Ian writes in:

I very recently got my first paid PA gig and the production coordinator sent me the contract and W9 form. She told me to fill out the paperwork and return it to her after the shoot along with an invoice.

Is there a specific format for a PA’s invoice? What information do I include? Should I send it as an attachment or just write it in the email? They gave me my rate for 10 hours, do I charge more if we go over 10?

First of all, you shouldn’t have to create an invoice, because you are an employee, not an independent contractor.

People often conflate “freelance” with “independent contractor,” because as freelancers, we don’t have reliable employment. We work, the show’s cancelled, we go on unemployment, we get our next show, and the cycle continues.

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It all feels pretty independent, doesn’t it? But does your boss tell you what time to arrive at work? Does she tell you when to leave? Does she tell you where to work? You’re an employee.

As such, you should be filling out a time card and getting overtime and unemployment benefits, among other things.

But, like interning, it’s an unethical practice that is unlikely to end anytime soon.

There is no formal template for PA invoices (again, because they’re not supposed to exist). So, just google “invoice template,” and pick one you like.

If your day rate was calculated at a 10 hour day, you need to divide that daily by 11. Why? Math!

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In California, at least, you get paid overtime for the first 8 hours (on a non-holiday, for the first five days of the work week). After that, you get time-and-a-half, for the next four hours.

If you work a ten hour day, 8 of those hours are straight time, 2 are time-and-half, which adds up to 11.

Let’s say you get $110/day, for easy example. That means your hourly rate is $10. Further suppose that you worked 11 hours on Tuesday. That 11th hour is at time and a half, means $15. Add that to your rate, and you made $125. Before taxes, of course.

When you’ve filled it out, convert it to a PDF, so they can’t change it on their end. Send it as an attachment.

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6 Responses

  1. If one has the right Adobe software it’s very easy to alter a PDF. As far as I know there isn’t a way to password protect a PDF. But you can restrict a Word doc.

  2. “When you’ve filled it out, convert it to a PDF, so they can’t change it on their end. Send it as an attachment.”

    It’s one of my pet peeves when people don’t do this. Sometimes even ADs and POCs will send out Word or Excel files where a PDF would have been more appropriate. PDFs are non-editable and print-ready, so why risk files that can be changed both on purpose or accidentally.

  3. Thank you!

    So many people just divide the day rate by the number of hours and think that’s their hourly wage. No – you have to take in account the time-and-a-half after 8 hrs. Most of the jobs I work are based on 12 hour days, which means you have to divide by 14. It can be tricky up here in San Francisco, which has its own minimum wage – 10.74 last I checked. It is up to you to be on top of these things because productions won’t be. Too many shows have wanted to pay me $125/12hr rates. And I had to tell them no. One coordinator even whipped out his calculator to show me that 125/12 = 10.41 (this was 2 years ago when SF minimum wage was 10.24 or so). Then I had to school him about the whole time-and-a-half thing.

    Knowledge is power!

    While we’re on the subject, what’s up with flat rates? I know it’s been discussed before but I’ve started getting more and more commercial work and whenever it’s an LA-based production company they always, ALWAYS, want me to PA for a flat rate. If I ask I’m always told “this is how it’s done in LA” or “PA’s never get OT” and they seem truly baffled by the notion. Is this an LA thing? Or are they just trying to bully the local PAs?

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