As you may have noticed, August featured very few blog entries. Honestly, I’m not even sure where August went. I swear it was just July. If you follow my twitter feed, you’ll know that the reason I’ve been so busy is because I’ve been working as a Trainee Assistant Director (TAD) on a kids’ TV show for the past six weeks. I just finished the gig this week. Then yesterday I slept.
I got the opportunity through a guy I know who was directing the show. I expressed interest in working on it, just as a Production Assistant or something, some intern position, just so I could have that experience. I’ve never worked on a show before, and I’d like to write for TV or film at some point, so it seemed logical to get some experience there.
When the 1st Assistant Director learned that I would be with them for the entire shoot, he decided to co-opt me to the AD department instead of PAing, and take me under his wing as a TAD, so he had someone he could rely on. As it turns out, a TAD carries very specific responsibilities: I was in charge of walkie-talkies on set, handing them out every morning and getting them back to charge every night, and making sure I knew who was responsible for each if they got lost, and having spare batteries and whatnot; I also had the job that if the 1st AD wasn’t on set with the director and DOP, I was supposed to be, just so the ADs always knew what was going on; if the cast wasn’t on set, I was supposed to stay with them so that when they were needed, I could bring them to set; and things of that ilk.
A lot of the time, I was also sitting around doing nothing, just because I wasn’t needed constantly. When they were actually shooting, and all the important people were on set, there wasn’t a lot for me to do, other than making sure passersby didn’t walk through frame when we were on location. I actually got a little bit of writing and reading done while we were in the studio, because of this downtime.
But it was also a neat experience, because as the TAD I’m often around the director, DOP, and 1st AD, who are sort of the triumvirate of People In Charge on a shoot. So for one thing, I was exposed to a lot of the nuts and bolts of production. I also got pretty close to one of the camera guys, and the hair and makeup artist (we rode in the same van to location) so I learned a lot from them.
And being around those important people and generally having to have some idea what was going on at all times, everyone else started realizing that I seemed to have some idea what was going on at all times. So people would come to me to find out what was happening — and, people would come to me to tell me what was happening in their department, so that I could pass it on to the people who needed to know, when they needed to know. I became the go-to guy for a large portion of the crew. And that was neat. I was able to develop a relationship with most of them, help out wherever I could, and generally learn a whole lot.
There were definitely stressful days. And it was a kids’ show, so we were dealing with a couple of child actors, which could be trying at times. And the days were long — 10-hour days, five days a week (though this is actually pretty short compared to regular TV and film production schedules). I was glad to have done it, to get the experience, but I was also glad Wednesday night when it was all over.
I had a few conversations with my 1st AD over the course of the shoot. He told me how he was also a writer, and how getting into being an AD was his way of managing that part of his life: he could work for six months doing crazy hours on set as an AD and have no life and no time to write; then, he could take several months off and just spend his time writing.
It made me think. Because that could be something I could do. The things an AD does are things that I’m good at — organizing people and making sure everything runs smoothly and basically ensuring that a shoot gets done. And then I could take time off and just write, which is of course what I really want to do.
But after this month — I don’t know that that’s what I want to do. It was a great experience, but even a month without writing has left me aching for a rest, and time to write all the projects I want to write. I think — I think — what I need is a job that lets me write as part of it.
The experience was fantastic, and I made some great contacts, and I might even PA for a couple days here and there for a bit of experience and a bit of cash in the future. And if I ever change my mind, I can always get back into the TADing and work to become an AD and do all of that.
But right now, I’m going to go back to school. I’m going to finish my novel. I’m going to see where life and my writing take me.