What Is It Really Like On Set?

This past summer, I had a few opportunities arise that I am incredibly grateful to have had. One of these opportunities was a production assistant job on the set of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior (ANW) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The other was also a production assistant job on the set of Netflix’s Hyperdrive in Rochester, New York. I want to emphasize how I came across these jobs because it is essential to anyone looking to get into this industry. I have a friend that attended college at Kent State University, and she has a friend there who had a friend who worked on ANW. Through this line of connections, my friend and I were able to work on the show. However, it was also because I was willing to reach out and inquire about the position. The people who recommended me also had to have a positive perception of me as a worker, because my work ethic would also reflect their own judgment of character.

The tasks of a production assistant are relatively simple-- do anything and everything that someone else with another job title does not have time to do. For example, I had to set up tents for guest check-ins, rake rocks out of the dirt so that camera dollies could easily move on the dirt, and go on various runs for snacks, drinks, and goggles. However, this was really all a test to see what kind of a person I am to work with, what my work ethic looks like, and how motivated I am as a worker. I really enjoyed this job, because I got to interact with all different departments and was able to see what kind of work everyone on set does. This, in turn, has helped me gain a better understanding of what roles I want to try to grow in.

It has been interesting working on the set of unscripted television shows because there are some differences from scripted television. Rather than already having the story laid out and planned, the producers have to constantly be reworking ideas based on how the people respond and what they share. Morally, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this type of television, because sometimes it can feel exploitative. However, I am glad I had this opportunity because I saw how it is filmed, and could better understand that everything is consensual and optional.

Having these jobs while attending a Christian college has definitely opened up conversations with crew members. I appreciated that nobody was explicitly disrespectful to me about my religion or my educational choice. If anything, there was more question as to whether or not higher education was necessary for this line of work (which I have come to my own conclusion that for me personally, it was necessary). Every Christian defines their faith a little differently, so I want to avoid making any broad commentary, but there were definitely easily accessible negative temptations in many forms offered to me while working on both shows. It then became my choice as to how I would handle these situations, and whether or not I would choose to have my faith influence these decisions. It definitely is not an easy thing to figure out or decide, especially in the moment, but these moments were actually incredibly beneficial for me to experience in order to be more certain of my morals and beliefs.

After the jobs I had this past summer, I have had a lot of time to try to figure out where I want to go from here. My plan is to work with ANW again this summer and then move down to Atlanta, Georgia; where the film industry is growing. If anything, it will be an opportunity to connect with more people and gain more experience in this field, as well as use these past experiences to be strong in my faith while doing the work that I love.

By Laura Hill