Dig Baton Rouge

Quiet on the Set

By Tara Bennett


Ever wanted to break into the film industry, but have no idea where to begin to get your foot in the door, let alone on set? Well, there’s a boot camp for that.

The Baton Rouge branch of the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC:BR) is currently accepting applications for their upcoming training session, “PA Boot Camp,” which will help locals gain the hands-on experience they need to prepare them for their first job on a feature film, television or commercial set.

“I think this course is essential if you’re interested in the local film and television industry because everyone starts out as a production assistant,” said NOVAC:BR Programs Manager Elizabeth Hutchison. “And this course will give you all the basic knowledge and expert insight so that you get hired over someone who hasn’t been trained in the same way.”

During the two-day course, participants will learn the responsibilities of a production assistant through the duration of the film process all the way from prep, production to wrap. The production assistant plays as an entry-level role on television and film production crews, and their daily responsibilities may include everything from maintaining the call sheet to maintaining quiet on the set.

“The responsibilities are slightly different depending on whether you want to work in the office or whether you want to work on set,” said Hutchison.

Some of the broad topics that will be covered in the boot camp include production paperwork, set terminology and protocol, hands-on short radio training, the functions of crew departments and finding work in the industry. According to Hutchison, the start for a typical day for a PA includes arriving before the rest of the crew, and then helping to prep the location or the office for that day’s shooting. From there, a PA’s tasks could then be a variety of things depending on who they’re working for.

“PAs are the worker bees of a production, you can’t have a shoot without [them],” said Hutchison. “They are the people who help support each department head and are a vital part of every film or television show.”

The class will be taught by three veteran instructors Jody Brockway, Leigh Paonessa and Chuck Canzoneri who will be flown in from Los Angeles. Collectively these three have 20-plus years of experience, and have worked on big budget films and television shows for a major network.

Serving as the executive director for the boot camp will be Brockway, who was Vice President of Movies and Miniseries at NBC for eight years, and has produced television movies for ABC Family Channel.

Paonessa and Canzoneri will serve as course drill instructors. Paonessa has 20 years of set experience, and has worked on films such as Transformers, Iron Man and Pirates of the Caribbean. Canzoneri has worked more than 10 years as a PA on shows such as Arrested Development, Medium, CSI Miami, and is currently a key set PA on the television show Pretty Little Liars.

“They absolutely give all of our students hands-on insight from their experiences working on everything from working on big budget television to film,” said Hutchison.

Participants who successfully complete the course will then be given a complementary year-long membership to NOVAC:BR, which entitles them to resume help and networking opportunities. Hutchison will also work closely with participants in finding job placements. To date NOVAC: BR has trained over 100 people with over 50 percent placements in the industry.

The final deadline for applications is Friday, Feb. 25, and the course will be held on March 7-8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at NOVAC:BR’s office at The Creative Bloc located in downtown Baton Rouge. Interested applicants should submit their online application through NOVAC:BR’s website. For further questions, contact Hutchison at elizabeth@novacvideo.org.


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