What rate, P.A.?

On Studio 60 a few weeks ago, a comment was made about the production assistant, Suzanne, who was first to turn on the lights and make the coffee, and last to lock everything up, and these five or six, fourteen hours days paid only $350 a week.

When I landed my first paid p.a. (production assistant) gig thirteen years ago, the going rate was $125 a day. A couple years later, I was finding that the rate had made its way up to $150 a day. However, as time went on, up til today, the rate seems to have magically dropped to $115 a day, sometimes a little more.

While I’m removed from a grunt world of p.a. work, I still feel like the eager beavers are getting the shaft. To make things worse, studios and productions continue to abuse to concept of interns – unpaid labor who legally need to be working for college credit and under tight restrictions, but in reality are producer’s ways of getting people to fetch coffee and make photo copies for free. While the experience for an intern may be invaluable as a foot in the door, it gives an unfair advantage to kids who can afford to work for free, thus usually from better off families who can support the effort.

In any case, while I’m sure the working plebes have little time to spend online outside of MySpace, but I’m curious if any of readers are still working as an intern or production assistant, have considered doing so, or have graduated from those ranks.

6 Replies to “What rate, P.A.?”

  1. I was a PA for 2 days. It paid $100/day. I drove approx. 150 miles each day both day going from Hollywood, to Downtown, back to Hollywood, to Santa Monica….BACK to Hollywood….Valencia (all in one day…..while raining!) It was then I vowed to NEVER be a PA again. I wasn’t even on set. This was all post-production stuff.

  2. i too did some PA work, it was absolutely miserable and a fair amount of the folks I was working with were jackasses.

    needless to say i didn’t stick around after my few weeks were up.

  3. I was a P.A. on a feature about 10 years ago. It was the most miserable, ego crushing experience I’ve ever had. Where to begin? Picking up dog poop? Babysitting for the Producer? Cleaning dirty clothes. Oh, then there was that film stuff. I was paid nothing and had a beeper that was my virtual leash 24 hours per day.

  4. I’ve had a couple internships and have worked with interns on several occasions. Yes, it’s unpaid labor, but one of the hardest things for the employer is making sure the intern has enough to do to make the experience valuable. In fact, my college degree required an internship class (2-units, once per week) while taking a semester long internship. The main thing the professor talked about was making sure to help the employer provide an active experience by making suggestions about things you could do to help. Every class he asked students if they were doing stuff or just sitting around all the time.

    Here’s an interesting twist … I’m currently trying to help my nephew find “work experience.” He grew up and goes to college in England, and their concept of students in the work force is very different from ours. He’s coming to the US for the month of July, and hopes to find 2 or 3 different unpaid “work experiences,” each lasting a week. When I pointed out that it’s rare to find internships that last less than a month, he pointed out, “If I work at one place for a month and don’t like it, that would be a waste of my trip.” So if anybody knows a company that could use a free week of graphic design help … ;-)

  5. $115? Wow, that’s horrifying. When I started out 13 years ago, it was $125 in Dallas working on Walker, Texas Ranger. When I got into the commerical world, it was roughly $175/$200. Needless to say, it was goodbye low budget film in the young days. In fact, as a DP/Gaffer/Cam Op I had to move to LA to get paid poorly. I never understood gaffing a low budget movie of the week for $125 a day. Mind you the same rate I made as a PA in a small market town.

    And it has nothing to do with the amount of work. There was plenty in Big D. (Before 9/11)

  6. I’m an intern right now for a pretty big film company (although I’m in London, UK not LA), and I’ve been an intern in the past in Canada. I graduated through the ranks in TV from being an intern to paid work at various positions, before scooting over to film to work in my first love – scripts and development. Hence my move backwards to intern again (it’s all about that valuable foot-in-the-door, as you so rightly observed).

    I don’t mind it, as long as you recognise that you’re being exploited and only allow companies to treat you that way if you know you’re exploiting them back (they get free work, I get to use them on my resume to enable me to get the next job…lol). I wouldn’t work for free for anyone – only companies who I know are going to look good on my resume and give me some serious kudos when job hunting. But I’ve seen some people get really shit on because they don’t know what they’re worth and don’t get what they deserve, and that’s a shame. It’s about knowing the game, which takes a while to learn.

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