A PA is all things to all people. By which I mean, any shit job that nobody else wants to do is given to the PAs. Making coffee, making copies, driving all the way across town to drop off a script and thus adding unnecessary greenhouse gases to our environmental crimes. (Seriously, e-mail exists. What’s the logic to hand-delivering scripts anymore?)
I had a friend who’s first job in the business was on a porno. At the end of the day, the AD gave him a box and told him, “Clean these.” It was a box of dildos.
(On an unrelated note, I don’t know whether I’m happy or sad that Firefox doesn’t know how to spell “dildo.”)
Most departments have their own PAs. They’re still gophers, just a specific kind of gopher. It’s a way of climbing up the ladder in a particular craft. (Personally, I’m trying to work my way up to being a writers’ PA.)
I should note that a production assistant is different than a personal assistant. Those poor kids have the fun of experiencing The Devil Wears Prada, Live!, every day. I did that for about a year, and I wanted to kill myself. The only thing that kept me going was a blind optimism in my future job prospects, and a healthy thirst for revenge.
But no assistant has it worse than the agent’s assistant. Watch the documentary Swimming with Sharks, and you’ll get an idea. (IMDb lists it as a comedy, for some reason, but I’m sure that’s just a typo.)