Production Assistants are vital to Hollywood, but a majority of shows pay minimum wage. Even though we have jobs that dictate how smooth or rough the show operates and even more responsibility on top of that singular designated job, we still tend to be underpaid. Fast food companies are paying their employees more than Hollywood pays us. There aren’t many perks to being a production assistant. We have to fight for hotel stay. We have to fight for mileage during travel. We have to fight for fair pay for the amount of work we perform everyday. We are told we can’t sit. Sitting equates to laziness, therefore we stand for an average of 12-14 hours. We get flak from every department on set. Disrespect around every corner. We are given a false sense of authority that we try to exercise to our best potential, but are looked down upon by the majority so that authority isn’t taken seriously.
This position is just a stepping stone. For many of us we do this to improve our rank in the industry, whether that be as an assistant director, camera department, writer, or many other positions we may find desirable. For me I want to be a writer and director. As a back up plan to support my family I am going the assistant director route. What a lot of people don’t know about this route is the DGA, Directors Guild of America, requires 600 days of work before we can even turn our book in to qualify to join. If accepted we owe an additional 150 days if we choose one path or 400 additional days if we choose to not stay in California or New York. Other unions in the industry require a measly 30 days to join. 30 days to change a life, no wonder so many PA’s divert from the DGA path and seek opportunity elsewhere. After all of this who would want to be a production assistant? Who would want to subject themselves to all of this?
For me film has always been a love affair of mine. In high school I was introduced to classics like Chinatown and Blade Runner and I fell in love with the art. But my love for movies started even younger when I was only 12 and my friend's dad took us to see Gladiator. The epic scale of that movie to my young mind blew me away. I was entranced and have been ever since. I mean I’ve always loved movies. As a kid i spent most of my time either playing in my imagination or in front of a screen. But that day I came out of Gladiator changed me. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to do that.
So when I moved to Los Angeles, seeking to be a part of what I love, it felt magical. Six grueling months went by before I landed a job. After a week of sleeping two hours a day and proving myself I landed an even bigger opportunity. Even though I had just worked myself into a zombie state of sleep deprivation, I walk onto the Warners Bros lot for my first big chance. I was greeted by the set of the television show Lethal Weapon. I was in shock. The only thing I can compare it to is being a kid and going to Disneyland for the first time. It was magical. It was what I had been seeking in life.
Every set still has that magic for me. I get to be a kid everyday and be surrounded by imagination. So for me, the inequality on set, the minimum wage, the disrespect, it’s all worth it. Because I know I’ll be a great director one day and when I am, I’ll treat those who don’t have a voice with respect. I’ll treat them the way they deserve to be treated. There aren’t many people who look out for us. We get lucky time to time and find amazing assistant directors and UPMs who care for us and speak for us. These people are also the same people who help us get through it all mentally. These few individuals protect the minority without a voice. We shouldn’t be seen as somebody who should just feel lucky enough to be a part of a show. We should be seen as somebody who is vital to that show just like every other person involved.