Tag Archives: Production Assistant

Don’t Be a Bitch Part I: Lock-Up Woes


Today, while on “Lock-up”, I was reminded of when I played baseball in grade school. Way out in right field on a sunny day with nothing to do but watch the other kids play. So bored that I eventually sat down and picked at the grass — and when the ball was finally hit to me — I didn’t catch it because I wasn’t paying any attention. Except now the ball is a really bitchy woman who resembles someone you might see on a show called The Real Housewives of Hell.

I understand that it’s annoying when a production takes over your apartment complex or local park. I understand that no one told you we were going to be here. I understand you don’t have anywhere to park now, and that you pay your taxes, and that you “come here everyday to walk your dog at 5:00pm”. What I don’t understand is why you have to be a bitch.

I am paid an insulting amount of money to stand around all day with the sole purpose of keeping you from parking in crew parking or walking your dog right into the middle of the shot. So when I ask you very politely to move, why do you have to be a fucking bitch about it? I’m just trying to let you know that in about 2 minutes a giant police escorted “shot-maker” truck pulling a classic Chevy  Camaro is about to drive right into where your idling your vehicle. If you’re that pissed off, take it up with the manager or park service who allowed us to use this property for an ungodly amount of money in the first place.

It’s not like you live in Norman, OK — You live in fucking Los Angeles. We shoot stuff here. Get used to it already. I mean, god damn it, you live in the Hollywood Towers! Productions are bound to be around. Does your life suck so much that the only way you can make yourself feel better is by causing those around you to be miserable? I am a 24-year-old with a low paying job and more student loan debt then I can handle. You pay $2500 a month for a one bedroom in Hollywood without batting an eye. I am the one who should be bitching.

Being Busy Not Being Busy

I haven’t posted in a week.  It’s because I’ve been on an extended period of downtime… and it sucks. It really blows.  I’m one of those “work-a-holic” types, and my patience is being tested. I’m so restless. I sent out 26 resumes last week to countless black holes. An Assistant Editor job I was in the interview process for got put on indefinite hold.  A Set PA gig on a commercial got bumped to next month.  The people I have worked for in the past don’t have anything for me at this point in time.  I needed to find SOMETHING to keep me busy, and feed the work-a-holic inside me — so I started another blog.  I know, I should be writing my feature.  I am doing that as well. That’s one good thing about downtime.  I wrote a new horror logline, I’m developing a treatment for an adventure film, and still switching between writing two features.  I know… I just need to finish one of them and get on with my life.

A couple friends and I have just launched a movie news blog.  It keeps me busy while I’m not working and, an added plus to running a news site, now I know everything happening in the industry.

On a good note, I made a couple new contacts, had a phone interview with a company that may bring me some work, and talked to a 1st A.D. who added me to the interview rotation for a PA job on a TV show. Should hear back from her in about 3 weeks.  Fingers crossed.

Oh… and I discovered MineCraft, Portal 2, and I’ve done some catching up on Parks and Rec.

So I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is, USE YOUR DOWNTIME. Stay busy when you’re not busy, you never know where it might lead you.

Production Assistant Pay [Updated]

The only thing a PA is missing is the Y – Anonymous

How much does a Production Assistant get paid? — seems to be a recurring question, so I’ll answer it: NOT MUCH!

PAs don’t get paid hourly.  A PA gets paid on a “per-day” day rate, based on a 12 hour day.  Day rates depend on the type of show you’re working on. On average, in Los Angeles, the PA day rate is around $125 a day. A day rate is good, because if you work 6 hours instead of 12, you will still get paid for a full day. Those days are rare, and you will more likely be working over 12 hours, most of the time. For more information on how a day rate works, check out TAPAs post on the subject.

Commercials and Music Video’s tend to pay more than Movies and TV, but you don’t work as long. I’ve been a PA on a couple photo shoots that pay a day rate of $250, but the shoots only last 1-2 days.  I’ve also worked as a PA on a couple commercials that pay a day rate of $200, but those shoots were only a few days long as well.  If you’re on a movie or TV show, you could be getting paid $125 a day for a few months. This is what I am currently trying to do…  and it’s a pain in the ass.

You’ll find that most industry jobs don’t do “pay by the hour”.  It’s either by the day, week, or job.

Ask any questions in the comments section, and I’ll be glad to answer them to the best of my ability.

[UPDATE]

So I just recently worked on a feature and figured out a little more on how we’re paid.

On this feature I was making $112 a day, with a guaranteed 12 hour day. So even if I only worked 10 hours instead of 12, I would still get paid for the full 12 hours.

Now on paper this breaks down to $8/hr for the first 8 hours. After 8 hours you get time and a half for the next 4 hours. So I’d be getting paid $8/hr for 8 hours and $12/hr for 4 hours. That makes the $112/12 day rate. Anything I work after 12 hours is double time, which would be $16 an hour.

Now on this feature I was working 6 day weeks. So my “6th day” rate is time and a half for every hour. So I would make $12/hr for the first 12 hours and then $16/hr for anything after 12.

I also got one $7 meal penalty per day. Basically you have to be fed 6 hours after your call time. Because I am a PA, I always have a pre-call. Which means If the call time for crew is at 8am, I’ll probably have a call time for 7am. When we break for lunch at 2pm, it’s been 7 hours of work for me before lunch… which means I get a meal penalty. It’s not much… but on a 6 day week that’s $42 extra in the bank.

Also check out:

Production Assistant Job Description and Duties [Updated]


For those out on the world wide web who don’t know what a Production Assistant is:

What is a Production Assistant?

A Production Assistant, also known as a PA, is a entry level position in the entertainment industry.  No education is required, but you must be a hard worker, responsible, and willing to learn. That’s right, you DON’T need to go to film school to become a PA. Who knew? If you work hard as a Production Assistant, people will notice. It’s not a glamorous job by any means — and you mostly get shit on — but many leading industry professionals once started out as PAs. It’s a entry level position that, if worked right, can launch you into any part of the industry.

There is no “age-limit” for being a PA, but it’s basically low-pay grunt work for those looking to break into the industry — primarily occupied by people in their early to mid 20’s. Work hours vary, but usually fall into 12-16 hour days — depending on the shoot. Pay can range anywhere from $100-$250 a day — also depending on the shoot. Film and TV usually falls closer to the $100-$125 side of things. Commercials and photo shoots can move closer towards $200-$250.

Production Assistant Job Duties.

A PA’s job duties can vary depending on what the budget is, or what department you are working in. Different types of PAs include Office PAs, Set PAs, Art PAs, Writer’s PAs, Wardrobe PAs… etc. Basically every department could have a PA working in it.

An Office PA works in the production office, and has job duties that include things like answering phones, going on runs (picking up/dropping off everything from equipment to payroll), taking lunch orders, picking up and distributing lunch, running copies, paperwork distro, maintaining office craft service, maintaining office supplies, etc…

A Set PA works on set, and job duties include things like “lock up” (making sure no one walks into the shot) and echo-ing “Cut” and “Rolling” as they come across the radio.  They could be “running talent” or background, distributing paperwork and walkies, picking up trash, managing the craft service table, going on coffee runs, ..etc.  The list of what a set PA ends up doing is… endless… and can even include picking up dog shit and used condoms off the side of the road. I wish I was joking.

[Updated 10/29/13: Just made some minor updates]

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Tips for a Production Assistant: Set Lingo

Walk onto a film set for the first time and you will quickly realize there is an entirely different language you must learn, in order to communicate effectively with those around you. Here is a list of general set lingo. Be sure to check out Walkie Lingo as well.

Above-the-Line: Producers, Directors, Actors, Screenwriters and all the people who have “creative” input.

A.D.: Short for Assistant Director. If you’re a set P.A., he or she will probably be your boss. For more info go here.

Apple Box: A wooden box used for many different things.  Sizes include;  full apple, half apple, quarter apple, and pancake.

Base Camp: Sometimes located away from set. This is where the trailers, parking, and meals are usually located.

Below the Line: Everyone not “Above-the-Line”.  This is the crew and makes up most of the production.  (Interesting Note: I think the budget for “Below-the-Line” and “Above-the-Line” usually evens out to about the same. Which is depressing).

Bogies: Unwanted people in the shot, usually pedestrians, are called “Bogies”.

C-47 or Bullet: A wooden clothes pin.

Camera Op or C.O.: Short for Camera Operator – For more info go here.

Crafty: Nickname for the craft services table.  This is where all the snacks and drinks are.

Crossing: It’s polite to say this to the Camera Op if you’re crossing his frame.

Cube Trucks: Large white trucks with lifts that look like cubes. Each department usually has their own. E.g. The Production Cube.

Day for Night: When planning on shooting a night scene, during the day on stage.

D.P.: Short for Director of Photography or Cinematographer.  For more info go here.

Honeywagon: Portable trailer with bathrooms and dressing rooms.

Hot Points: If someone yells this, move out of their way. They are probably carrying something pointy and/or sharp.

Genny: Short for the generator which supplies power.  Usually on a truck.

Lanyard: The thing around your neck that says you’re part of the production, and have permission to be on set.

Last Looks: Usually yelled by the A.D. to Hair, Make-up, and Wardrobe to hurry the eff up with the talent.  Shooting NOW!

Layout Board: Large strips of cardboard or other type board used to protect floors on location.  Sometimes people use carpeted mats as well.

Locations: Short for Locations Managers. See more here.

Lockdown: Term for standing around making sure people don’t walk onto set during takes

Abby Singer: Aka “The Abby” — Term from the second to last shot of the day.

Martini Shot: Aka “Martini” – Term for the last shot of the day.

Pass Van: Short for Passenger Van.  These vans drive people where they need to go.

Pictures Up: A warning that they’re ready, and the camera is about to start rolling.

Pop-Up: Short for the Pop-Up tents all around set.  Usually, each department will have one to shade people and equipment.

Production or the P.O.: Short for the Production Office. This is where you will find the Production Manager and the Coordinators for various departments…usually.  Also where you fill out paperwork and time cards… etc.

Props: Any item on set that is touched by an actor, in accordance with what is written in the script.  Otherwise it is a set decoration.

Rolling: When footage is actually being shot.

Settle in: See “Pictures Up.”

Show: Whether it be TV or a Feature, everything is called a “Show”.

Talent: Actors, Models, Musicians — People being filmed on camera.

Transpo: Short for transportation.  These are the guys who drive everything.

Travelling: If someone is outside of the location, or walking to set, they are “traveling”.

Video Village: A camp of monitors and chairs.  This is where the video feed from the camera goes so that producers, directors, and other above-the-line people can watch what is being shot.

Hot Brick:Term used for a charged walkie battery.

Cold Brick:Term used for a dead/dying walkie battery.

I will update this list periodically. Feel free to comment and add more lingo!  I will put it up on the list.

Also check out:

Tips for a Production Assistant: Working for No Pay Part 2

“The Slave Ship” by J.M.W. Turner – The practice of eighteenth century slave traders who would throw the dead and dying slaves overboard during the middle passage in the Atlantic Ocean in order that they might claim the insurance for drowning.

I did a post a little while back about Working for No Pay. I still think this could benefit you IF you think there is an opportunity to work with great people who could possibly help you get PAID in the future. I did it, and it worked well for me. However, there are people in the industry who don’t give a shit about you. I was just on Mandy.com and I ran across a this:

All interested PA must reply with a resume and picture.

Are you kidding me?  Since when does a Production Assistant need head shots? Oh yeah… since RACISM and SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

All PA’s must be available both dates and must possess the following qualities: Reliable, Dependable, Enthused with with productions, Must have transportation to and from the facilit, Ability to work well in a fast pace invironment

OK! Where to begin?  First, notice their complete lack of ability in spelling words. Second, I’m not entirely sure there is a difference between being reliable and dependable. Third, even though these are traits that any good Production Assistant should have, I find it a little insulting to be demanding these things of someone that you’re NOT PAYING!

All PA’s will be required to sign an agreement confirming their committment to the project.

Yes. Let me get right on that. Idiot. Also, despite what you may think, not everyone jumps at the opportunity for IMDB credit and free food. Last time I checked, Nationwide wasn’t accepting leftover chocolate covered espresso beans or roasted seaweed snacks as payment for my premium car insurance.

Just be careful out there when accepting any lo/no/deferred jobs is all I’m trying to say.

Tips for a PA: Advice from Sam

One of my readers, Sam, has added some valuable advice for a new PA, on my previous post Tips for a PA: Hard Work and No Pay. Here is what he had to say:

I’ve been a PA on some smaller TV shows and I was an unpaid intern on a big, 50 million dollar Hollywood project, and I can say that it is not easy.  My tips are as follows:

– Never sit down:  If a Producer sees you sitting without some sort of paperwork in front of you, they assume you are not working at all. Wait until lunchtime to sit down.  If your legs get tired, then lean on something.

– Never stand near another PA during set-up, wrap time:  Those times are the busiest, if a Producer or Chief PA or Second Second AD sees you, they assume you are being unproductive.

– Live and die by the walkie talkie:  If you are lucky enough to have a radio, keep it attached to your ear at all times, and do not speak unless you absolutely need somebody/something. Before long, the sound the walkie talkie will be easy to listen to, even during multitasking, like an internal monologue. When you do speak, make sure you don’t “step-on” someone who was already talking. Always lower the volume before a take. This brings me to the most obvious thing which is:

– Never ruin a take, ever: This seems obvious, but I’m always surprised to see how volatile even the most controlled of studio environments can be. For this reason, I recommend that you overcompensate by being basically motionless and utterly silent during takes, with your phone shut off, no matter where you are. There will be exceptions to this rule, but get in the habit of being the most silent, most still person on set each and every take.

– Wear a name tag on your first day. Introduce yourself briefly. Make them feel comfortable coming to you for help with anything.

For extra credit: bring nice cigarettes and share, you’ll get bonding points from the smokers.

Great advice Sam!

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Tips for a PA: Downtime and Cold Calling [UPDATED]

I had three jobs last week.  Two of them were for a producer I did a free gig for (she’s awesome), and the other was a small commercial shoot, for a friend of a friend.  How many shoots do I have this week? A big fat ZERO.  I guess that’s just how the industry goes sometimes.  Slammed one week, nothing the next. Now that I’m not working, what am I doing? Feverishly checking my inbox every 5 minutes, and looking for more work.

As I sit down and write this, I’m already working on my third cup of coffee, and I’m taking a much needed break from the horrible process of cold calling random productions. Before taking up this wretched task, I sent everyone that I worked with last week an email, and thanked them for giving me the opportunity to work my ass off. I also let them know what my availability is (which at the moment is, ANY TIME!!).  So, now that I’m fresh out of contacts… here is where the cold calling begins.

Basically, this process involves finding every single production in town, tracking down the number for each of their production offices, calling said offices to ask if they’re currently hiring PAs, and then sending my resume off to some black hole email address, that will more then likely never be checked.  I can’t help but feel like this is a lost cause.  The people I’ve spoken with, always sound like they have no idea what is going on.

Me:  “Hi, my name is _______.  I was wondering if you were hiring PAs?”

Them:  “Umm… I think we’re all staffed up, but you can send your resume to BLACKHOLEOFRESUMEDEATH@usuallygmail.com.”

So, who can help me in this situation?  Do I try and force the person on the phone to get me in contact with the 2nd A.D. or the Production Coord? I need a cold calling master to train me in the ways of artificial sweetness and unflinching persuasion.

What’s the best method you’ve found for obtaining info about the productions in town and their respective office numbers? Right now, my process consists of vigorous google searching, followed by determining whether or not they’re shooting in LA, followed by IMDB Pro research, followed by telephoning the main production office, and asking for the show’s specific production office number.

In the meantime, I’ve created a google docs spreadsheet to keep track of every production I call, as well as; when I called, the office number and email, who I actually spoke with, and when I should follow up. This will help me keep track of the madness I am currently throwing myself into.

[Updated: 10/24/13]

I’m going through some of my old posts cause I’m sitting at the production office at 10:00pm bored out of my mind and I couldn’t help but laugh at this post.  I am now that person on the other end who sounds like they have no idea whats going on that directs you to the black hole email address… and it really is that simple. Either I’m going to say we’re all crewed up, but feel free and send us your resume, or I’m going to say something along the lines of “I THINK we’re all crewed up” because I really don’t know the needs of people until the minute they’re brought to my attention. If someone is suddenly like “WE NEED A PA!” Then I’ll be like, “Great! I have a black hole email address filled with PA resumes.” Then I SCAN through them quickly, pick out some winners, and give them to whoever asked.

Irony.

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Tips for a PA: Sweetened or Unsweetened?

This tip is a short one, but it will save you a lot of time and energy.

When I order a coffee, I usually get… a coffee.  If I’m feeling crazy,  I might get an iced coffee. Apparently, coffee comes in many different combinations and flavors. As a PA, you will often be tasked with getting people their caffeinated liquid of choice.  This is when your handy dandy notebook comes into play.

When someone asks you to fetch their “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” make sure they specify whether they want their “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” sweetened, or unsweetened! The last thing you want, after parking a mile a way (there is never a place to park near a coffee house in LA), and standing in line forever (there are always 900 people in line brandishing iPads, and sporting trendy blazers), is to have the barista ask, “Sweetened?” …and you have no idea. Saying, “Well, she’s a chick, so she probably wants it sweetened.” is the wrong answer. Then, once you find a way to fit all of that coffee on your body, somehow survive the mile back to your car, and drive all the way back to set, you will learn that she actually wanted it unsweetened.  Now, you get to go back to “Coffee House X” and fetch her an unsweetened “Iced-Venti-Double-Macchiato-Soy-Latte-Green-Tea-Pumpkin-Chai” before she snaps, and kills the locations guy.

People are very particular about their coffee. Get every detail right! Sugar or “Sweet n’ Low”?  One packet or two? Milk, 2%, or soy? Sweetened or unsweetened? Now, do this with 6 different orders. You are NOT going to remember. Write it down. Be detailed. Be Awesome! Get everyone’s name as you’re taking their orders. Make sure the barista writes the names on every cup.

People can be bitches without their coffee. Become awesome at it, and you will turn into “that guy who’s awesome at everything”!!

Any PAs out there have crazy coffee run stories?

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Tips for a PA: Walkie Talkie Lingo

A PA without a walkie is a talking sandbag. – Unknown AD

As a PA, you are going to be on the walkie a lot. You will quickly find that there is a certain walkie lingo that you must learn, if you don’t want to look and sound like a complete retard. Let me attempt to explain how some of this works. It’s pretty straightforward. Also be sure to check out Set Lingo.

When you first get your walkie: If you are given a headset, plug it in. Turn the walkie on. You do this by turning the nob on top. Make sure you are on the right channel. Usually, you will be on channel 1, but be sure to check with your supervisor to confirm this. Hit the talk button and say: “Radio Check” or “Walkie Check” . Someone will then respond: “Good Check”.  This means everything is working properly. If no one responds, something probably isn’t working.

Channels: Different departments can be on different channels, but the main channel will most likely be channel 1. Channel 2 is usually left open for one-on-one conversation. If you need to have a private conversation, or a conversation that lasts more than a few seconds, you should issue (or will be issued) the following instruction:  “Switch to 2” Then, you (or the person you’re speaking with) should respond with: “Switching”, or, “Copy, Switching to 2”.  When the private conversation is over, one of you should issue the term: “Back to 1″ to which the other person should respond with: “Copy that, switching back to 1” The reason it’s done this way, is because only one person can be speaking on a channel, at a time. You don’t want to be jamming up a main channel that people need, and you don’t want to annoy people with conversations that they don’t want to hear.

(Also, on that note – No goofing off over the walkie. Unless you want the AD to take it away from you, and make you look like a child in front of the whole crew.)

Frequently check to make sure you are on the right channel, and that your walkie is still working properly. If you don’t hear anything over the radio for a long time, you should probably do a walkie check.

Remember to keep fresh batteries on you or somewhere close – at all times!

“Does anyone have eyes on _____” – Term used when trying to find someone who doesn’t have a walkie.

“____ to ____” – Term used when requesting someone’s attention: “John to Bill”

“Go for _____” – Term used when acknowledging a request: “Go for Bill”

Copy/Copy That – Term used to indicate that you understand the instructions, or tasks you’ve been given. Make sure to respond EVERY TIME, that way people know you actually heard them.

“10-1” – Term used when someone is in the restroom: “Going 10-1” or, “Where is Mary?“, “10-1“.

“What’s your 20?” Term used when attempting to locate someone: “Bill, what’s your 20?

“Flying In” – Term used when bringing someone, or something, to the set. The someone/something “flies in”.

These are some of the more frequently used “walkie lingo” terms.

If anyone else has more on set walkie lingo let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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