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I Am Not A Lawyer

Various people have been pointing me towards this story about PAs suing for abuse. Unlike the Black Swan interns, these people were at least paid, but that’s probably little comfort.

The suit says the workers were not allowed to take breaks for meals or to use the restroom, leaving them to instead use their cars as bathrooms.

“Due to limitations on their ability to leave their assigned locations, many of the plaintiffs are forced to urinate and defecate into bottles and buckets in their vehicles,” the lawsuit says.

Awesome.

As I tweeted the other day, parking PAs are not really a thing in Los Angeles. On occasion, I’ve had to valet at parties in the hills to make ends meet between shows, but I’ve never had to do it while I was on a show. I mean, yeah, someone would ask me to park their car once in a while, but it wasn’t my whole, entire job.

What amazes me is how everyone involved must have stuck to this situation.

INT. PRODUCTION OFFICE – NIGHT

The UPM is hunched over his desk, reviewing hot costs. A nervous PA enters, knocking on the door.

UPM

What is it?

PA

Um, hi, boss. Uh... here’s the thing. We haven’t been given any breaks. We didn’t get broken for lunch. We didn’t even get to pee.

The UPM grabs a Perrier bottle off his desk, chugs the remainder, and holds it out across his desk.

UPM

Here. Pee in this.

The PA takes it, dubious.

UPM (CONT’D)

Anything else?

PA

I guess not. See you tomorrow.

Like, how do you come into work the next day after that? “Say Yes” has its limits.

And you know what really grinds my gears?

Remember when this show was funny?

It wasn’t just one guy who caused this. Several people up and down the chain of command were aware of what these PAs were going through, and not one of them put a stop to it. These kids were working long hours doing the most meaningless task for minimum wage, but that wasn’t enough for these assholes. They had to take their dignity, too.

Side note: one of the movies in question was Noah. During the Black Swan thing, several people brought up Darren Aronofsky, as if the director had any idea what the interns were doing. But this is the second Aronofsky movie in a row that’s been sued. What is going on with his sets?

Anyway, as the headline says, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if these production assistants have a case. I’m also not from New York, so I don’t know the applicable employment laws.

In California, I can tell you that paying for overtime is required. That’s an easy sell; you wouldn’t even need a lawyer. Just file a wage claim with the state.

Also in California, employers are required to give a 30-minute meal break, and a 10-minute paid break for every four hour period. These rules are played fast and loose in the film business. Technically, you’re either supposed to be “relieved of all duties” during lunch, or the lunch break must be paid; neither of these happen in the production office.

As for the ten minute breaks, production is such a hurry-up-and-wait situation, the bosses figure you managed to take your break somewhere in there. But if the PAs are forced to pee in bottles? It’s safe to say they didn’t get their break.

Lastly, were all the PAs dudes? Because I can think of a whole lot of issues that a plastic bottle wouldn’t solve for me…

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11 Responses

  1. I stopped reading at, “These kids…” (I’ll continue to read your post after this comment, because the conditions of parking PAs are terrible). But I want to put into perspective of WHY this is happening and this isn’t office PAs or Set PAs. This is happening to a rarely seen or acknowledged department. To most people, these guys are invisible.

    Here in New York, we have a department called the Parking PAs. Locations hires them and is the point contact for them. They are adults (35/40+ years). I can’t and shouldn’t assume to why they are in a position to take these jobs, but the underside of my mind wonders about their social economic status. These are the jobs no one wants. They work hard and the set can’t run without them.

    New York doesn’t shoot on back lots. We either have stages (for INT. work), or we have the streets as our set. We don’t have parking lots big enough to accommodate basecamp, so we have to park our trucks on the street regardless of whether or not we are on the stage.

    So. Who has to save the spots for trucks, campers, the actual set, and transpo? Locations. (Locations is actually apart of the Teamster union in NY). And locations hires parking PAs. Who incidentally became established “go to” people that come supplied with their own cones, safety vests, and their own car that they work out of. (Think of it, like the company hiring Catering, or Crafty. These guys do their own department the way they see fit).

    Parking PAs show up a day before hand. They set out cones on three or four streets that we have legally permitted and make sure no one parks. Residents love us (Sarcasm). So the company isn’t in. Not even the art department, that I know of. New York doesn’t have public restrooms unless you go to a Starbucks or a friendly restaurant. Okay, there’s a few in parks, but not on the streets. What is someone to do when they are at a location 24+ hours in advance of the honeywagon? They are saving the spot FOR the honeywagon to land. These departments are being hired with the assumption that they are to be self sufficient. There is not one amenity provided to them that I know of.

    Do I think it’s the company’s or the employees fault? Not exactly. This is an entirely grey and new situation that’s still be fleshed out. Should they look into providing a porta potty for one individual to be posted up next to their car? Maybe if that’s the correct thing to do, but I can see what no one thought of it (a porta potty for a party of 1 sounds silly).

    I don’t know. But these are great guys and we can’t do without them. I love my parking PAs.

    1. Ok, I finished reading your post.

      Contrary to the name, Parking PAs are there to CLEAR parking in prep for the company to then park on the day.

      Yes, they are dudes. I’ve worked in NY for five years now, and I met one female, once, who dayplayed for a day (but that was it). They are usually of the middle aged minority types.

      Yes, not receiving OT in NY is illegal so I bet they have a case there (unless they are getting a stipend for the job of clearing parking and “they can do it on their own schedule as long as it’s completed” but let’s be honest that if parking needs to be cleared for shooting on Monday…well you only have a certain window to do it in).

    2. Interesting perspective. I’m in SF, and have worked as a Locations PA. Locations hires a third party who’s entire job it is to show up in a truck filled with cones and barricades, this person (seriously it’s like one guy and he has the monopoly on this) sets up in advance of the crew then goes on his merry way. At some point portopotties or a honeywagon is dropped off along with dumpsters for production related garbage if applicable. If not, the Location manager will have negotiated with a nearby resident/business/construction site to use their bathroom/garbage. Locations hires set security (again – one company has the monopoly on set security here) to keep people from parking. These are the guys who will stand outside all night in the cold to keep people from parking/messing with set deco.

      As a Location PA my duties consist of had to do more than stand at a designated post – usually a business or apartment entrance and let civilians know what’s going on should they be unawares (“hi, mind that cable/dolly track”). We also set up and move whatever pop up tents/chairs/heaters that video village/bg holding may consist of.

      In conclusion, it seems these Parking PAs take on the first two roles. In which case they’re horribly underpaid for the work they do.

    3. Why is this a new situation? People have been filming in New York since the invention of the movies.

      1. Yes, we have Kaufman Astoria Studios which is one of the oldest studios, but that doesn’t qualify for taking over blocks with our trucks. The “boom” has only been for the last 5-10 years. And this case is two-ish years old. The article is recent, but this has been circulating.
        NY is saturated and you can’t go into any neighborhood without running into a film crew. I’d imagine the large influx of work is shedding light on this department. More crew on set for the first time. More producers. More PAs. Or maybe the right person came around to speak up, or the wrong person came around wasn’t self sufficient or was wronged by their boss and wanted monetary compensation, or maybe the situation was really that terrible. I can’t really speak about their department except I know it’s not a department I’d jump into.

      2. It isn’t a new situation. It’s only new in that those 4 PAs have decided to bring to light the working conditions of being a Parking PA in NY. It’s likely these conditions have existed for a very long time and no one has said anything, probably because the demographic tends to be hired were afraid they wouldn’t get PA work again. When your next job is on the line, whistleblowing may lose you future jobs. A lot of people remain hush for exactly this reason and the employers keep poor conditions going. It’s a catch-22 situation. These 4 PAs have decided to file this lawsuit and see what happens. Hopefully, the lawsuit was filed for the right reason, that is to improve the working conditions. But, whistleblower situations don’t always end well for the whistleblowers themselves.

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