A reader who didn’t sign her email and has an incomprehensible list of letters and numbers for an address (at netscape.net, of all domain names) asks:
I’m currently working as an Office PA on a […] film which I have been told is trying to keep things cheap, and was a little shocked that I was only making $7.64 an hour, with $11.47 for over time. I have worked as an office PA a couple of times, but I would recieve the other times $10 for an hour, $15 for over-time. I am non-union, so unsure if there is a set rate. Would you say that my pay is normal for an office PA?
Can a PA be part of a union?
There is no PA union, at least in America. The closest we have are DGA trainees. It sucks, because there’s no set rates or insurance or anything. On the other hand, the lack of a union lowers the bar for entry, which is convenient.
As for your rate, you’re thinking about it wrong. Production assistants don’t get paid an hourly rate, except on paper. On any real show, PAs are paid a day rate. For accounting purposes, this is calculated backwards to an hourly rate, based on a twelve hour day, for your time card.
This is actually not a bad thing. If you work less than twelve hours (like, say, if you’re on the late shift, but the production wraps early), you still get the full day’s pay. But if you work over twelve hours (i.e. when the crew wraps behind schedule), you get double time.
Suppose you’re working on a sitcom. During a hiatus week, you’ll probably work only eight hours a day, while collecting a twelve hour salary. But suppose the writers are working late, and you’re stuck until three in the morning to deliver scripts to the studio execs. Then you’ll get massive overtime. Your time card will say you worked 65 hours, when you only worked 47.
It’s the one ridiculous bit of Hollywood accounting that works in our favor.
What I’m saying is, you aren’t getting paid $7.64/hour; you’re getting paid $107/day. On your previous show, you were earning $140/day. This is about the range PAs can expect nowadays on TV and film. Not a ton of money, but hey, that’s what you get for being a PA.
I’m told music videos and commercials pay better than that; I also hear their grass is greener.
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While we’re talking about numbers, check out Hollywood Juicer’s blog post yesterday:
That meant unhooking and dropping the cable we just put up high four weeks ago – all 180 pieces, 14,500 feet, and 10,000 pounds of it – then replacing it with brand new cable. This had to be done very carefully, marking each of the fifty drops from up high to the pipe grid so that the 300 individual lamps (each on their own dimmable channel) would remain in the proper order once the new cable was installed. By the time it was over, we’d have moved nearly six miles and ten tons of cable just to get back to where we’d started.