A Year of PA Work

Yesterday, June 23rd, 2018 was the first year anniversary of working my first day as a Set Production Assistant on American Horror Story (AHS). While this day may fall two days before my birthday, I’ll forever remember it because it turned the tides of my life in Los Angeles into that of a favorable one. Let me share a truncated recap of that year working in Hollywood.

Before this fateful day, I had been utterly depressed; struggling with looming financial obligations that, frankly, were egregious for any city, let alone Los Angeles. Nevermind the medical bills I had yet to pay off or the cost of the gimped & laughable health care plan I had just purchased.

I had just passed six months in LA and was filled with rage and sadness, with no way to expel the negative energy swirling around me at all times. I kept my faux happy face on as I drove Lyft just to pay the bare minimum of my costs, knowing full well that this immediate income would never touch the detrimental effects that these thousands of miles had upon the life of my car (on which I still owed $15,000).

I took this first day with the utmost gratitude and worked as best as I could to ensure that I would get another. And I did. That second day, we worked in Orange, CA, and I was late. I thought for sure that I would never work a day again. A friend of mine had once said that “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re fired.”

Luckily, they kept me around, and I spent the next few months working a day here and there, slowly weening myself off of Rideshare Dependency. I didn’t drive as much when I made TV money, and so, I was able to work more on my writing. I lived like a pauper: eating the bare minimum, rarely going out to do anything – and regretting every penny spent if I did – and having zero savings of which to speak. The biggest blunder I committed was buying a Nintendo Switch with the one time I did have savings and paid for it dearly when the work dried up momentarily.

The same Assistant Director (AD) that gave me my first shot on AHS, got me some days on Legion, and I thought that was one of the coolest shows I had ever experienced filming (to be fair, it was the third ever). The visual style and the set design were something to truly behold. I had worked one day on the American Horror Story production company’s follow-up, 9-1-1, but hadn’t heard from them in a while.

Then, I got a request in November to work on 9-1-1 again. They were onto episode four, and there was an airport scene that was filming at the Ontario Airport. I was entirely nervous (as I am on any new production), but I didn’t let it get to me. I saw a lot of familiar faces here which helped the matter.

This day kept me working with Ryan Murphy TV for several months until we wrapped in March of the following year. I became the unofficial fifth staff PA, except that I was treated as a staff PA. I received wrap gifts and was invited to the wrap party.

I had planned on taking a week off then visiting my family – especially my newborn nephew – after we wrapped, but was asked to work a four-day stint on movie reshoots for Skyscraper right before I departed. I had always wanted to work in films, and even narrowly missed a reshoot gig for Dwayne Johnson’s last film, Rampage. It occurred the same day as that airport shoot in Ontario for 9-1-1.

I went home for two weeks, and unfortunately, received a lot of calls to work on other production during that fortnight. When I got back to Los Angeles, I expected many more calls, but the work proved tepid once more. Ahh, the ebb and flow of the freelance life. I had to resort to driving Lyft again.

I hated driving in Los Angeles.

Luckily, some of these jobs eventually came back around, and I even continued to work with the same AD from Skyscraper, and a few of my fellow PAs from there. That job, Kidding, was the first show Jim Carrey had starred in since his In Living Color days. I was and still am a huge fan of his work, especially his more serious roles like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindMan on the Moon, and my all-time favorite, The Truman Show.

And that’s where I stand now! I’ll work with the Kidding crew until I return to 9-1-1 in the middle of July, rejoining my first group of wonderful people. That’s the best secret of Hollywood: most people who work in the business are good people – or at least professional – sure, there are bad eggs, but the majority of crew members are hard-working and lively folks. It’s a pleasant surprise that many outside of the business wouldn’t discover based on the stereotype that perpetuates surrounding the industry.

If you take all of my music videos (as PA or 2nd AD), days in television, commercials, and movie reshoots, I worked 150 days in my first calendar year. 

That’s one hell of a year. Here’s to this year and my personal growth within the industry.

Thanks, Mike and Michelle,

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)


The downside of being a duteous Production Assistant is that Jamie doesn’t get to write as often as he would like. As of now, he’s taking a breather before he rewrites his Cancer Story, and hopes to write and talk about movies again soon. But when he has a moment, he continues a rewrite of a screenplay he hopes to sell one day! Never stop working on what you love! Jamie won’t!


Week Eight Recap (Dumb Healthcare)- #Whole60

With four days left (including Wednesday), I found out new things about me and the stupefied healthcare providers that currently “support” me.

My “Crohn’s” cramps came back with a vengeance this week, and I had to get to the bottom of them to move forward. Okay, so maybe I’ve been eating a lot more potatoes and watermelon at work (the latter being a running gag with the Production Staff), and after my antibiotics, I could see myself potentially feeding the Candida overgrowth. I didn’t have this much watermelon at my disposal during January’s Whole30 run.

I took the day off from “Kidding” to recover from my cramps, and attempted a doctor’s appointment. When I called at 9:00 AM, I was notified of the once impossible-to-schedule doctor’s office’s amendment to their stuffed system; replaced with a walk-in option from 9-11 AM. I drove over by 9:15, and waited until 10 AM for the doctor to show up.

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My Cancer Story Ch. 99 “Thirsty”

Chapter 99: “Thirsty”

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Even before my first days at NESCom, I continuously bugged the staff to offer a screenwriter’s course, and just when I thought that semester would never come, my advisor, John, told me that they would first offer the course in the fall of THIS YEAR, 2012! I jumped onto it as soon as possible considering there were only twelve spots on the roster. Come to think of it, I may have been the very first person to register.

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My Cancer Story Ch. 98 “Gardening 101”

Chapter 98: “Gardening 101”

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“The Mayan Prophecy” was a mere handful of months away, and wouldn’t you know it? I was only now diving into my goal of making movies. If the past eight or nine years weren’t enough time to achieve said objective, then the only movies I would “make” would be the ones I wrote to appease the mutant monsters that would overrun the post-apocalyptic landscape. Timing was never my thing.

 

Speaking of timing, a revelation had only now struck me while visiting my Dad up North; we were terrible kids. We gave our parents such grief and even cost them hundreds of dollars because we were idiots, especially when Travis and I were living with just my Dad. We spent so much of our time fighting and the rest sitting in front of our respective televisions, “rotting our brains” on CRT screens rather than spending time with Dad, learning the ins and outs of cars, or simple gardening.

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Week Six Recap (Something Old, Something New)- #Whole60

This past weekend I bought new clothes. There is always a fear that any new threads I buy I’ll have to turn around and sell because I lose or gain weight (spoilers, it’s rarely because of weight loss).

Now, I find myself at an impasse between healthy living and an outdated wardrobe, and for the very first time, I need a smaller size. Well, okay, I could have purchased new clothes a year ago (My stuff is outdated).

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My Cancer Story Ch. 97 “Promises of Pardon”

Chapter 97: “Promises of Pardon”

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Just when I thought that my creative juices had evaporated, I discovered yet another outlet. I was evolving into an allegorical electrician, and at the same time, a fundamental change in my health insurance threatened the fragile layer surrounding my internal wiring.

 

Eastern Maine Medical Center changed their insurance providers so they wouldn’t have to pay as much of the frontloaded costs. The new company offered a $1,000 “Choice Fund” at the start of each year ($2,000 for families). This ostensibly optimistic offering paid one hundred percent of any bills up front, and after, it was exhausted, then the policyholder would pay one hundred percent until their deductible was met. Then, and only if the person spent past their deductible, the insurance company would pay the expected eighty percent.

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My Cancer Story Ch. 96 “Civilities of Union and of War”

Chapter 96: “Civilities of Union and of War”

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Traditionalism had never been my forte, whether via my recent marriage or the content we produced in The Guttersnipes. Our comedy troupe had been releasing some solid work and some mediocre work. I could tell that something was missing from these ideas, and I was adamant that it was the lack of a proper script framework. Ideally, to me, I thought if we had better prepared for the shoot, then maybe the quality would have been better.

 

Others in the group loved the improvisational approach to our comedic voice, and instead, questioned my edits or my contribution to shooting the videos. The improvisation wasn’t the issue for me, I just wanted a stronger framework around it to enable a more efficient workflow with the little time we had. Both arguments wanted the same thing: a better product. We were like the Hatfield and the McCoy’s facing off against one another without actually sitting down to listen to one another. The majority of the members stayed out of the tussle or never voiced their concerns (to me) directly.

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Week Four Recap – #Whole60

On Friday, May 25th, it will have been thirty days since I began my two-month variation on the Whole30, the Whole60. It’s hard to believe I could do it again after years of telling myself I couldn’t cut sugar out of my life for thirty days, yet here I am, in my second month of doing just that, and I don’t want to go back. Ever.

**Please consider supporting my work by buying your Amazon purchases via this link. A small portion of your sales goes to fund this website, and it doesn’t cost you any extra! I could really use the help! Thank you; I appreciate you!**

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