Over the past few years i’ve had the opportunity to be on a number of video shoots, some complex ones with people filling a laundry list of jobs, and others where I was the only one on set. But, more often than not the majority of productions I’ve been apart of have been 3-5 person corporate variety. What I have gathered, is that when I am acting as a DP, or gaffer, or Camera operator, is that having a Production Assistant dealing with the gear and a producer dealing with the client frees me to focus on the work, and produce a better product.
A few weekends ago I had a shoot that consisted of a 5 person crew, 2 creatives, 1 producer, and 2 PAs. The shoot lasted for 2 days, with the first day lasting 12 hours and the second 8 hours. We also had enough camera equipment and accessories to fill up 2 vehicles, and about 10-12 different locations on the premises. Also, because we were shooting RED and Black Magic, we were going to use a lot of disk space, so we also needed to have somebody DIT, and do a double back up of the media. As you can tell there were a lot of jobs that needed to be done on top of shooting video.
Typically for a project of this size I generally would only have 2 extra people one acting as a producer, and one other shooter. This would typically force the two shooters to have to break down all the equipment, double check the equipment, Load the equipment, transport the equipment, have one person go back to homebase, to backup the footage, Scout the location, grab equipment, setup the equipment, frame and light our shot, then finally shoot it. Then repeat it over and over and over. While it is certainly possible, because I’ve personally done it many times. Having 2 PA’s on set mitigated us from having to move much of the equipment. In fact, a lot of the breakdown happened in between takes and by the time we were ready to leave a location, the gear was already transported to the next location and carted to where we were going to shoot. For the first time, I was able to focus on my primary job, and spend the time getting the shots I knew I wanted, without having to be an extreme taskmaster to stay on schedule. I could spend every last second, on set and move to the next without lugging around a literal ton of equipment. I felt great, with full energy, after 2 days of shooting, and most of all I was confident with the footage I shot, because I had the energy to frame and compose well.
Having PAs on set, ultimately help out the creatives on set by running support, and doing the tasks that after hours of shooting start to wear you down. This at the end of the day really helps out the creative, by allowing him or her to focus, to perform for a longer duration, and ultimately create better work.