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Shooting Location Change

ES writes in:

I’ve got a question about saying “yes” and then finding out location. I live outside SF and agreed to a gig that I found out is 35 minutes further out than San Francisco. Is it okay to say no now that I found out the actual location? It’s simply too far, I’d need to leave at least 2 hours beforehand to get there early, run errands for them along the way.

I don’t know what it’s like in San Francisco, but even in Los Angeles, a two hour commute is excessive. I’ve had to do it occasionally, but only for a day or two of location shooting. I wouldn’t want to do it for  a month.

But if you’re doing errands along the way, that’s not a commute. The moment you stop at the bagel shop to pick up some morning crafty or the Kinkos to collect copies of the script, you’re on the clock. Don’t let them tell you you start when you step onto set. If you do anything at all that benefits the show before you arrive, that is the in-time on your time card.1

So take that into account before you do anything as hasty as quitting before the show even begins. You might be out 16 hours a day, but at least you’re getting paid for 16, and not 12.

That being said, you took the job under false pretenses. I don’t know how commonly the area in question is colloquially referred to as “San Francisco,” even if it’s technically not. Here, Beverly Hills is surrounded on all sides by Los Angeles; I wouldn’t quibble if I was hired to shoot in L.A., then given a 90210 address.

But if you’re talking about a place that wouldn’t legitimately be considered part of San Francisco, you’re perfectly in the right to say, “This isn’t what I signed on for.” It’s entirely possible they knew they’d get fewer qualified applicants in this location 35 minutes north of the city, so they lied on the job posting, knowing few people would back out once they landed the gig.

Now, whether it was a deliberate misrepresentation or an honest mistake, you’re most likely burning a bridge by taking the job then preemptively quitting. You’ve put them in a tough spot; they thought they checked off the “hire a PA” item on their to-do list. You’ve put that item back on, and ADs don’t like doing that.

Even if they’re understanding of your predicament, they’ll hire another PA. When the next job comes along, she’ll be at the top of their list, not you.

So, think long and hard about the consequences of leaving this job. There are worse things than long commutes. Like no commute at all.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I even include phone calls, which are a large part of any PA’s job. Just because you’re not sitting at your desk when making/receiving them, you’re still doing your job.
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2 Responses

  1. If the production is local to the Bay Area, then they should know better. But I’ve had productions think Salinas and Sacramento (over 100 miles away) are local to the Bay Area. Getting across the Golden Gate is a bit of a reverse commute, and depending on where you’re coming from not that bad. There aren’t as many PAs in the North Bay (poor Guy Fieri… he does a lot up there). If you can tough it out, it’s very likely more jobs can come of it. Especially since a lot of commercials (i.e. higher paying PA jobs) happen in Marin.

  2. TAPA’s right. Don’t burn a bridge before you’ve even crossed it — take the job, work hard, do your very best, suffer through it in good humor, then be sure to ask pertinent questions about the location next time they call.

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