Like I said earlier this week, it’s up to us PAs to look out for each other. Here’s another example:
PAs. along with everyone else in this business, work long hours, 60 a week at minimum. Unlike most other departments, though, the office works in shifts.
Generally speaking, a PA and either the coordinator or APOC (depending on the coordinator’s preference) come in a half hour before call or around 8:00AM (whichever is sooner). 1
A second PA comes in at call, along with the UPM and whichever of the coordinators didn’t come in early. Finally, the last PA comes in an hour or so after call. This can be anywhere from 8:00AM to 7:00PM, depending on the show.
The reason it’s done this way is to avoid paying overtime. They need a PA to open the office during normal business hours (8:00AM or so) and a PA to distribute call sheets and make sides. If you’re not going to wrap until three in the morning, making a PA stay that whole time will cost a lot.
In my opinion, having the middle shift is the worst. If you’re the early guy, the coordinator will often let you go a little early. By seven or seven thirty, the office is dead, and we’re basically just waiting for wrap. Smart (and nice) coordinators will realize they don’t need three PAs sitting around, doing nothing.
The late shift has its draw backs (living like a vampire chief among them), but you can count on overtime if you have a director who doesn’t know how to shoot two takes and move on.
Middle shift has neither advantage. The coordinator will almost always make you sit out your full twelve hours, and the latter three or four will be completely wasted sitting around, doing nothing. If you’re an aspiring writer, you might use this time to write, but… pft, you’ll probably spend it on Facebook.
And this is where the “Look out for your fellow PA” part comes in: if you’re that late guy, and it becomes clear that there is nothing left to do (the kitchen is clean, the copiers stocked, no script deliveries on the horizon), you should go up to the coordinator and say, “Hey, uh, there’s not much going on. [Second shift PA] doesn’t really need to be here, does s/he?”
There’s nothing more boring than sitting in a nearly empty production office, late at night, with nothing to do, and not even the vague prospect of overtime pay to look forward to. (The coordinator will always notice when the middle shift PA is approaching twelve hours.)
But that PA can’t go up to the coordinator and say, “Hey, there’s nothing left to do until wrap. Can I go home?” It sounds lazy and shiftless. But if you, the late PA, brings it up, not only does your fellow PA get to knock off early, you look like a nice guy for suggesting it.
- That’s a lot of Or’s, but I wanted to cover every permutation.↩