Many people think the role of a Production Assistant is to only be the “gofer”. Take coffee orders, pick up lunches, hold umbrellas, etc. We are much more than that; we’re the glue holding things together on set.
A lot of what we do to keep things running smoothly goes unseen or unappreciated. We have our own tasks to handle in our day to day, yet there’s a lot of gaps we have to fill in order to keep timing on production’s side. Sometimes, I’m standing next to a showrunner decoding notes to give after a take, or I’m holding an umbrella in 96 degree heat for an actor covered in 4 hours worth of makeup, or I’m up at 4am getting over 300 background actors ready for a massive wide shot. We can have a lot on our figurative plate, and I say figurative because I mostly steal and hoard crafty food to put on my literal dinner plate when I get home after a 14+ hour day.
The work Production Assistants give often does not match up with what’s given back. I make the lowest the state allows me to be paid. There are times where I've driven multiple back to back days to a far location, with long hours, and hot summer weather - I was falling asleep at the wheel every night. I didn't feel safe driving home but I also didn't have enough for a hotel room for the night. So, for safety reasons, I asked production for a room. A mostly common courtesy to ask for, and was told no. Apparently, it wasn’t something this popular production company could afford. This now released show was in the number one slot for weeks and has received several Emmy nominations.
For the most part I do love what I do, I’ve worked with great crews who respect and appreciate how much I’ve helped on set. Although some see being a PA as a “stepping stone” job, they also acknowledge that it’s much more than just getting a cup of coffee.