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On Your Own

There’s an old PA folktale that was passed down to me. On location in Dupont Circle, a DP finishes explaining a complicated camera set-up and then turns to a PA and says, “Two creams. Three sugars.” The PA scurries away.

About half an hour later, the PA returns and promptly hands the DP two of those micro-cups of cream and three packets of sugar. No joke.

The DP rips into the PA, while the 2nd AD turns to another PA and begins shelling out money, saying, “Please. Make this problem go away.”

The first PA – the one who returned with cream and sugar instead of a coffee with cream and sugar – was screwed from the word ‘Go,’ because he couldn’t solve a problem on his own. It’s an idiotic mistake to make, but at the very least, the PA should have covered his bases. He should’ve bought a coffee with cream and sugar and then also brought additional cream and sugar (just in case the DP wanted to be taken literally).

I’d say that this is the problem with 60% of bad PAs.

What Makes a Bad PA So Bad?

They are completely incapable of making decisions on their own. The whole point of having PAs is for them to ease the workload of the higher-ups. If a PA can’t do a simple task without checking in a million times, then they might as well not do it at all.

Today, between the hours of 6:29am and 4:30pm, The Other PA texted me twenty-one times. TWENTY-ONE TIMES. At a certain point, I wanted to say, “Look, Other PA. You’re smart. You went to a fancy liberal arts college. Figure it out.”

Next time, I’m just going to respond to one of those text messages with this:

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5 Responses

  1. I heard a story once about a PA that was asked to bring two apples and he came back with two actual apples (the fruit). This was probably the case of a new, timid PA not having the courage to ask for help. I agree with Thomas. It’s a fine fine line of “Do as your told” and “Think for yourself”. I’ve been a PA and had PAs work for me so now I have a better appreciation of both sides.

  2. While the PA in question was clearly a little shy in the initiative department, we should be fair, PA’s, especially Set PA’s, are told over and over again that it is not their job to think; it is their job to do exactly as instructed.

    I got that all the time when I was a PA, both on the set side and on the office side. I’m someone who takes a lot of initiative and the thing that I had the most trouble with my first year of PAing was that I often didn’t know that I didn’t know how to do something. It got me into so much trouble sometimes that I’m amazed I have a career at all. Now that I have PA’s working for me, I find myself reiterating that same sentiment, ‘Don’t think too much. I need things done just so so ask before you guess.’

    That said, the PA in this story still F’d up but he was not working on an altogether incorrect principle.

  3. First off, the DP sounds like a dick. How hard is it to say to a fellow human being “Can you get me some coffee? Two creams and three sugars, please.” But basic decency aside, it took the first P.A. half an hour to get two creams and three sugars?? Political hire?

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