Gofers: On the Front Lines of Film and Television – Book Review
Daniel Scarpati (who’s now a friend and teacher of ours) was kind enough to send us his book Gofers: On the Front Lines of Film and Televesion earlier this year for review! He is the founder of the production company Passing Planes Productions and spent many years working on major film sets as a PA before writing his book.
We’d like to start his off by saying that we received this book before Daniel became one of our workshop teachers, so this review is completely unbiased. Although, since he is now one of our teachers, I think it’s safe to say that we were very impressed with his work and method of conveying important lifelong career lessons to those looking to start in the industry. Who knows, depending on when you’re reading this, Daniel might even have a workshop happening with FilmLocal coming up!
Anyways, without further ado, let’s get on to the review!
I’ve been in the industry for a very long time and I still learned a thing or two from this book. With that said, please be aware that this review won’t be from a beginner’s perspective, but I’ll do my best to think as if I was fresh in the industry.
As someone who was born in a town that had little to no film industry, in a family of engineers and teachers, I had no idea how to get onto my first set. If I had Daniel’s book back then, I would have saved myself months of heartache and research figuring out what to do to get my foot in the door. Daniel explains in detail, step by step, how to get started as a PA. This information is truly invaluable to those of you looking to get started. Plus, he provides you with information on how to set yourself up for your own business. Including writing off expenses and dealing with paperwork. This will help you save some precious dollars while living off a production assistant’s salary.
Essentially, Daniel wrote the book he wishes he had before he started his career. Well, I have some good news for you, that book now exists so you don’t have to start your career in the dark! Learn all about the behind-the-scenes life of a production assistant on major film sets. As Daniel likes to state, being a quick learner and showing that off will greatly help you in your career. This book will give you that extra knowledge. Just so you know, PA is often referred to this book’s namesake ‘gofer’!
There’s a decent chance that your first job on a film set will be as a production assistant. PA veteran, Daniel Scarpati, has worked hundreds, if not thousands of hours on set. From smaller independent shows to massive feature films, he’s done it all, and lives to tell the tale! He’s done more than live in fact, he’s written a fantastic book explaining the ins and outs as a PA and sharing his personal stories (good or bad). All to better your venture into the industry. Daniel regales entertaining stories from working on crazy technical (and dangerous) stunt sequences, to controlling massive crowds of people, or dealing with less than favourable citizens at 5:00 in the morning. You’ll learn everything that you need to know being in this entry-level role. Daniel explains it all from the moment you wake up at 5am to when you go to bed at 11pm, and everything in-between. He informs you of what your lifestyle is like when off set as well. That’s something that you don’t learn from film school. Hell, this book basically is film school. The only difference is that this costs $15 instead of $30,000! It’s time for you to learn how to make your way through the film industry step-by-step and create your own path.
He showcases every single PA position there is in an extensive breakdown. You learn exactly what each PA does, pros and cons. Becoming a Production Assistant (no matter which type) you’ll have a wide range of responsibilities, and when I say wide-range, I really do mean wide-range. From cleaning garbage cans, to helping set up an explosion in the middle of Central Park, you truly never know exactly what you’ll be getting into during any given day on set as a PA. That’s why you have to be prepared for anything.
The way Daniel writes keeps everything light and entertaining throughout the book’s 214 page length. He’s able to get incredibly useful facts and lessons across without losing your interest. He sprinkles in real-world experiences he has had on film sets and his thoughts during that particular time in his career. This helps keep the book in reality and easier to digest, as you can see yourself in the same situation. At the same time, he tells you how it is. He shares his stories exactly how they happened, for better or for worse. It serves as a great reality check for people thinking of getting into the industry. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in unpleasant situations – getting yelled at, caught between huge Hollywood egos, being made fun of. It’s not sugar-coated. He’s not afraid to share with you his past failures. His mistakes and misfortunes are your lessons. He’s very open when it comes to this and doesn’t shy away. However, it’s not meant to demoralize you or turn you away from the industry. Just to inform you of what you may experience in your own career. I personally have noticed the industry going on a better path since I first started. Less is tolerated now in terms of coworkers treating each other harshly.
He gets you used to various film industry terms and lingo and defines them along the way. Which is very useful for all inspiring industry folk. One of the toughest parts on day 1 of the job is figuring out what everyone is talking about one set. I mean, he defines what a gofer is on the back of the book.
Finally, somewhat off topic, but this book is even great to show to your friends and family. It’ll teach them what you have to deal with day in and day out! It’s tough to accurately explain to people what your job entails. Since on any given day you could be cleaning a bathroom to helping an A-list actor rehearse lines then back to taking down tents in a blizzard.
I love how Daniel starts the book off in a wholesome and enlightening way. Everyone matters. It doesn’t matter what position you have in the industry, even being amongst the lowest (Production Assistant) which is what this book is all about. You’re a human being and you are helping the production get made. It couldn’t be done without you. This showcases how insightful and down-to-earth the rest of the book will be, as well as Daniel’s mindset.
I feel like this needs to be stated to everyone, no matter what your position is – Be kind to PAs. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘beneath you’ be nice and courteous to everyone you come across on set. This is a team sport.
I think this book is a must have for anyone looking to get into the film industry. It goes over plenty of great points and lessons that can take years to learn and experience. Having this knowledge before stepping foot on your first set is greatly beneficial. It’s something that I wish I had before getting into the industry. It would have saved me from a lot of tough lessons to learn! Again, you can buy it here. While you’re at it, be sure to check out Daniel’s Passing Planes and support him and his endeavours (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram)! If you want to take a workshop with him, check to see if he has one in the works!