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There Are No “Standard” Toppings

Hollywood is the only industry that I’m aware of where the employees expect their employer to feed them. Lunch at the very minimum, and probably breakfast, possibly dinner,1 and snacks throughout the day.

And I love it. I basically don’t do any grocery shopping between August and April when I’m on a show. Free food is the best food.

But as an office PA, a good amount of your day is spent dealing with other people’s food.2 Taking orders, placing orders, picking them up, and most importantly, making sure your order is correct.

Yesterday, we ordered Chipotle for lunch. Since we’re not fully staffed yet, rather than order family style, the coordinator told my fellow PA to get individual orders. I, like everyone else, placed my order– chicken burrito, white rice, cheese, lettuce, fajita veggies.

About an hour later, the PA returned with lunch. I eagerly unwrapped my burrito– chicken, white rice, cheese, lettuce, fajita veggies… and beans.

INT. PRODUCTION OFFICE – DAY (FLASHBACK)

TAPA takes a bite out of her burrito, wrinkles her nose. Something isn’t right...

TAPA

Why are there beans in my burrito?

OTHER PA

It’s a burrito. Duh.

TAPA

I understand. But I didn’t order beans.

OTHER PA

Burritos always come with beans.

TAPA

I wrote down the things I wanted on my burrito. Beans were not on that list.

OTHER PA

You should’ve said, “No beans.”

TAPA

I didn’t write “No cyanide.” Is there cyanide on this burrito?

OTHER PA

Oh, come on. Cyanide is not part of the standard burrito order. A burrito is meat, beans, rice, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla.

The PRODUCTION COORDINATOR enters, holding a burrito with one bite taken out of it.

COORDINATOR

Did I get the wrong burrito? I didn’t order cheese.

Listen, everybody has their own idea of what is the “normal” way to eat something, whether it’s a burrito or a hot dog or french fries. But someone else might have a different idea…

Now, I’m just a lowly PA, so who cares if I got the right order? And our coordinator is a nice guy, so he just shrugged it off. But if that PA had gotten the producer’s order wrong, he would have been screamed at. Get an actor’s order wrong, and they’ll send you back to the restaurant.

The solution to this is simple: order what you’re told. If someone expects beans and doesn’t get them, well, show them the lunch order.3 It’s their dumb-ass fault for not ordering what they actually wanted.

And while we’re talking about food, always, always, always ask for sauce and dressing on the side. For one, it doesn’t travel well. And they always put on too much or too little. Plus, sauce is one of those things that restaurants themselves add without necessarily mentioning it on their menu.

“BLTs always come with mayonnaise. That’s standard.” Fuck you. They’re not BLTMs.

Anyway, my broader point is, if you give someone lunch with an ingredient missing, they’ll be annoyed, but at least they’ll eat. If you bring them food with something they’re allergic to, or just find gross, they might not eat it. Then they’re hungry and annoyed, which is not a good combination.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Known as “second meal,” for you newbies.
  2. Set PAs occasionally do, too, like when an actor has a weird call time, miss crew lunch, and are owed their own lunch before second meal arrives.
  3. You did write down the lunch order, right?
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11 Responses

  1. Whenever my fiancé get’s me to read these, I always find that TAPA comes across as an ass hole. In this situation, nothing has changed in his delivery, but he is so right on the money.
    Just yesterday, I was on set and my order was screwed up. I’m not one to complain or send someone back, so I didn’t eat. In consequence, I was annoyed and short with people for the rest of the day because I was hungry. Everyone would have been better off if the order had been correct.

    It’s never the restaurants fault because the PA is always the last line of defense when they picked up the food. If they had checked the orders at the restaurant, they would have noticed the mess up and had it corrected there. That is part of a PA’s job! So, if the order gets fucked up, it’s the PA’s fault.
    Don’t try to tell me that I could go get food from crafty, or I can go to the food truck down the street. I’m often so busy, I have to be reminded that I need to eat and I shove bites in between whatever tasks I’m doing. I don’t have the time to go get another meal.

    I was a PA at one time so I know how much of a bitch it is to get everyones food, but no one is forcing you to be a PA. You choose to grind through it so stop bitching and get some common sense.
    When you go around and take food orders, cary the menu with you. Double check the order with every single person. If what is written doesn’t have any modifications to the order (i.e. no onions) ask “Do you want everything on that?” Usually they will ask, “well, what’s everything?” thats when you can hand them the menu. When you order the food, have whoever takes the order read the order back to you. Then when you pick it up, double check everything one more time. If you follow those steps, food orders are simple. Don’t bitch and moan trying to place the blame on someone else when you simply can’t properly complete a task as easy as getting food.

  2. I’m really surprised by the backlash to this post…over lunch. Mostly because TAPA is right so I’m upset to see bitter PAs out there that don’t understand the necessity to teach other PAs so we can all be better for it.

    The point of this blog is to teach and commiserate. A PA needs to learn how to do lunch orders. I trust that this particular TAPA has the right intentions in mind with this post.

    Don’t assume. Ask questions. Don’t be bitter. One of the first lessons I ever learned on set, when someone tells you something to relay (food order, over walkie, or otherwise) is to say it verbatim. Don’t embellish and don’t leave out. Word for word.

  3. A few of these responses are RIDICULOUS! Maybe TAPA does contribute the “inciting action” but this is hardly “throwing a fit.” Checking to see if it was a restaurant mistake or a peer mistake is a fair action, especially because you have to know you can depend on your team. The flippancy of the other PA strikes me as more typical Hollywood and deplorable than caring about attention to detail!

    And to the longest rant in these comments: do you seriously justify bringing a selfish bad attitude to a production because essentially “it’s difficult for them to fire me”? And then we are supposed to listen to you lecture about how to treat other people in a work environment? Absurdity. Thanks for the laugh Beckett.

  4. Yeah, I totally agree with Nola here. Usually I agree with the stuff TAPA says but I’m going to have to disagree with their actions here. I was a PA for years and dealing with lunch bs was the bane of my existence. You guys are on the same team here. Why add more stress to their already stressful day by being a jerk? Mistakes happen and lunch is literally the least important thing in a day. Most of the time a PA is ordering for like 40+ people and that makes it almost impossible for everything to be perfect. Often its the restaurant worker and not even the PA’s fault when an order gets messed up but they have to shoulder the blame anyways. When it comes to food my thought process has always been – its free, stop bitching. As you pointed out you save tons of money by not buying your own food while on a show. So if something is messed up and you really care that much that you won’t eat it go buy something from the commissary, nearby food truck with all that money you’ve saved or go to crafty. Can you imagine if you had any other kind of job and had to buy your own food everyday?! The horror – but at least there would be no mistakes. At the very least, eat it and keep your complaints to Twitter. The last thing another PA needs is their teammate being a jerk. How would you feel if the tables were turned? I can only imagine that blog post. PA’s get enough of that from Actors, Directors, Producers…. and everyone else as it is. This is why every show should do family style lunches. Here’s to you “other PA”!

    1. It’s never the restaurants fault because the PA is always the last line of defense when they picked up the food. If they had checked the orders at the restaurant, they would have noticed the mess up and had it corrected there. That is part of a PA’s job! So, if the order gets fucked up, it’s the PA’s fault.

  5. I hate to always being the one to chime in on this stuff but my show just ended and I’m fairly bored. The whole world of ordering lunch (individual orders / family style) is hell I hope to never return to.

    FIRST POINT: You’re a PA so throwing a fit at another PA because you got beans is ridiculous. That other PA is a poor, sad PA like you. Don’t add stress to his menial day. If another PA stepped to me about something missing on their lunch order all I will think is “GO F#CK YOURSELF” but to their face I’ll squeak “oh, sorry, better luck next time”. I have made 2nd and 3rd trips to restaurants many times because orders get messed up. I am not waiter. I am not responsible for them messing up. All I do is communicate the order to the restaurant. I don’t get tipped. They do. People in production treat lunch like such a big deal. It’s pathetic. These are adults. But if orders do get messed up….make sure you’re getting mileage. I’ll drive back and forth to some restaurant all day.

    That’s just my gut reaction to how you handled the situation.

    SECOND POINT: I never order lunch when doing individual orders. I repeat…I NEVER ORDER LUNCH. Why? Because when someone’s order gets messed up, as my defense I can always say “Well, I’m not eating at all” and it kinda creates a firewall from being bitched at. If I am dying of hunger, I can munch on crafty without anyone spotting me.

    The only benefit of doing lunch in a production office is getting to leave the office to go pick it up. Lunch in production is an abomination to anyone who prides themselves on having common sense. You have to treat people 20-40 years older than you, making 20x more money than you, like a child who has never ordered a meal before.

    But as a PA, never bitch at another PA. Shit, if I catch attitude from an over zealous APOC or secretary that just move up I’m mouthing off. What are they gonna do, fire you? The process of sifting through production’s resume email account on gmail is such a chore for these kids. You can get away with a lot and it’s sad that you have to ‘get away with’ being a normal, logical human being telling someone “THE RESTAURANT SCREWED UP YOUR GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD, GET OVER IT.”

    But alas, I digress…

    1. It’s never the restaurants fault because the PA is always the last line of defense when they picked up the food. If they had checked the orders at the restaurant, they would have noticed the mess up and had it corrected there. That is part of a PA’s job! So, if the order gets fucked up, it’s the PA’s fault.
      Don’t try to tell me that I could go get food from crafty, or I can go to the food truck down the street. I’m often so busy, I have to be reminded that I need to eat and I shove bites in between whatever tasks I’m doing. I don’t have the time to go get another meal.

  6. The solution isn’t “order what you’re told”; the solution is to ask questions and clarify orders before hand to help make certain the order you’re getting is the same thing that’s wanted. The solution is “never assume”.

    I can imagine this conversation going the exact other way:

    “Hey, why aren’t there beans on this?”
    “You didn’t say you wanted beans.”
    “Beans are standard burrito ingredients. Of COURSE I wanted beans.”

    This other PA, by not asking questions, was essentially put himself/herself in a no-win situation. Never assume you’re on the same page with someone else until experience has taught you that you are.

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