted to vote in GDC based elections. In order to gain full membership status, one must provide the DGC with an application form, two months prior to the quarterly membership review.