A Day in the Life of a Producer's Assistant
by Tori Larsen
Producer's Assistant Tori Larsen
3:00am: My Blackberry screams at me from somewhere in the darkness. It’s that wonderful time of the morning when I must move my production car. For unfathomable reasons, it’s illegal to park for more than three consecutive hours on my street and no one likes waking up to those pesky little yellow slips of disaster. So I stagger out of bed, find my coat, and am off; I’m not complaining; I love my little production car! Then it’s back to bed.
5:15am: Hello, Blackberry alarm! Time to rise and shine.
6:00am: I’m off to the Production Office. Snow has fallen and the roads are a little treacherous – I slip and slide along the black ice and spin out a few times while mentally going through what my day will hold.
6:25am: I arrive at the Office about an hour before the Call Time. It’s usually quiet at this time and I revel in it, knowing it’s about to get very loud. I prep my boss, Producer Ed Milkovich’s, day, updating his calendar and organizing his desk with all pertinent documents - the Call Sheet(s), maps to the locations, the Prep Schedule, and any documents that require his immediate attention.
7:00am: I settle down at my desk with a strong cup of coffee and some cereal and set about answering work e-mails. If any script revisions or new episode drafts have arrived during the night, it’s essential that they be distributed right away so that everyone is on the same page.
7:30am: Around the General Crew Call Time, I ring one of the 2nd AD’s on set to find out the daily timeline. This helps Ed and I calculate whether the shoot is behind or ahead of schedule throughout the day.
8:00am: The Draft Daily Production Report lands on my desk and I calculate the shooting hours of the previous day for Ed, who likes to know the average shooting hours of each episode. This is tracked in a chart that I deliver to him each Friday morning.
Producer Ed Milkovich
9:00am: Ed arrives and loudly greets the whole Office. It’s practically a sin to not say hello to him, so there is a chorus of “hellos” as he marches to the kitchen for his coffee. Usually during this time, someone will marvel that Ed is still wearing shorts; in rain, sun, sleet, hail, snow, and even -25°C weather, Ed can always be counted on to be in his trademark shorts. That’s just how he rolls.
9:10am: I go over Ed’s schedule with him and he adds to the list any other phone calls he has to make or e-mails he must write.
9:30am: While Ed meets with various Department Heads and the Production Manager and catches up with the Comptroller, I draft up a Casting and Immigration Memo and send out and e-mail to arrange for the next casting conference call, in which the Creators, Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora, Director, Writers, Casting Directors, and Ed will discuss the type of actors required for the next episode.
10:00am: Around this time, when I’m nursing my fourth or fifth coffee, I’ll hear from one of the Toronto Casting Directors, Jenny Lewis. Ed has appointed me the go-to person for handling all things casting related. I monitor the choices of the Creators, Writers, Director, Studio and Network Heads for each episode in a rather epic chart. This way, it’s easy to tell if anyone hasn’t weighed in on a role or an actor and the process can be kept moving forward at all times – we’re on a tight deadline! Jenny and I are in constant communication throughout the day as approvals come in or are denied and new choices need to be made.
10:30am: The Director for the next episode arrives in the Office. While he and Ed chat, I set up a previously cut episode in the viewing room for him to watch.
10:40am: Ed asks me to call the set for an update and to send an e-mail to the Post Production Producer with some extremely important budget questions. And to bring him two cups of coffee and let him know what’s on the menu for lunch, not to mention he needs to speak with the LA Casting Director right away and he wants to know why it’s so hot in his office. Right. The tricky part of this equation is that there is a massive industrial fan directly above my desk that sounds like a jet engine at all times of the day and night. Ed is pretty soft-spoken (except for his greetings!), and I spent my teenage years at loud concerts, so I’ve had to learn the art of lip reading for this job. Inevitably, the words “pardon me” escape my mouth at least fifty times a day.
10:45am: The above tasks complete, I discretely angle the space heater under my desk away from Ed’s office door. The fan in his office and my little heater compete all day, every day.
11:00am: I’m rocking coffee number six and cursing myself for not yet committing to the official switch to green tea. A re-shoot for a previously filmed episode is scheduled for later this week. I know that Ed will ask me if we have any visual references to give to the Camera Department and the Script Supervisor, so I start the process of taking screen captures from the dailies and most current episode cut.
11:45am: It’s pasta day in the office and pasta happens to be among Ed’s least favorite foods. Knowing this, I pre-ordered Ed’s lunch last night and nip out to pick up a mouthwatering delight from Bonjour Brioche, the best French bakery/café in Toronto’s Studio District.
12:00pm: Good morning LA! While Ed eats, I connect him to Nick Santora who has just arrived at the LA Office. The good news is that a new draft of the script will be arriving within minutes. This makes everyone extremely happy!
12:15pm: The script arrives and as I eat my lunch (a delicious vegan salad from Fresh that I picked up last night), I print one copy for Ed, e-mail it out to the Department Heads, and then start reading it for myself. For each script, I do a breakdown of the photo and playback materials required as well as note any scenes of possible complication for Ed’s easy reference such as if we need an airport location or we’ll be staging a shootout in a public place.
1:30pm: I e-mail the photo and playback breakdown to the Art Department.
1:45pm: The next few hours pass in a blur of calling the AD’s for updates, calling the LA office, liaising with the Producers of the upcoming Publicity Shoot, bringing documents to Ed for his signature, reviewing the dailies, sending and receiving e-mails, cursing the previously mentioned industrial fan, answering the phone (“Ed Milkovich’s Office”, silently willing myself to drop the last syllable so as to not sound like a Valley Girl), and laughing at the antics of the members of the Production Office who are without question, the best team out there. My personal favorite is when the Assistant Production Coordinator and Production Assistant break out in a duet to announce the Set Crew has broken for lunch, in tune to the theme from “Stand By Me” (“They’re on lunch, lunch, they’re on lunch, lunch…”).
4:00pm: A Production Meeting is scheduled for today. All Department Heads, Ed, and myself make our way to the Board Room to talk about the next episode. As the 1st AD walks the group through the script, I take notes and set up meetings and phone calls on my Blackberry.
5:30pm: Ed conferences with Matt and Nick to discuss the details from the Production Meeting and clarifies any questions that popped up. I grab my last coffee for the day, I swear, and check out the spectacular sunset view we have from our Office – you can’t beat the blazing orange and pink sky and silhouetted CN Tower!
5:45pm: Any sidebars that were requested during the Meeting start to take place. Ed speaks with the Production Designer, Director, and SPFX Coordinator today; I take notes.
6:00pm: Budgets from the various Departments make their way to my desk. I collect and summarize them for Ed. He then meets with the Unit Production Manager and Comptroller to review the budgets in detail. While they are in this closed-door meeting, I take messages and catch up on any outstanding work from the day. And I’ll be honest, I usually check out what’s going on in the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, and IMDb Pro.
7:30pm: A request has come in that one of the LA-based Producers who is in town would like to take the main cast out for dinner tomorrow night. I send off e-mails to the actors with the invitation and make a restaurant reservation.
8:00pm: Around this time of the day, Ed usually heads to set to over-see the last hour(s) of shooting. The Office becomes quiet again as more and more people leave for the night. I exchange a few witty e-mails with the LA Producer’s Assistants to bide the time, and prep for the next day while fueling up on a Clif Bar (thank god for Clif Bars!)
On the Breakout Kings Set