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One of the basic tasks of a PA is distributing paperwork that no one wants to read.  (With good reason, usually; more than a few times, I’ve passed out a memo regarding the fact that the elevators in our building would be shut down… on Saturday.  When no one was going to be there.)

As the office PA, I’m responsible for getting these retarded memos to everyone in the office.  For the set, I give them to the set PA.  (Being a PA is complicated, I know.)

Recently, I got a hold of some paperwork that actually was important.  The director had drawn some storyboards, and he wanted certain important people (the producers, the DP, the AD, etc.) to get them.  He gave them to his assistant, who gave them to my boss, who gave them to me.

I copied them, passed them around the office, and dutifully handed a pile to a set PA.  My assignment complete, I went back to the more demanding task of coming up with a funny Facebook status.  (“…hasn’t eaten any candy all day!  He thinks he’ll reward himself with a piece of candy.”)

The next morning, the AD came over the walkie, screaming, “Where the FUCK are my storyboards?  What the hell kind of fucking Mickey Mouse operation is this?  I should have had these fucking things yesterday!”

This was on channel 1, the main production channel.  You rarely yell at someone on channel 1, and you never swear.  It was bizarre and frightening.

My boss turns to me and asks, “Why didn’t you give him the storyboards?”

“I gave them to the set PA, like I always do.”

“When I give you something to do, you need to take responsibility for it.”

Like when the director gave you something to do?  Way to lead by example, there, buddy.

Still, I was curious what the hell happened, so I went to the set PA, to find out.  Turns out, several things went wrong and, oddly, none of them were my fault.

First, the coordinator decided to put a memo on top of the storyboards.  Essentially, it said, “These are storyboards.”

Now, on set, ADs and DPs are very, very busy.  They’re constantly, well, not actually doing anything, but yelling at other people to do things.  (DPs and ADs tend to be jerks; a nice DP is as rare as a diamond, and a nice AD is as rare as Bigfoot shitting a diamond on a unicorn riding a lightning bolt while being attacked by a shark during a solar eclipse.)

So, when you hand what looks like another pointless memo to these busy, angry people, they have a tendency to ignore it.  The way the set PA tells it, the DP told him to put it on his desk (where it still sits– I checked).  The AD said, “Don’t give me shit on set,” and promptly threw it in the garbage.

Of course, they don’t remember saying these things.  They just know they don’t have a storyboard in their hands, right now.

Now, had it been me, I would have flipped through the storyboards, because I’m a nosy fucker.  And, because I don’t know my place, I would have said to the AD, “Are you sure you want to throw these out?  They’re story boards.”

But that didn’t happen.  Communication broke down all around me, and, though I did my job exactly as I should have, I’m the one who got blamed.

I love being a PA.

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15 Responses

  1. I know you probably won’t see this, seeing as you wrote this post a year and a half ago. but where the hell does wordpress get the possibly related posts from?!? I mean, “Back to Basics: Reading the Bible”? really? thanks, wp… you know me so well.

    or maybe this is god telling you to be nicer to AD’s 😛

  2. it’s a lose-lose proposition, unfortunately. usually, the easiest way out for somebody is blame somebody below them, so they will. it gets easier, sadly, when they pay you more. because if somebody who makes, say, exactly 4 times as much as you do admits it was their fault and has to apologize to anybody, it will justify them getting fired, and we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars on the line. that is the price of integrity in this business. and unfortunately, the higher up the ladder you’ll climb, the easier it will be for you to blame somebody else who makes less than you and save your overpaid hide to say “fuck” on channel 1 another day.

  3. I’ve found you have to be especially insistent with important docs, because later on you can feel proud of yourself when the boss has to eat their words and accept that what they originally denied was exactly what they needed. But that’s a tough love relationship.

  4. When I was first starting, I was told “You have to get 1000 ‘Atta-Boys’ to wipe out one ‘Oh shit’. You didn’t rate either on this IMHO.

    On the other subject, most DPs I’ve worked with have been really nice people (including what I saw of their dealings with the office), and AD’s run no worse than 40% assholes.

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