Clocking Out

Some readers emailed me about my use of the term “clocking out” in yesterday’s post. No, there is no actual clock to punch on my show, or any show I’ve ever been on.

This is all I know about how punch clocks work.
It would be kind of cool, though.

No, nothing cool like that. We actually fill out time cards here in Hollywood. “That just seems really archaic, filling out a time sheet by hand,” you might say.

To which I would respond, “How dare you suggest that Hollywood does something irrationally inefficient!”

Most departments, especially the ones on set, have one person who fills out every department. In grip and electric, this responsibility goes to the best boys, whose experience (and commensurate pay) means they can be trusted with this important task. In the camera department, the fob it off on the most junior loader or camera PA, because the camera department is full of dicks.

In the production office, you’ll fill out your own time card. As noted previously, you have a twelve hour guarantee, and you don’t often go over that, so your time card is mostly a formality. I know PAs who copy their time cards and just write in the new date every week.

I’ve gotten conflicting instructions from payroll accountants on different shows. Some tell you to write out your exact hours, for legal reasons. (If they let you go home an hour early, and you get in a car accident on your way home, you could claim workman’s comp, since the time card reflects you were on the clock at that time.)

Others have told me to fill out the card as if I worked twelve hours, no matter what. The reason is, we don’t have a union, and the network could suddenly decide to not honor the gentleman’s agreement we all have on the twelve hour thing. Personally, I suggest following the latter instructions, even if your accountant tells you to do the former, just in case.

Another thing to keep in mind in the office is lunch. We don’t really get a lunch break. Yes, we get food. (And we get the food, too.) But we’re still expected to sit at our desk, answering calls and stuff. If a run comes up, or some other task needs handling, we office PAs are expected to let their lunch go cold while we take care of it.

So, no lunch break, but California law still requires that the time card says we got lunch. Usually, you just put down a half hour break six hours after call, even if you got lunch fifteen minutes after you walked in the door.

Luckily, most1 coordinators recognize this, and let you go twelve hours after your call, rather than the twelve and a half you’d get if you had a break.

I knew one PA who resented not getting his half hour, and actually added a half hour to the end of every twelve hour day. Again, as I mentioned yesterday, this is just begging for trouble.

No one ever called him out on it, though. He just got an extra two and a half hours of overtime every week for eating lunch at his desk.

…Maybe he was onto something.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Sadly, not all.
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9 Responses

  1. Hi there,
    Looking for a cheat sheet to keep in my gold fold for figuring out/converting my out times to 1/10s. Does such a thing exist?

    1. Ask your payroll accountant. They almost all have one on their desk, or at least at the front of the paymaster. Then ask your friendly neighborhood office PA to copy it for you.

  2. Just a heads up, a new CA state law passed that says you can’t “guarentee” anyone hours anymore…so while a production company might “build their schedule based on a 12 hour day” there is no longer a promise that you’ll get paid 12 hours. Technically. Although, I have yet to run into a production company that won’t pay a PA for 12 hours everytime.

  3. I can’t speak to the west coast, but on the east coast (NY namely) for features, it’s pretty standard to add the half hour on at the end of the day. The accountants expect it for the PAs. Totally endorsed.

    1. Agreed: in NY they not only tell you to/expect you to, but also will remind you to – when I’ve gone over 12hrs I usually don’t add the 30 mins, but my POC told me to change it.

      I’ve worked in Mi too and that’s what they do there as well it seems.

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