Morgan writes in:
I currently live in the Austin area and for the last few years we’ve had a nice share of TV shows filmed in the area (The Lying Game, Friday Night Lights, From Dusk Til Dawn, etc). I was told by an extra that a lot of studios are becoming reluctant to film here because its becoming more expensive. A lot of studios are deciding to film in Louisiana and New Mexico instead.
My question is can I PA in different states even if I don’t live there? I’ve read on a few sites that PA’s will only get hired if they are from the area. Is there any truth to this? And if so, what’s the reason behind it?
There are a few reasons to shoot outside of the major production centers: you need a location that can’t (or shouldn’t) be reproduced; you can save money because the crew is cheaper; you can save money through tax incentives.
If you want a shot in the South American jungle, you gotta shoot in the South American jungle. That’s not something you can reproduce in a computer.
Beyond that, though, shooting outside of LA and New York is a way to save money. The crews are usually less expensive. In some areas, this can also mean that they’re less effective and experienced; but in places like Atlanta and New Orleans, there are plenty of skilled dolly grips, make-up artists, boom operators, and so on.
The way tax incentives work, a certain percentage of your crew (and sometimes cast, if you’re shooting outside of the country) must be local. What defines “local” varies from state to state. You need to look into the rules before you decide to pack up and move to Shreveport. You may have to live there for six months or more before you count towards the studio’s tax incentive.
And then there’s the fact that they don’t want to pay for your lodging or per diem. If you’re not a local, not only are you not counting towards the local tax incentive, they’d have to pay more than if they’d hired a local PA.
It doesn’t matter how great a PA you are, this is not a good deal for the studio. Remember, PAing is an entry-level, low-skill job. We’re basically interchangeable. Even in the smallest of production markets, you can find someone who can be a decent PA.
Directors certainly like to bring along their favorite department heads; Wally Pfister1 has shot almost every single Christopher Nolan movie. But Nolan probably doesn’t care who the 8th grip is. He certainly doesn’t care who the PAs are.
Unless you’re his brother.
- A DP whose name sounds like “Fister” somehow doesn’t work in porn.↩