First of all, what the hell, Warner Brothers? I feel like I can get onto the Universal lot with a smile and a jaunty doff of my cap.
Anyway, moving on to the actual topic at hand. I received this tweet last week:
@TheAnonymousPA Hi there, any chance you could do a blog about Post PAs? Your blog is super informative, but I’m curious about post jobs.
— ruebie (@ruebie) October 10, 2013
And then yesterday, Jeremy commented on an older post:
this blog is great. But there are not just two kinds of production assistants. There’s the Writer’s PA and also the Post PA. (I guess both could be considered an office PA, but I’ve always considered an office PA to be the production office PA specifically). I’m a post PA right now hehe. It’s so great.
There’s actually more than that. Along with post and writers, there’s usually a costume PA1, an art PA, frequently a camera PA. In fact, over the years, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a PA in nearly every department on some show or other, including grips and electrics.
But “the” PAs are the set and office PAs. Not only do we answer to the AD and production coordinator, respectively, but we’re ready to help any department, if need be. Whether it means calling drive-ons, giving directions, or taking care of purchase orders for departments who don’t have the time to do their own, we’re there for you.
The departmental PAs tend to focus solely on their own department.2 Also, they’re not really entry-level positions. You tend to start out as a set or office PA, then move into the particular department you want to be a part of. Or, you can stay in production and become an AD or a coordinator, I suppose. Although, I’m not sure why.
Now, I’ve never served in any of these positions; if you have, please leave a note in the comments. That being said, here’s a quick rundown of what the various PAs do, from what I’ve seen:
- Post production– Very similar to production, sitting at your desk all day, checking Facebook.3 The hours are often long; the word “post” should indicate that what they do occurs after production. Sometimes this means taking camera and sound rolls to the post facility to be turned into dailies overnight; sometimes it means delivering cuts to producers and other bigwigs the minute they’re exported. You’ll spend a lot of time sitting in a dark room, surrounded by computer monitors.
- Writers– You pick the writers’ lunch. Sometimes dinner. Lazy writers’ PAs will do nothing but that. Good ones will help run scripts, deliver them, and so on. Others think that you’re the assistant’s assistant, and pass the buck on any g-job the writers ask them to do. The sad thing is, I don’t think the writers know the difference between the good ones and the bad ones. It’s up to you which you’d rather be. Also, be careful– get their lunch wrong, and you’ll be fired.
- Camera– This is a tough job. It’s a lot of lugging equipment, cleaning equipment, and getting yelled at by your superiors. The hours are stupid long, and they make you fill out everyone’s time card. It’s a high-pressure job, but it’s the best way to become a camera assistant, operator, and eventually DP.
- Wardrobe– I have no idea. I know they pick up and return items, but beyond that, this whole department is a mystery to me.
- Art Department– A lot of paperwork is involved with the art department, because a lot of other departments kinda, sorta, maybe fall under the “art” umbrella: props, set dec, set design, etc. On the plus side, the art PA often gets more involved in the creative parts of her department, more than any other PA. Besides picking out minor set decorations, the art PA may become the defacto graphic designer on smaller shows that can’t afford to hire a full-time designer. Plus, you’re, what, 23? You probably know how Photoshop works, right?