A P.A. (Production Assistant) is the low-man on the totem pole. He/She is the coffee-fetcher, the water-cooler-carrier, the trashcan-emptier... the gimp. It's not all bad, and is sometimes fun. But anyone who signs up to PA should know what they are signing up for: 12+ hours of doing menial tasks that no one else wants to do.
This past week, I was glad for the work. (Bills are piling up around here.) So, I eagerly took a position as P.A. for a commercial (which confidentiality prevents me from naming). I was prepared to work two days, but then...
The phone call came at 5pm on Monday: "We need someone who can drive a truck to New Jersey, pick up lighting equipment and have it back by Wednesday morning's calltime." Yep, sounds like a job for a maniac. Dan is on it.
I began the drive Monday night at 8pm (after completing all requisite paperwork), and I drove until 3am. This was about half-way to Jersey, but the last chance for any kind of sleep at a hotel.
Tuesday started fairly early, 8am, and with a quick stop at Walmart for some ratchet straps and a padlock, I was on the way! But it was a long way... A point of consideration for anyone ever making this drive: Once above the Mason-Dixon, it will take you twice as long to get anywhere! Traffic. Road construction. Accidents. And miles of bumpy asphalt.
I made it to the Equipment Rental house just in time! 5pm on the dot. We loaded up the truck, and an hour later, I was headed back.
But here was the rub: It was 6pm. The truck had to be on set at 6am. And it was a 12-hour drive. I hooked up the coffee drip intravenously.
But after a mere 21 hours of straight driving (from 9am Tuesday to 6am Wednesday)... I had the truck on set!
Unfortunately, I did not get to participate in the on-set shooting, which is my favorite part! For some reason, the producers insisted I go to a hotel room and sleep. Crazy producers.
After an afternoon of rest, though... I was back on the road! The truck wrapped out at 11pm Wednesday, and I started the trek northward. In a hellish thunderstorm. Needless to say, I did not make the miles I wanted to, and I bedded down that night with a long way left to go.
Thursday, however, was bright and sunny. The traffic was flowing. The drive was easy. I was having such a lovely day.
Until I wasn't.
In fifteen years of working as crew, and having driven too many box trucks to count, I had never had an accident. My luck was bound to run out.
As I drew close to my destination, the Equipment Rental House, I needed to stop for gas. The signs along the highway, and the Garmin, both led me astray. The exit I took had no gas stations. And I needed to wend my way back to the highway before I was stranded. This is how I found myself on a small residential street in Lyndhurst, NJ (a mere 7 miles from my destination).
I can blame it on the sports car going 80mph the other direction that I moved over to avoid. Or I can blame it on the city for poor street-side maintenance. Or I can just blame it on myself...
BOOM! The sound was deafening. And it was followed by a loud crack, and the sight of a tree branch smacking against the windshield.
I was stuck, with a tree branch twice the size of the truck pinning me into the vehicle. Fortunately, no one (including myself) was injured. In fact, I was the only vehicle involved. But I wasn't going to make it to the Equipment House before they closed. (Check out the photo below.)
The City of Lyndhurst was great. The police officer noted that I was not at fault, and that it could have happened to anyone with a moving truck. The city landscapers had the tree branch cut away and mulched in an hour.
And I was on my way... Except that I still hadn't solved my initial problem: gas. The truck was dangerously low, especially for a diesel engine. So, I stopped in a parking lot & called for help. It took two and a half hours, but finally, assistance arrived with several cans of fuel.
I was ready to fall into the hotel bed that night.
The next morning, I made my delivery, and I was on my way early. And I would have made good time...
If it hadn't been for Washington, D.C. Perhaps it was an accident, or maybe just bad traffic, but from DC to Richmond, VA (about 85 miles), our top speed was 30mph.
Finally, at 11pm, I returned the truck, and by 1am, I was home. And questioning if I will ever take another PA job again.
I just got a call this morning. And yep, I'm off to PA again. Hey, I need the money.
Happy filmmaking, everyone! And BE SAFE!