Paperwork PA

Adrienne writes in:

I’ve just signed on to be a day-player, but as a paperwork PA for a major TV show. I’ve only done paperwork for small shoots before. Any advice you could give me about the position would be helpful.

“Paperwork PA” is often a euphemism for basecamp PA, because, technically, a DGA member is supposed to be running basecamp. As the name implies, you’ll be handling lots of paperwork.

It’s not a lot of fun, but you get to meet lots of people. Every day, you’ll have dozens of background actors and regular cast coming in and out, often all at the same time. Your job is to make sure each and every person’s paperwork is in order, so they can get paid and the studio doesn’t get sued.

You’ll also likely be helping out with the call sheet and production report. Those are the 2nd AD’s responsibility, but you’ll become a second set of eyes. If you prove yourself valuable, that can help in climbing the AD ladder.1

Ask the office for a box of pens. About half of them will walk away with their favorite extra. You do not want to run out.

Other than that, the main thing is to not get flustered. Do your job meticulously. If that means someone has to wait an additional five minutes before they can get in their car, so be it.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I stared at this word for, I swear, ten minutes. Lader? Latter? Later? GAH! Nothing looks right!
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6 Responses

  1. As a former DGA Trainee and long time paperwork PA I’m delighted to weigh in! It’s the job I feel most comfortable with because unlike any of the other PA positions, you are literally on your own time table. Which is a blessing!

    Write everything down. People will ask you all day for requests (box kits, start work, ect.) write it down! Because you will walk away and 100 errands later, you will forget.

    There’s a difference between a Basecamp PA and a Paperwork PA (on the east coast). Third areas and LA will consider it more Basecamp (helping with actors, hanging out with the 2nd AD in the trailer). But a true Paperwork PA (where they aren’t glossing over about how much basecamp you will be doing as TAPA suggested) only deals with paperwork. In the first four hours of their day, they ought to make corrections to the last night’s PR, gather man power for tomorrow’s call sheet, and prep tonight’s PR.

    Then it’s free reign from there! Hang out on set. Learn other positions. Get people their paperwork requests. You are in a great spot to be rubbing elbows with the ADs, producers, UPM, key PA, and learning a great deal. It just gets busy again at wrap when you finish the PR (in NY…it SHOULD be a DGA position but we tend to get away with PAs having a lot more responsibility because we argue that the AD “looks over the PR for approval”).

  2. I’m not sure where the asker is from, but at least in NY, the Paperwork PA doesn’t deal with BG at all, we have a BG PA for that. The extent that Paperwork deals with BG is to check the BG Breakdown that the BG PA hands in with all the vouchers, and then transcribe it onto the PR.

    In any case, my advice would be to speak with the normal Paperwork PA (if possible) about their routine… That way you can try to make the transition easy for the crew, the ADs, and for them when they come back. I know as a Paperwork PA when my TV show had tandem units I sent the Tandem Paperwork person an email with important/useful information…
    That was as much for them as it was for me (and my ADs/crew).
    If you’ve done paperwork before you’re already familiar with going around to check the PR, the days CS, and getting manpower. I like to highlight a PR and 2 CSs different colors so I can easily distinguish the 3 when talking with each dept. In NY at least, Paperwork PAs generally will fill in the back of the CS and are completely responsible for the PR. So get a template of the PR from the normal Paperwork person or if you call the office Im sure the APOC (or the PR person) can provide you with it. Ask for the previous days’ PR , that way you can build yours off that one AND see how it’s been done up to this point (consistency). The APOC also probably can let you know various nuances specific to that show: if the director gets travel time, how long after wrap certain people are out (like script might be 1hr after camera wrap, DP and camera ops out at wrap, etc), and if there’s anything else that’s standard procedure. The 2nd AD also knows all this, or should, but depending on the show, the 2nd AD might always seem super busy and unavailable to answer all these little questions… So APOC in the office might be a good person to talk to about PR things. Also, since it’s a TV show, be prepared that they might shoot scenes from more than one episode on the day…info on the PR more than likely will need to be divided up by episode on the front.
    The Key PA is a good source to figure out who people are… He/she can point people out to you. I’ve filled in for Paperwork PA before, and the hardest part is everyone else knows each other and you know no one… But no one’s slowing down to accommodate that. Honestly, I’ve also Facebook stalked my Best Boys/Keys/2nd AC/etc so I can get an idea what they look like… Facebook, gotta love it. Then of course note down when all the important things happen; first shot, lunch, etc. I like texting office people the updates rather than calling because then I have a digital record of all those times. If you’re lucky you won’t have to text the producers every. Single. Little. Update throughout the day. Depending how long you’re on you also might offer (or find out if it’s already a thing) to text the Best Boys/keys/2nd AC/whoever needs it the lunch in and out times. It’s a courtesy, but it helps them out a lot and theyll love you for it.
    I’m not sure your level of experience, there’s so many little things about the Paperwork job, I feel like I could go on forever… And I kind of have!

    I haven’t “Basecamp” PAed, but friends of mine have… And it seems like it’s a 1st Team/Paperwork PA position. A lot of inviting actors, moving them through the works, getting them off to set, doing the G (and in doing so having to keep track of all their times). In NY we have designated 1st Team PAs… So if you’re NY based you won’t have much to do with actors as Paperwork, besides perhaps helping the 2nd AD keep up with copying who is where when over walkie. But then again, what do I know, I’ve never heard of the Paperwork person/Basecamp person dealing with BG…So clearly I’m not the authority.

    Maybe someone can give some insight about the Paperwork PA vs Basecamp PA position… I definitely know that there is a difference though! 🙂


  3. Another thing I have found helpful is make your own copies of everything. BG skins, Exhibit G’s, breakdowns, everything. I put everything in binders, so that if an issue comes up, and it has, I have the records to go back and make sure things were right.

  4. I would suggest a clipboard as well. Last think you want is a stack of papers on the ground (let alone in the wind). This way if you drop the clipboard, everything stays (somewhat) attached to the clipboard.

    Plus you will look legit with a clipboard.

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