This Is What Your Producer Thinks of You – A Guest Post

An anonymous producer wrote me an email to, as she put it, “vent.” But I think the perspective offered is extremely valuable, and offers a much-needed wake up call for many production assistants.

I started out as a PA myself – both office and set. It took me about 2 years to move up. The way I did that was by having the best attitude, being willing to do extra work, come early and stay late – all the usual.

Well, now that I’ve moved up through coordinator to producer – I notice about 1 percent of PA’s are awesome. The rest are brats.

I realize the job sucks, but I am genuinely constantly surprised by the bad attitudes. Maybe it’s because I’m a young-looking producer, but most PA’s are just nasty to me. They come in after me, leave before me, never offer to do any extra work in the office.

It is just baffling. Do they never hope to move up? Do they want to be a PA forever? When I was a PA I worked 16 hour days without complaint, did a million runs…

I feel like this happens over and over with PA’s who are hired based on who they know, there’s no interview process, and most of them end up being miserable people who seem to hate their lives. You may hate me too after this email. I suppose I need to be more nurturing, ask them if they want to help out more than just the bare minimum. But if someone just has a bad attitude, it doesn’t make me feel like taking time out of my crazy busy day to help them out…

I know this isn’t a blog to help people with PA problems, but I feel like A) PA’s don’t realize they could move up if they would just put on a positive attitude, B) People do not know how to get a bad PA they are stuck with to be better and C) Why everyone isn’t as good as a PA as I was! Kidding (but not really.)

Is it really that hard to cheerfully agree to check the paper in the copier a few times a day to make sure it is always full so I never again am late to an executive meeting because the paper runs out? I try to fill it myself but the PA sits RIGHT BY THE COPIER. He literally doesn’t have to move in order to check the paper tray. I sit at the other end of the hallway. And he gives me a sullen “was it empty?” when I fill it up. No! It should never be empty! Are you kidding me?! I never would have given ANYONE that kind of attitude when I was a PA.

If this doesn’t apply to you, great! But stop and think for a second, first. Are you not the PA she describes here, or do you just not want to admit you’re that PA?

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7 Responses

  1. The office PA your producer describes may exist in his/her world, where the PA job goes to someone’s friend. Indeed, even on the indie level, I find that when someone asks me to bring on a PA who is a “friend” inevitably they see themselves as “producers-in-training” and too good to do the needed job.

    That said, what this producer describes is a very small percentage of the PAs I see, certainly that I hire. Most work their butts off. I can give a million examples of PAs doing extra on my last feature alone.

    This producer went from PA to producer in two years. Good for them – I worked my butt off as coordinator,.UPM and First AD for years before my first producing gig. I’m sure they did not make that quick ascent without a “rabbi,” as we used to call it (NOT a religious reference, BTW) of their own.

    A lot of the attitude you get is a reflection of the attitude you give. I tell PAs when I hire them that sometimes things get crazy, but that “please” and “thank you” should be understood if I forget them, and I also find time to individually talk to them about what they want to do at some point in the shoot.

  2. Every show I’ve worked on office PAs worked on a shift system. If they’re coming in after you, it’s very likely they’re on late shift and won’t leave until after wrap. If they’re leaving before you, it’s because they’ve been there since before crew call. Also, the POCs and APOCs I know aren’t keen on PAs hanging around any longer than necessary, especially if that means they’re going to go beyond 12 hrs. It’s not like PAs set their own schedule…

    And of course there are lazy PAs out there but 99% of them? Wow, that’s not only untrue but if you’ve really run into that many lazy PAs on your shows, especially when you were a coordinator, maybe do a better job hiring them?

    P.S. Have the APOC or whoever put “refill copier after running call sheets and sides” on the wrap to-do list. You’re welcome.

  3. For every lazy PA there are 2 dozen hard working and ambitious PAs trying, hoping, waiting for a job. They can’t break through because

    1. many PA jobs go to Daddy Warbucks’ kid/nephew/cousin or 2. so many PA jobs have been replaced by unpaid “internships” which only some can afford to do. Some of these PAs work hard, some are way above it all, and some don’t even realize they are being given great opportunities.
    During my dream college internship I found out one of the PAs was a high school student hired as a summer job (her dad was friends with a producer). She was a typical high school student and it was just something to occupy her time.

    I day-played on a show and I arrived early, left late, worked hard, organized, restocked, checked the copy and fax machines several times a day and did it all with a smile. Guess who was hired when a PA opening became available? Somebody’s kid/nephew/cousin.

    Don’t lump in all PAs with the bad apples you’ve run into. If they come in afteryou and leave before you, maybe they have different call times you are not aware of. Or maybe they have to do a run on their way in. If you really feel like MOST PAs are nasty to you, it’s more than just a few bad hires, you should examine what part you play in that.

  4. This actually is an issue across several unions in the industry. In every department people have been discussing such things. Don’t even get me started on the debate about the apprenticeship/tier system and how even though there has always been a way for people to ‘jump the gun’, now more than ever the system has fallen apart so it’s pretty much a free for all. The negative aspect of that is that if you are hard-working, you can become exploited/ taken advantage of if the person working above you never did the work and climbed the ladder anyways, and the positive aspect is that with the right person who notices a hard working individual (and cares), you will become successful and be well respected. Anyways, that’s my opinion.

  5. This kind of behavior baffles me. I’ve only been a PA for just under a year, but I ALWAYS bust my ass for the crew and talent, and I’ll gladly go above and beyond my initial job description if it’ll help the production. Lazy, listless, apathetic PA’s… I just don’t understand. Are they just in it for “easy” money?

  6. My turn to vent. For every bad PA I know there is a producer who has never been a pa and who’s rich hedge fund manager dad has fronted money for the project. “Producers” who have never been on a set before and could give a shit if I’m there for 12 hours or 16. I’ll stay for the 16 anyways but it will go unnoticed and unappreciated. Getting ahead is impossible if no one cares to see the extreme effort I’m putting in. So instead of complaining about how there is no paper in the copy machine maybe take a second and try and notice the one kid on every show who honestly wants to be there more than anyone else.(He/She is there I promise)

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