Jerrica wrote in:
I start an office PA position on a network show in a week and I was wondering If you had any advice for the first day/week. OR maybe a list of things to bring with you or make sure you have handy. I sort of want to be prepared since this a completely different gig than what I’m used to. (I’m coming from a major talent agency) Please help!!
Last year, I wrote a guest post for the Work in Entertainment blog about your first day on set, but I never really wrote about your first day in the office.
To begin with, the production office may or may not be the same office the production company works out of. If it is, that means you’re on a small (though not necessarily “low”) budget production.
An office PA’s life is less physically demanding than a set PA’s, but your outfit should still be loose and comfortable enough to do the occasional heavy lifting. I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt, unless it’s particularly nice.
Bring a pen and notepad with you, just in case the supply closet hasn’t been stocked, yet.1 Otherwise, you don’t need any supplies. (If you’re a real go getter, here’s some extra credit items to bring along.)
While there will likely be crafty in the office, it’s not as sure a thing that you’ll be provided breakfast. The production office often opens up weeks before shooting begins, which means catering hasn’t started, yet. Hopefully, the production will buy your lunch, but you should eat breakfast at home.2
The production office org chart is basically a straight line: Producer –> Production Manager (or UPM) –> Production Coordinator (or just Coordinator) –> Assistant Production Coordinator (APOC) –> You. (The accountants are probably in the same office, but they’re a whole ‘nother department, so you won’t really have to concern yourself with them too much.)
The physical layout of production offices varies wildly, depending on the space, but generally speaking the PAs sit in a bullpen area, ready and willing to help anyone who walks in the door. The APOC frequently has a desk out there, too, to make sure the kids are doing their job. Everyone above that ought to have their own office.
Somewhere near by is the kitchen and the copy room, and if you’re lucky, those are two different rooms. Weirdly, your job with both is the same– keep them stocked. If the producers pops in to the copy room to run off a script real quick, it better not run out of paper. Also, the paper better be white.
This is your job.
And while we’re at it, make sure the producer’s favorite snacks are in the kitchen. This is also your job.
While the APOC is directly above you, you’ll most likely report to the coordinator on the first day. From there, who knows? You might be ordering office supplies, not just for the office, but every department; you might be sent on a crafty run (just for the office, not the set); you might be sent to pick up incidental equipment, if there are no teamsters available.
Honestly, that’s about everything that applies to every office. Your real job is to do whatever nobody else wants to do. Things come up all the time, from set runs to setting up conference rooms to moving furniture. You have to be ready to say yes to basically anything.