Unless you work on a multicam show, you’ll probably spend some time shooting on location. If you work in the office, this means printing maps (provided by the location department) and attaching them to each call sheet. For a set PA, the job is more-or-less the same, except everyone will be asking where the honey wagon and crafty tent are.
The biggest issue is, you never know where you’re reporting to more than a couple days in advance. One day, you’re shooting in Burbank; the next, Manhattan Beach. As long as it’s in the 30 Mile Zone,1 you’re expected to make your call time, with a smile on your face and a walkie on your belt.
But what if the film you’re working on is outside the Zone? That is the subject for today’s post.
If you’re shooting out of town, the production needs to do a few things– pay for your hotel, pay for your transportation, and pay per diem to cover expenses. If they do not pay for these things, you should not work on this show.
You’re already getting paid next to nothing. You really can’t afford a flight to Phoenix and a three week hotel stay on a PA salary. Travel and per diem are not negotiable.
Minor caveat: a cheap production will subtract the cost of meals on set from your per diem on shooting days. I don’t like this, but I get their reasoning. Honestly, they’re right. You’ll eat catering and crafty, and pocket the per diem, which technically isn’t what it’s for.
These expenses are part of the reason productions look for local hires.2 If someone already lives in the town they’re shooting, they obviously don’t have to fly them or put them up in a hotel.
I know some people are willing to work as locals, if they have friends or family they can stay with during the shoot. Again, the cost of the flight probably isn’t worth it for a PA. It might make more sense for someone up the food chain.
Once again, I’m a big proponent of internships. You should try to gain experience almost any way you can. But don’t spend money to work on a shoot. Don’t fly out to some God forsaken patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere to fetch coffee for ungrateful actresses. There are plenty of shoots in your area who will gladly take unpaid help.