A Little More Personal: On Being in the Way

The worst thing you can be on a film set is in the way.

There is (usually) always something happening on a set. Cameras moving and lights being set up and props being brought in and taken away and hair and makeup being adjusted and actors acting. Not to mention the executives, producers, audience members (if it’s that kind of show), random guests, security guards, medic, and craft service people (aka the people that feed you aka the most important people on any set) also around. All these people make for a very crowded environment. When you are a production assistant 50% of your job is being there when someone needs something and the other 50% is not being in the way when they don’t.

Looking busy and finding good places to hide are two key skills of any good PA.  Sometimes when there’s really nowhere to go (it does happen), I just hide out in the bathroom. There was one extreme time where I felt so in the way/useless I stood in the corner chanting, “I am invisible” in hopes that no one would notice me.

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This post is not to illustrate what a terrible PA I am (because that’s the way it’s starting to sound even though I’m not), it’s to show that the idea of being in the way has transferred to my life outside of sets. I am constantly worried I am in the way. That I am taking up too much space, that my mere presence is annoying. One of my biggest fears is that I have bothered someone. That just the fact that I’ve spoken to someone or stood there has in some way disrupted their day. This isn’t a thing that just started because I work on TV sets, it is something I’ve struggled with for awhile. And being a relatively young female is definitely part of it.

On my birthright trip this summer we were sitting in a circle and one of the girls pointed out to me the difference in the way the males in the group were sitting compared to the females. The women all had their legs crossed or their feet up on the chair taking up as little space as possible. The men however were sprawled out in a way best known as “manspreading”, legs wide open with no regard to anyone’s personal space. It was something I didn’t notice on my own and it was eye opening.

I have been taught to worry that I’m in the way, to not take up too much space, to qualify what I have to say with “this is just what I think” (several times while writing this I had to stop myself from doing just that or apologizing for my opinions). It’s something I’ve only noticed and thought more about recently, but now that I have I can’t stop. How I constantly have to step aside in hallways when men are coming from the opposite direction because if I don’t they almost walk straight into me. How I am afraid to approach people because I don’t think I am worth their time. How I constantly revise my opinion if I’m talking to a male and they don’t like something I enjoyed.

Now that I’ve realized this I am trying to make a conscious decision to change. It’s hard when you’ve been conditioned to think and act a certain way without even realizing it and you work in an industry that’s known for being one of the biggest boys’ clubs around. It’s simple things I am trying to do now like reaching out to people I admire via twitter and standing up for my opinions and writing this as a way to bring attention to a thing that other people might not have realized either.

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As for working on sets, the hiding was more of a thing of my early PA-ing days anyway. Since then I’ve (mostly) taken jobs that give me more responsibilities which means I’m running around actually doing things and not just standing around. It’s all just part of the process of learning where I fit in, not just on a set, but also in life.

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