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The Movie Set Production Assistant: The Solver Of Little And Big Problems

This article first appeared in issue 18, and was written by Ed Waggener.

When the owner of the mall where the set was being made was being difficult, an Adair Countian's intuitive savvy earned points with the producer and a chit to cash

Being a production assistant gave Matt Arnold another chance to impress the powers, and a chit to cash one day.

The unofficial job description of a production assistant is "little problem solver." They solve little problems, like helping keep traffic off the set, getting the director's favorite coffee, and calling the actors and actresses from their trailers so they can be available when needed.

"The days are scheduled at 10-12 hours, but they often put in 15-16 or more hours. It's plain hard work."

In the production of Jackie Brown, he remembers, he was able, as a PA, to be a big problem solver.

The owner of the mall where the set was located was giving producer Lawrence Bender fits. The production company was interfering with the stores, parking. They were getting in the way of shoppers. The parking lot was closed down too much. And nothing the production company could do seemed to please him.

"I was controlling traffic one day," Arnold said, "keeping the street and mall traffic away from the set. I had to turn a lot of cars away, but this one guy was right beside me and he had his window rolled down and was talking on the telephone. I had him stopped at the moment."

Arnold couldn't help but overhear the conversation, and discerned that whoever this guy was, he was a big shot with the mall.

"I got the man's attention, and I said to him, 'Sir, I'm sorry for the delay. I realize you're with us. You can go on through."

That evening, Lawrence Bender sought him out. " What did you say to the mall owner? He's a changed man," Bender said.

The man in the car was important. He was the mall owner who had been giving them so much trouble. Luckily for Arnold, he had gone straight to the production office on the set and sought out Bender. As Bender related it to Arnold, the mall owner had said, "I really want to commend you on the quality of your people," and then proceeded to tell Bender how impressed he was with Arnold.

"Mr. Bender said, we want to give you a bonus. You were intuitive and solved a big problem for us. We going to make a cash bonus."

"I told them I wanted a different bonus. I told him I had a script I wanted him to read. And he agreed. He said that when the script was more final, he'd look at it."

"Have you got any funding for it," Bender asked Arnold. And that, Arnold said, was another introduction to another of aspiring director's little nuisances-getting the money to back the project.

This story was posted on 1997-12-24 12:01:01
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