Being A Production Assistant

As I’ve shared in my Relaunch post I am currently working as a production assistant for Blue Sky Studios. This is pretty much like a dream come true. If you have ever watched those “ life at Pixar” or Disney/ Dreamworks videos on youtube or vimeo Blue Sky is pretty similar in its own way.

From the first day as I sat in the lobby waiting for my tour with a few other temps I noticed how just about every employee that walked through the door greeted us with “good morning” and smiles.

Production Assistant at a feature film animation studio VS Runner at a VFX Studio

Last year I was a runner at a VFX studio here in NYC. I imagine a runner’s responsibilities and duties to vary from studio to studio but not by much. My tasks at the studio were more so along the lines of housekeeping along with the standard clerical/ administrative duties, mail and coffee runs.  That aside I was able to bond with the other runners and it was expressed to me that this was a position where one could move up to become a freelance artist if they so desired. I learned that this studio and this role in particular was a not a good fit for me since I wasn't receiving the experience I felt that would have contributed to career growth. Though my time with them was brief it was humbling. I learned a lot about the type of environment I’d rather contribute to.  

Now I started as a PA in December and this experience is completely different from being a runner. Again, I feel a sense of community with my peers (the other PAs). We rely heavily on each other to keep things going and I always feel accomplished having helped out. Here I get a more direct result of how my contributions are helping those around me and I receive the kind of constructive criticism that I can immediately apply and carry with me. I can see more of a connection as to how one can learn and grow in this position and move up the career ladder within or outside of the studio when their moment comes.

What kind of things are you learning?

To a certain extent I believe what I'm learning is no different than any other entry level position holder regardless of their field of work. I’m learning how to be confident in my decision making, how to schedule meetings. I’m learning a lot specifically about the early stages of getting an animation off the script pages and into a visual format. I’m learning the power of effective teamwork. I’m understanding how important it is to over communicate. 

As production assistants we are truly helping to ensure that the "machine" runs smoothly. We execute a lot of tasks that can seem ( well they often are) tedious and maybe even a nuisance at times but once completed the sense of accomplishment can not be replaced. When you see the the shots or sequences that you've worked on move further along in the production pipeline, even though you did not contribute as an artist it is still gratifying seeing it continue on. 

Final thoughts

People have also asked me what did I do to get here and it is by God’s grace, hard work, persistence and the support of EVERYONE I’ve encountered along the way. I have many days where I'm like "this is so surreal" and I’m enjoying every day as it comes. I should add that every day is not easy breezy. Some days and weeks are crazy and hectic but like I said when you know you have a team that is there helping you and all going through it with you what more can you ask for? This is only the beginning and what a beginning it is!