Kit Fee, Kit Rental, Box Rental

Dwayne writes in:

I’ve just been hired to do crafty for a set where there might be 100 people on the heaviest days.

My instructions are:

  • we could have 100 people at our heaviest days
  • 21 day shoot (maybe 20)
  • there is a $50/day Kit Fee
  • your budget is small for crafty – just keep that in mind
  • you’ll get a day of prep
  • no meals and/or second meals
  • You’ll be strictly craft services. Snack, drinks, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, the usual (gum, etc.)
  • You won’t have a PA to help with tables, setup, etc…just a head’s up.

So my questions are:

  • What would should the Kit Fee include? Large Coffee urn? water dispenser? What else?
  • What is proper etiquette for Kit fee? If I have extra monies from this can I use it towards special treats, etc? for crew?
  • Any tips or ideas or general info for me to do a good job?

“Kit fees,” “kit rentals,” and “box rentals” are all basically the same thing. The production is paying you for wear and tear on equipment that you own, which you use on the shoot. It’s cheaper for them, because they don’t have to rent that gear, and a nice tax-free bonus1 for you.

This doesn’t come up for PAs very much, because PAs don’t need all that much. And what they do need, the production often pays for, anyway. Still, here’s a list of useful items you might want to get.

The most likely thing you’ll get a kit fee for is your computer. That usually runs $30-$50 per week, depending on the show.

If you’re moving into crafty, Dwayne has the right idea. Coffee urn, water dispenser are a good start. Also, the crafty table; baskets to keep the snacks organized; maybe a nice table cloth (rather than a plastic one you throw away at the end of the day); containers for smaller items like sugar and stirrers, etc. A hot plate or microwave if you want to serve hot things occasionally. Any money of the kit fee you don’t spend is yours to keep.

But you shouldn’t be buying edibles (food) or expendables (cups) with your kit fee. Those are from the crafty budget. This is true for office PAs who are sent to buy crafty for the office.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Similar to mileage.
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Consistent Work

Pat writes in:

I really enjoy your site and it has given me many tips that really have been helping over the past few months. I am a PA working in New York. I have gotten a decent amount of jobs, but really not a sustainable amount.

A few months ago, I went to the Mayor’s office to try to get on a regular show or to see who I should contact. They really couldnt help me and gave me mailing addresses to send resumes to. This seemed crazy, but I sent resumes and never heard anything back. I didn’t know if you had any tips on how to get on a regular job here, the majority of my work has been a day here and a day there. Any help would be definitely appreciated!

I’ve also attached my resume, not sure if you had any tips on how I could maybe improve it / get it down to one page.

The film office in places like New York and Los Angeles are unlikely to help a PA find work. The reason is, local productions don’t have any trouble finding PAs on their own. This situation can be different in smaller markets, but you’re out of luck in the big film cities.

So what’s a PA to do?

Unfortunately, the answer is to keep doing what you’re doing. Work a day here and a day there. Work hard. Be the PA on set. Leave a good final impression.

I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but this will eventually pay off. You’ll start get a reputation, and people will want to bring you back. Eventually, you’ll get called in for the entire shoot, not just a day or two. Soon, you’ll have several shows competing for your attention.

You just have to make every day count.

As for tips on resumes, I’d start here. If you need more specific help, I offer a resume editing service just for film crew. Production resumes are totally different from the standard templates you find in Microsoft Word.

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That Special Connection

Aaron writes in:

 I work for a writer (I walk her dogs), and she knows that I want to be a writer, as well. She used to work at one of the major networks, and has sold several scripts.

She has told me that she will look around for PA jobs, and specifically writer PA jobs, and was really enthusiastic about it, but that was several months ago.

I know soon the shows will be staffing up, so my question is, how do I approach the subject of getting a PA job? Do I ask her flat out if she has heard of anything? Not sure what to do!

You’re right to be at least a little concerned. You don’t want to come off as one of those assholes who just wants to use people to further their career.

But in this case, you’re totally in the clear. She told you she wants to help, she seemed genuine about it. It might have slipped her mind, or it may be just no one she knew was hiring. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

“Hey, Ms. Dog Owner, how was your day? You mentioned you might know some people looking for a PA or writer’s assistant. Do you think anyone would like to take a look at my resume?”

I wouldn’t mention how long it’s been; it could sound a little impertinent. Besides, nobody was hiring a couple months ago, anyway. Now’s the perfect time.

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Using Your Car for Production

Jenny writes in:

I just wrapped a production where I had to drive 60 miles to location each day in order to set up breakfast before the crew van arrived, and now it’s time to invoice for all that hard PA work.

Should I charge anything for using my car? Just bill for the gas? Should my day begin when I get in the car or to the location? I don’t want to come off as an asshole, but I’d also rather the wear and tear on my car come out of the production’s pockets instead of mine.

You get reimbursed for mileage, not gas. Don’t worry, unless your car runs on jet fuel, you come out ahead. This year, the rate is 54 cents per mile.

You can create your own mileage form, if they didn’t give you one (which it sounds like they didn’t this time). Be sure to make a copy, before you turn it in.

Be forewarned– technically, they don’t have to pay for your mileage. Which is why you should always ask about mileage ahead of time. Still, at this point, just turn in the mileage form and hope for the best.

If you have to pick something up on the way to set, you start counting your time card and your mileage when you arrive at that place. You don’t get to charge for your daily commute.

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The Best Book on Directing I’ve Ever Read

First of all, if you haven’t been to the library since you graduated, you’re missing out. They’ve got millions of book, and they just give them away. For free!

And if you’re having flashbacks of the card catalogue and Dewey decimal system, don’t worry. The LA library’s website has a search engine, just like you’d expect in the 21st century. You don’t even have to go to whatever branch your book is at; they’ll send it to the one nearest you, if you like.

Also, they have videos, audiobooks, Kindle books. I mean, Jesus Christ, I sound like an advertisement, but seriously guys, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a broke-ass PA, and the library is giving you books for fucking free. Take advantage of it.

So, anyway, last weekend I was wandering the stacks, looking for a book called Master Shots (basically a book of cool shots from movie history), to help inspire me for my next short film. As I was skimming spines, I saw a name I recognized– Bethany Rooney.1

She directed a few episodes of the first show I ever worked on. I’ve never actually read a book by someone I knew personally, so I grabbed it off the shelf. It was called Directors Tell the Story: Master the Craft of Television and Film Directing.

Well, I was looking for a book on directing, anyway, and I remember liking Bethany’s work. Maybe I could learn a thing or two from her.

Holy shit, did I. Seriously, if you have any interest at all in directing, go out and buy this book. Or, you know, check it out from the library.

You see, most books about directing focus on the fun stuff– talking to actors, framing cool shots, yelling at the writer. Rooney and Belli talk about all of that, too, but they also go much deeper into the weeds. They talk about schedules and budgets and tech scouts, for Pete’s sake.

I had never even heard the term “tech scout” until my first day of prep on my first series. No book or film professor had so much as implied their existence.

Directors Tell the Story shows you what the actual job is of a director. Yes, the artsy-fartsy stuff is there, too, but they tell you more. The greatest tracking shot in the world won’t mean squat if you don’t make your day.

I know a lot of my readers are interested in climbing above the line some day. If you hope to do that, Belli and Rooney’s book will be a definite help.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. It was co-written by Mary Lou Belli, who is an accomplished director herself, although I’ve never worked with her.
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Nothing to Do

Hillary writes in:

On the last shoot I was on, after helping unload I was told to go and ask around to see which departments needed my help.

Nobody needed anything done and for the rest of the one day shoot I was rarely given a job to do. I tried to help out when I saw a need, but was often nervous that I was going to overstep my boundaries by moving or touching something I was not supposed to.

In these situations where I am rarely being given direct orders, what should I be doing? I am willing to be working much harder and going above and beyond in my duties as a PA, but I am unsure how to step out.

This is a problem any PA worth her salt will run into. You want to help, but you don’t want to get in the way. And you definitely shouldn’t be doing union work.

You did all the right things to start with– asking what needs to be done, offering to help, that sort of thing. But when you’ve run through all of those options, there’s one more thing to do: make up a job.

Organizing stuff is a great place to start. Virtually every office (or AD trailer) is disorganized. Sort through all the paperwork, and pile it up by date or type or whatever makes sense with what you have. Throw away anything that’s out of date or unusable.

Next, literally start collecting garbage. A film set is extremely wasteful; I promise you’ll find a mess if you look for it. “Time to lean, time to clean” is something assholes say, but it’s also true.

Once the stage floor is clean enough to eat off of, start making friends. Go up to anyone who seems to have a free moment, and introduce yourself. You can’t go wrong asking if they’d like something from craft services.

Grab them a soda or coffee, then ask them about their job. People, especially film people, love talking about themselves. You’ll learn something, make a connection, and maybe set yourself up for a job in the future.

Don’t be an obvious suck up, but this is doubly true of producers and directors. Those are the kinds of connections that get you promoted to writer’s assistant and the like.

It also helps if you memorize what they like. If the producer takes her coffee with two sugars and a dollop of cream, she’s going to be extremely excited to find a coffee with two sugars and a dollop of cream waiting for her at video village tomorrow morning.

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Rel/Event Networking Event

Register now to The Rel/event Hollywood conference on Friday, April 8th at Globe Theater in Downtown LA!

The Rel/event is the fastest growing entertainment event series in Los Angeles. Designed for aspiring filmmakers, actors, and film/television fans in general, The Rel/event offers engaging industry panels formatted to allow you to network with Hollywood’s most established producers, writers, casting directors, and more.

Friday, April 8th, from 6-9:30pm at Globe Theater in DTLA, hear from over 20+ guest speakers including executive producer Tommy Harper (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), co-producer Alex Ott (Suicide Squad), casting director Gohar Gazazyan (The Walking Dead, Gotham), screenwriter/co-executive producer Alan Wenkus (Straight Outta Compton), producer James Skotchdopole (The Revenant), casting director Kerry Barden (Spotlight, Jessica Jones), talent manager Joanne Horowitz (Scott Eastwood, Kevin Spacey), actor Stephen Rider (Daredevil season 2), and many more!

Tickets and seating is limited so get your tickets today. Then, join illustrious DJs Minh & Amy Pham for the official after party (21+) at The Reserve for more networking! Most guest speakers will be joining us at The Reserve!

Tickets for the panels and its after party can be purchased at Eventbrite:  TheReleventii.eventbrite.com. Use promo code HALF for 50% off registration to panels and after party. Registration for live-stream also available.

Globe Theater is located at 740 S Broadway, Los Angeles 90014. The Reserve is located at 650 S Spring Street, Los Angeles 90014. For any questions please contact Erman@TheReleventSeries.com.

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You Don’t Know What Happened in Post

I love Movie Set Memes; it’s always good for a laugh. But sometimes the conversations there are toxic. It very often sounds like people who don’t know how movies are made yelling at other people who don’t know how movies are made about how little they each know about how movies are made.

What really gets my goat are the ones who bitch about continuity errors and visible equipment (usually booms) in the shot. Because I promise you, you have never, ever, even once in your life, spotted a mistake like that which the director and editor (and a myriad other post production personnel) aren’t well aware of.

Even if you worked on the film, on set every day, and you know for a fact that there were six perfectly good takes without the boom in the shot, you still don’t know why they chose to use the seventh. There’s the performance to consider, the specific words of dialogue (which may or may not be important), the lighting, the set dressing and on and on.

And besides the individual shot, one must consider the shots that come before and after. Maybe to you, it seemed like the actress’s hair matched the wide shot, but you filmed that before lunch and it was three hours previous. Maybe the speed of the dolly move didn’t quite match the reverse angle until the 7th take. Maybe, as a whole, the composition juxtaposed more elegantly than any other take, despite the boom mic.

So, yes, a boom in the shot is a mistake. But don’t just assume the filmmakers were being careless or lazy. If you weren’t in the editing room, you don’t know if this was simply the least bad option.

As a film-goer, you’re perfectly within your rights to not like a movie. But as a filmmaker, you really shouldn’t cast aspersions on those behind the scenes without being there yourself.

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Toilet Wars

My production office is small. It’s really just big enough for the office staff itself; the writers, accountants, and everybody else are in other bungalows elsewhere on the lot. We don’t even have space for separate women’s and men’s bathrooms, just two, regular ol’ house-type bathrooms that everyone shares.

And therein lies the problem.

Some men have decided that being repeatedly asked to put the toilet seat down is an affront to their masculinity. And certain women have taken this as an opportunity to put their gender studies classes to good use and cry, “Misogyny!”

And I’m in the middle, wishing they’d both shut up and get back to work.

One guy said, “You want the seats down, we want the seats up. Why should your convenience count more than ours?”

While I appreciate the desire for equal treatment, the math doesn’t work out. Half of the office always needs the seat down, half needs the seat down some smaller percentage of the time. I don’t know what that percentage is, but if it’s non-zero, then there’s a better than even chance the next person in the bathroom will need the seat down.

The obvious solution is to put the damn seat down and stop bitching about it. It’s not that hard. ‘Course, some dude is going to forget (or be an asshole), and leave the seat up.

So I say to the women who are complaining about falling in: Why the fuck are you not looking where you set your bare ass and genitals? Have you never seen Ghoulies?

Fun fact: this scene wasn't originally in the movie. It was just for the poster, which was so popular, they added a toilet scene.

Okay, I’ve never seen it, either, but this poster is enough.

Jesus Christ, yes, I’d like to expect the boys to put the seat down, too, but… have you met boys? Lower your expectations a little.

And lastly, don’t just put down the seat; close the lid, too. We don’t live in a goddamn cave.

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Contacts & Lists

There’s around 150 to 200 people on any given film or television production. It’s a safe bet they’re not all Facebook friends. So, it’s up to the production office to create various lists with names and contact info.

This begins, as with most things, with the start work packet. Along with the I9’s and payroll forms, there’s usually a “crew info sheet.” The production coordinator usually has a template for this, but if she doesn’t, you may have to create one. It asks for very basic info: real name; credited name; phone number; email; physical address; emergency contact (name & number).

The office PAs will transcribe the contact information into the crew list. Again, the coordinator or APOC probably has a template they like, but if not, you’ll have to create one. If you don’t know exactly what it should look like, there are myriad templates available online.

The front page should definitely include certain key information: the production office address and phone number; the studio/network/production company addresses and phone numbers; phone numbers for each department that has their own line. Generally, the departments are in separate buildings, but I don’t like to waste space with their addresses unless they’re on an entirely different lot.1

Once you get that broad information out of the way, the crew list should be divided by department. Usually, you’ll put the writer/producers first, because they like to feel important. They generally don’t like to have their personal information out there, so you’re really just giving people their name and title.

The names are listed in order of seniority, from executive producer down to staff writer, with the exception of assistants. Personal assistants should be placed directly after the person they’re assisting.

The next department should be the production office, because we’re the ones most people need to call. Again, names arranged by seniority, from line producer to production assistant.

After that, the departments should be arranged in alphabetical order, starting with the AD’s (who are the next most often called department). Even though you wrote the departments’ office numbers on the front page, be sure to include those numbers in these sections, as well. Saves people time flipping back and forth.

The studio/network will also often provide a directory for their key people. Be sure to attach this to the back of the crew list.

Many people will refer to the crew list as a “contact list.” This makes sense, since it’s a list of contacts. However, some older coordinators will insist that the “contact list” is the list of vendors.

This is fucking stupid.

A crew member will come into the office, see “contact list” on a wall pocket, pull the list out, and say, “Hey, this is the vendor list.” Every. Single. Time.

To avoid confusion, always refer to the crew list as “the crew list” and the vendor list as “the vendor list.” Don’t say “contact list.”

Speaking of vendor lists, this is also the office PA’s job. All the contact information for the the production office and studio, etc, should still be on the vendor list. Again, it makes things easy for people, who call a vendor for an item, then call the production office to arrange a pickup.

Vendor lists should be arranged by department, just like the crew list. There’s no real “seniority” for the vendors within a given department, so just list them alphabetically.

Get in touch with each department, and ask who should be included on the vendor list. Don’t ask them for the contact info; you have the internet, and they have better things to do than look that shit up. Be sure to include the actual, physical address of the place (both office PAs and teamsters will need that), as well as the specific contact person, if there is one.

I haven’t even started talking about cast lists, but this blog post is already too long, so I’ll write about that on another day.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. This most often applies to the writers room, but I’ve seen it with post, the art department, and visual effects, as well.
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