Adventures in Wonderland
By Erin Taylor
Michal Page wipes the sleep from her eyes, rolls out of her single bed, tosses on the last of her clean clothes and rushes out the door. It’s 4 a.m. on a cold February day. She must make it from her Danforth apartment to a west end warehouse near Lansdowne Avenue by 5:30 a.m.
Page is a third assistant director with the Toronto produced television series This is Wonderland. This is her first day back on set after a short break from filming.
“Don’t call us PAs,” she warns. “PAs on the set of a TV series are the people who do photocopies and send faxes in the office.”
Page says her job consists of getting the actors to the set from the makeup trailer and the green room.
“Basically we make sure everyone is where they need to be and they have everything they need at the right time.”
Page is part of a crew consisting of makeup artists, lighting people, electricians, camera operators and many more. The crew puts in more hours than anyone else on a TV set and their jobs are necessarily unglamorous. They start at the bottom and perform mundane tasks but without them, there would be no production.
If you can handle the long, gruelling days, some ADs and PAs can make pretty good money. However, most start out making little to no money at all. Either way it’s a chance to network and get your name out there. Being an AD or PA is a good place to start in this industry, but you have to learn how to survive, make the most of your time on set, and impress those who might be able to give you a hand up the ladder.
Because it’s the first day filming Wonderland after a few weeks’ break, Page is expected to be on set for at least 12 hours.
Page is a veteran on Toronto’s TV and movie sets, and has stuck with the same job – assistant directing.
It’s 7 a.m. and Page has already printed up the crew’s daily schedules, prepared the actors’ green rooms, labelled their doors and shipped the first set of actors off to hair and makeup.
“I love that each day is different,” she says with a smile. “You come in and nothing is the same except for sometimes the place. The people are different so I never get bored.”
Page is surprisingly chipper for having been awake at such an ungodly hour. She chats easily about her job while walking briskly back and forth between the green room, the set and the makeup trailer.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, since I was 20 years old,” she says. “We work 80 hours a week here and for features it’s over 100 hours.”