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Perks of Being an Assistant

Sasha writes in:

Can you talk a little about the following, in regards to PAs AND Director/Producer assistants for a mid- to big- budget feature?
– Box rentals/kit fees
– Vehicle costs/mileage reimbursement
– Cell phone usage
– Meal allowance
– Overtime when working on a weekly rate

For those of you who are new here, note that a personal assistant is not a “PA,” like you might find in other industries. In Hollywood, a PA is a production assistant, not a producer’s assistant.

That being said, the requirements and recompense for assistants and PAs should be similar. The only kit fee or box rental you’ll get is if you’re required to bring your own computer. Mileage tends to be whatever the IRS says it is this year (although you can boost that a little bit).

Cell phones are rarely reimbursed. Some networks have very specific rules about who can be paid for their phone usage, and it’s usually not PAs. It’s not fair, but there it is. I recommend getting an unlimited plan.

Of course, as an assistant, you can use your proximity to powerful people to ask for more. Don’t ask the UPM or accountant for a cell phone reimbursement. Tell your boss about the situation when she’s near those people, and she’ll just demand reimbursement from them. Nobody says no to the director.

No one gets meal allowances, because the production buys you lunch.

You can’t actually work for a weekly rate as an assistant. They tell you it’s a weekly rate, but it’s really an hourly rate calculated at 60 hours. You should always report overtime. (Well, not always always, but usually.)

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12 Responses

  1. So what if you’re on a show, they require you to bring your own laptop but won’t pay your box rental/kit rental yet everyone other than the PAs gets a kit rental reimbursement? Is that right?

  2. Thanks for the distinction. So is a personal assistant and producers assistant somewhat similar. Which is more an entry level position?

    1. They’re usually two different ways of saying the same thing. They’re both pretty entry-level.

      Be warned, though– a “personal assistant” to an actor really is going to be doing bullshit personal tasks, like grocery shopping and dry cleaning.

  3. I’ve been a line producer/co-producer’s assistant (though I don’t know if I should admit that since producer’s assistant have recently been deemed idiots) on a couple of shows and I got housing, per diem, my cell phone data plan covered and a rental car on location. Some of the “unwritten” perks were crafty (there’s always food on set (which is a blessing for your stomach but a curse for your waist line!), and they usually do 2nd meal when u go over 14 hours with no end it sight) and Transpo always keeps your gas tank filled. Hope this helps! 🙂

  4. Brittany, a typical kit feet, that I’ve come across, is $30/week or $6/day. Be sure to write this in on your start paperwork and not your timecard so it doesn’t get taxed.

    Unfortunately, I’m working for an astoundingly cheap-o production companies and no PAs are getting a kit rental and because I’m the office PA, I live and die by my computer. And by the office phones. I’m wondering if there’s a way for me to get a tax rebate or something, like how TAPA was saying that it’s possible to get Netflix and a new cell phone back on taxes.

    Though, I was offered a box rental from today going forward for the next two weeks (but not for the three previous weeks) instead of not getting off an hour early for my birthday this week… maybe I should have taken it.

    And most of the time they’ll buy you lunch. Maybe it’s just reality TV, but we have walk-away lunches when we’re not shooting, where it’s up to us to fend for ourselves for the lunch hour (which is actually half an hour, unless you work while you eat).

    Two shows ago, we were shooting overnight at a beach and half of the PAs 6th hours were at a time when all of the nearby restaurants closed. Our PM told us “tough shit” essentially, where we either do a walk-away for an hour, or do half an hour but wait for another two hours to get catering.

    …Sorry for the rant. I’m lonely in the office.

    1. I feel your pain, A!

      I’ve pretty much only worked on reality TV and they literally LAUGHED when I asked about a laptop kit fit and/or help paying for my cell phone. And whenever I was in the office, we had to buy our own lunch AND were expected to eat at our desk. They’ll try to give you more responsibility and a bigger job title and say that they’re doing you a favor because where else would you move up so quickly?… but no one outside of reality TV gives a shit if you were an “associate producer” because it doesn’t compare to anything real AKA scripted and you’ll never move laterally anyways.

      There’s my own little rant! 😛

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