Since my life currently consists of spending 12-14 hours a day at a studio, I thought I’d take a few minutes to write about my life as a production assistant in Hollywood. Yes, production assistants (PAs) are the lowest on the entertainment industry totem pole, and yes, you’ll see a lot of articles floating around about how terrible it is to be one. But being a PA isn’t that bad, and it certainly has some great perks.
I’ve been a set and office PA (working for the team that films the show/movie/commercial) and a Post PA (working for the team that edits and finalizes the show/movie/commercial) on many different projects since moving out here. The PA duties vary from project to project, but essentially, you’re the assistant to everyone you work with. You do whatever they ask, with a smile on your face. Sometimes it’s getting lunch for the team, setting up chairs, printing out documents, and making DVD copies. Other times it’s driving two hours away to get a producer their favorite salad. As a PA, you have to expect you’ll be asked to do anything. But here are the perks:
Getting to go on all the studio lots and sets for free
As a PA, you’ll either work on or be asked to drive to any of the major studios around Hollywood. You just have to flash your drive-on pass at the gate and go right in. It’s fun to see the general public waiting in line for a tour or sitting on the tram, knowing they paid a small fortune to see something you get to see every day. Also, you pretty much have free roam of the entire lot. On any given day you might see your favorite actor walking around or your favorite show being filmed.
Working with major talent (celebrities)
Even better than just seeing, you might get to directly work with major talent, too. They’re certainly just normal people, but it’s still fun to interact with them, if allowed. As a PA, you might be in charge of keeping their trailer tidy or walking/driving them to the stage. Sure, you may get a few divas, but most of the actors are very professional and nice.
Catered lunches and unlimited crafty
Many times lunch will be paid for by the production. Sometimes, as a PA, you’ll be the one running out to get it, but a free meal is a free meal. It gets even better when lunch is catered. They spare no expense to feed top-level talent and crew. Health nuts, vegans, and junk-food enthusiasts will all be pleased.
Crafty, or unlimited snacks, is another perk. If someone can’t wait for lunch, there’s usually a whole kitchen, room, or table filled with candy, chips, fruit, cereal, desserts, etc, that’s available for anyone to eat at any time of the day.
Getting to watch your TV show/film on the big screen in a private theater
This is a perk that would mostly only apply to Post PAs. Once an episode/movie is close to being finished, it gets played in a huge, private theater for important people to make notes and to finalize sound. The producers and editors will sometimes bring along a PA just in case anyone needs anything. Many times you just get to sit back, relax, and watch an advance screening of a TV show that everyone else will have to wait another two months to see.
Wrap, which means the production has finished filming, usually follows with a wrap party. If you worked on the production, you’re invited to the party with all the cast and crew. Unfortunately, when you’re a Post PA, and they film in another state, you can’t go. You sometimes get the invite, but sadly you just have to throw it away. As a set/office PA, you can definitely go. I’ve heard the wrap parties can be quite a blast, but unfortunately, I’ve never been to one. All of the productions I’ve worked on so far either didn’t have one or I was a Post PA working in another state. Someday I’ll get to take advantage of this perk!
When a show finishes, the producers or director (or people way more important than you) may give the crew a gift as a way of saying thanks for all of their hard work. This can be anything from a shirt, to a watch, to amusement park tickets.
Being privy to show information before the public
Many times PAs have access to scripts and early cuts. It’s always funny to see the public’s reaction to things you knew about months ago. I love reading reviews, fan theories, and incorrect spoilers about shows I worked on. Of course, you’re not allowed to share any of the information you know, so no one knows that you know, and therefore, you’re not special. But at least you know you know. 8)
So the next time you hear a PA complaining about their job, remind them how good they have it -unless they just drove two hours for a salad. That’s just cruel!