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What’s a Base Camp PA?

Justin writes in:

Recently I was on a passion project as a PA with a very knowledgable 2nd AD. I told him I was interested in being an office PA, and he showed me paperwork that office PAs have to work with, like something called an “exhibit G” and getting out times and such. He mentioned something called a basecamp PA and I was wondering what the basecamp PA does as opposed to the office PA?

Base camp is where all the trailers are. A base camp PA is a specialized type of set PA. Usually a higher-ranking, more experienced PA.

The base camp PA’s first responsibility is ensuring that the set has everything they need, whether that’s equipment, crew, cast, or the director, when they need it.1

Take the actors, for example. After rehearsal, they return to base camp to get their make-up and hair done, while the stand-ins go stand in for them. It’s the base camp PA’s responsibility to be listening on the walkie for the AD to call in second team (if they’re not hanging around set already), and send them in.

Meanwhile, she receives the actors and directs them to where they’re needed, whether that’s make-up, hair, costumes, or their own trailer, if they have time. She has to check with the various vanity departments to get an estimate on getting the actors cleaned up, and relay that information to set. When the AD calls for first team, the base camp PA reverses the process.

The base camp PA also frequently helps the 2nd and 2nd 2nd ADs with paperwork, such as the G and background vouchers.2 She’ll sign out the actors and extras, double-check the paperwork, file it properly in the football. Hope you have a good pen!

She’ll often deal directly with the logistics of the base camp itself, helping the teamsters decide where the trailers will physically park. And no one is ever happy with where their trailer is. A base camp PA is not paid enough for the grief she gets on this topic.

As I’ve described it, it sounds like a pretty straightforward job. It’s really not. It takes someone who’s both organized and socially adept. You have to deal with a lot of personalities, and balance the needs of the various crew and cast members, usually with very little time to make a decision.

It’s not a job I envy, but if you’re good, it can be a pretty clear path to becoming an AD.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Not that they’re ordering the equipment; that’s the production office’s job.
  2. Again, similar to a time card, which is given to SAG-AFTRA as proof that you worked as an extra that day. This is one way to join the actors’ union.
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6 Responses

  1. An important note to add onto my last comment:

    It is actually against the DGA rules to have a PA run base camp. That is why you will never see a “base camp PA” in the crew credits of films – it’s because an AD is supposed to only run base camp. On lower budget films like the ones I’ve worked on, people will tend to look the other way and have a PA run base camp. But technically, only a DGA member can run base camp and that is why base camp PA experience is a good resume booster.

  2. I just finished working on an indie in the midwest as a base camp PA. It was only my second film I’ve ever worked on, so I’m still very green. However, I learned a lot and did a descent job in my opinion – base camp can be a very demanding place, especially since it’s only you and the 2nd AD there. It’s not like set; you don’t have other PA’s to help you out to make sure things get done.

    The biggest responsibility base camp PA’s have is making sure talent get through the works in a timely fashion, and are 100% (including being established by the costumes department head) in time for when they are needed on set. Signing talent out at the end of the night was probably the best feeling ever.

    There is also the paperwork aspect to the job. Making sure sides, shot lists and call sheets make it to set is important. The exhibit G, time sheets, time cards, the BG breakdown, camera reports, etc. all need filed into the football at the end of the night. Make sure to keep copies of the prelims, call sheets, production reports and timecards on hand in the AD trailer as well.

  3. This is just horribly written. Maybe anonymous PA should have taken a writing course in college. Also this is a horrible description of what a base camp PA does.

  4. How do I go about working as a PA? While I have done numerous tv/film projects I’m very interested in expanding my skills/knowledge behind the camera as well.

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