This semester, I was focused on getting my shit done without any distractions. That’s why when I quit my job in August, I wasn’t actively looking for opportunities that might take time away from enjoying school and any events that came along with it. But rather than close myself off to any new opportunities, I decided to take a chance when a job eventually came my way. One of the coolest things that came from working with FIU Film Studies was this job, where I had the chance to work as a production assistant (PA) for two days here in Miami. It was during this time that I got an idea of what a production assistant does and how they play a small but mighty role in the filming process.
When I first heard that the production company needed someone, I jumped at the chance to do something new and exciting. The name of the production team was called The YEARS Project and after a quick google search, I learned that they are a non-profit multi-media company that tells stories to “inform, empower and unite the world” in understanding climate change (pretty cool, right?). They’ve premiered shows on ShowTime and have a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing knowledge about important environmental changes. I interviewed with producers Maya and Josh who graciously accepted me and understood that this would be a great learning experience since it was going to be a small project. We would be out and about in Brickell, interviewing reporters and filming B-rolls of different locations that would all go towards a short documentary about a local Miami story (which has yet to be released).
So, where do I come in? PAs are stereotypically known for getting coffees and being bossed around, which is pretty much what my job consisted of. Not so much the getting bossed around part, but part of my job was scheduling pick-ups of people and food. Both days were pretty similar in that they began around 9 AM. I met the rest of the crew at a rented studio space near Wynwood where we set the scene and interviewed our subjects. As they interviewed the first guy, I was getting ready to pick up the second interviewee from his flight at MIA. It was here that my native Miami skills kicked in, allowing me to speed-run traffic without getting a ticket. This was also a big factor in the hiring process where the producers were hoping to work with someone who knew Miami well (305 till I die). After dropping him off at the loft, I grabbed lunch for the crew of six and brought it back to the studio, where they were getting ready to film him. Once finished, I took the same guy back to the airport and got ready to drive the crew around where we would be shooting nighttime views of the lovely Miami.
But aside from the seemingly mundane tasks, I had a lot of fun. I talked a lot with the man in charge of sound who told me about his previous work on reality TV (including Ghosthunters!) and saw how vital planning was when creating a shoot. Planning, time management, and just the right amount of communication all came into play when trying to organize different personalities in a city that can be challenging to navigate (shoutout to the driver who tried to side-swipe me in a rented minivan with a crew of 8). But this also put the filming process into perspective for me: if it felt difficult managing just 6 people, then imagine how it would be on a bigger set, with more scenes to film and more people involved on the project. I’ve always said it but seeing first hand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring entertainment to others is commendable. And also, shoutout to the producers who were kind and took the time to explain to me what was going on at all times. It was a cool opportunity that I don’t take for granted and it was overall just nice to flex how well I know the city while getting paid for it. If you’re able to manage yourself, research things on your feet, and follow deadlines, I’d recommend this job for anyone looking to start out in the media business no matter how big or small the project is.
Kayla Melendez is a senior in the English Literature at FIU. Upon graduating, she has no idea what she wants to do with her life, as long as she is tan and happy. Naturally curious, she enjoys reading, writing, and watching films.