Have you ever worked on a shoot of more than ten crew members without any PAs?
What level of Hell would you describe that as?
This past week I’ve been getting back to my roots by set PAing for a modified low budget feature. The kind that had trailers and walkies and a full production team… and not much else. Oh yeah, you know the kind. Just enough money to look real. Not enough money to keep an 18K for run of show. That kind of show. It’s shows like this that really showcase how important your set and office PAs really are. Even when you feel completely at the bottom of the barrel, you need to remember that without you, the show’s a nightmare.
When I AD, I expect from my PAs to understand and respect the Lock Up first and foremost. But they often have to double as office PAs: making sides, refilling crafty and coolers, taking inventory of supplies, begging producers for more paper towels, that sort of thing. Having a separated team of set PAs from your office PAs is much more efficient, but not always doable based on budget or availability.
So why are PAs important (and why the hell should you pay for them if you can)?
The Production Office and Assistant Director departments depend on PAs as the glue for production. A 1st AD can’t leave set to drive actors back to basecamp and make sure they get through hair and makeup on time. A 2nd AD needs to monitor the callsheets and production reports and make sure basecamp is running. They can’t be filling water coolers. A production coordinator needs to stay in the office and answer questions, direct people to the right departments, make sure lunch is ample and running on time, and the crane is coming in at 5:30. They can’t be also chasing down everyone to hand them walkies or sides.
These tasks are insanely important. And it’s been proven time and time again that a monkey cannot do a PA’s job. There are bad PAs. I’ve fired them. One can definitely fuck up PAing and create some costly (time and money wise) problems for production. PAs can keep a whole set held up from shooting while they chat with a member of first team that’s been called. PAs can miss headcount for the production reports and create a lack of food the next day when the caterer cooks for 24 instead of 34. PAs can miss lock ups on very difficult shots that lead to NG takes, actors and crew getting frustrated, time being wasted, and more money being spent on overtime or reshoots.
PAs are fucking important. Good PAs make the set and office run the way they’re supposed to.
A typical set PA, while they make look like they’re standing around shooting the shit with the makeup team, can be several things to several departments throughout the course of the day. For example, on one particular day, I:
-moved several large portable AC units to very hot stuffy sets and video village areas
-spraypainted and threw blood on walls for set dec
-cleaned up the blood on walls for resetting and getting an alternate version of shot
-ran the smoke machine
-helped set up crafty area several times
-trashed the set for set dec
-coordinated office PAs to keep crafty and water stocked
-swept up plastic bottles crew members were stepping on
-cleaned and bandaged a cut with the first responder
-took headcount for lunch and called last man
-moved sandbags and apple boxes
-moved the video village monitor
-moved the chairs
-got water and snacks for the crew while they were working
-kept eyes on first team at the trailers and on their smoke breaks
-took inventory of walkies and headsets
-handed out sides
-got out times
-put all the walkies on the chargers
-oh yeah, and performed set lock up.
that was ONE DAY. now imagine if those things weren’t done. Just go ahead and imagine the gaffer having to run around and find water and sides and walkies for his guys. Or the script supervisor moving all of video village. yep.
The next time you want to think of yourselves as lowly PAs. Think of how much production would suck not to have you doing what you’re doing.