The New York PA Training Program Celebrates Five Years
While the film incentives in New York City have help lure both film and television productions from across the country, they’ve also had a significant impact in reducing the unemployment rate in a most unusual demographic: the untrained, under-privileged sector.
When the film incentive structures were still being finalized, the Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI), a non-profit agency specializing in sector-based job training, paid close attention to the potential workforce changes filming would bring, such as the building of a film studio in Brooklyn. Sensing there would be higher traffic in location and studio shooting, the BWI realized the role of production assistant would be a perfect fit for the unemployed population. This entry level position would provide an opportunity for advancement in a variety of capacities, from office roles to post production. When the incentives were launched, BWI combined forces with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to launch the “Made in NY” Production Assistant Training Program.
In order to qualify for the “Made in NY” PA Training Program, the applicant must be unemployed and have no previous production background, training or connections. They can not be currently enrolled in a school or taking classes. They must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. The application process is very rigorous: each applicant is interviewed to determine eligibility. Those who pass the interview process must go through a serious of tryouts. Those who pass the tryouts will be accepted into one of four training programs a year. The training cycles run for four weeks, five days a week from 7:30am-4:00pm. Only 10% of those that apply to each cycle of the program are accepted.
“We are looking to recruit motivated, enthusiastic New Yorkers who will take full advantage of the opportunity our programs can provide,” said Katy Finch, program director, “Made in NY” Production Crafts Training Program.
Those students who are accepted enter a program that is designed like a boot camp: they are presented a production atmosphere from the first day of training. They learn about every department involved in a production as well as the specific functions and terminology of those departments. They learn about daily sides, and they participate on mock runs. They are taught production etiquette, and are given mock interviews to help them land jobs. At the end of the program they leave able to call themselves a “General PA”, someone who could function in any department on set.
A number of different organizations have partnered with the “Made in NY” PA Program to ensure its success, such as Silvercup Studio and Eastern Effects, who generously donate time and equipment to aid in the PA’s training. Finch, a former AD who remains involved in productions as a producer and director, hires qualified production professionals to instruct the students. Training, however, is only half of the equation in the “Made in NY” PA Program. Once the students graduate, Finch and her staff work to make sure the new PAs get hired, acting as agents for two years ensuring the work experience is beneficial for both the student and the production. As the program has grown, so has the network of individuals who have hired graduates from the program. While the program strives to place graduates into long-term placements, short-term needs are equally welcomed. The program has a 24 hour, seven days a week hot line available for productions with a last minute PA placement need.
In January the program will be celebrating its fifth year anniversary. As the program has grown, so has the interest from the community it serves. Many of the applicants come from the fiveboroughs of Manhattan where poverty is a serious problem for the city. What the “Made in NY” PA Program has offered is an opportunity for individuals who never imagined they could have an opportunity to get work in film and television, and given them the chance to succeed. Graduates with diverse pasts and prior criminal justice problems present an encouraging example to members of their community, resulting in an upswing of applicants eager for a similar opportunity. While not all the applicants are qualified for the program, those who are accepted have a 90% placement rate after graduating the rigorous program.
“So far, we have graduated 251 PAs and they have made over $5 million in wages since 2006,” said Finch. “We now have alumni in the DGA and the Local 52 union and many of our participants are now working in advanced positions such as camera operator, associate producer and set dresser. I’m thrilled that our program is still going strong after five years and that some of our first year grads are in a position to higher new alumni. This is a true example of the strength of the network of the ‘Made in NY’ program.”
For more information about the “Made in NY” PA Training program and events surrounding their fifth year anniversary, please visit: