A Day in the Life - PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Austin Shoot

This week I worked on a shoot for teen girl apparel in Austin. It was a one-day shoot on location at an indoor/outdoor sports complex, as opposed to my previous job which was a week long shoot confined to a studio, the job called for some different tasks.

Length: 1 Day

Job Title: Office PA

Location: This shoot was on location in Austin, TX because the client needed a quick preproduction turn around on a tight budget somewhere warm, cheap(er), and in a location they hadn’t shot before.  So on the one hand, they liked Austin because of the weather and the cost, but research involved finding a location that looked different than previous shoots for the brand. The other plus for Austin is the more lenient child labor laws, which allow for paperwork to move quickly and cheaply, bringing me to….

Talent: In Texas, minors can work up to six hours that do not include their lunch or break time, whereas laws in other cities like LA are much more strict. (In LA kids need to have tutors with them on-set, permission from school, a Coogan account and their 4-hour work day includes any and all breaks). Casting in Texas therefore involves less red tape making for quicker pre-production and allows for more shooting time in one day. This also definitely effects a PA’s work load!

(Quick tip: Give talent straws so that they don’t ruin their lipstick or accidentally spill on their wardrobe!)

Weather: The shoot called for indoor/outdoor settings.  With outdoor shoots it comes in handy to know the weather beforehand and where you will be spending the day.  For example, on a 90 degree day in the Texas sun you’ll want ample sunscreen, light clothing and maybe a hat. Luckily for me, as an office PA, I spent most of my time inside (making a few runs to set) with plenty of AC.

Shoot day: Before you leave, remember - absolutely no competing brands on set (bad for morale), no pictures and definitely no posting to social media!!! Big, fat no no. You don’t want to compromise the novelty of the promotion or merchandise. So put on your branded gear and head out. 

Shoot days can start early. For this one, we had to be on set before sunrise in order to starting shooting with the morning light.  Coffee and breakfast was to be provided by craft services, but check with the producer if there is anyone on set that should be brought a special order. 

Shortly after arriving I set up shop in the mobile office and started prepping Time Cards by filling in the company info at the top and highlighting the items that needed to be filled out by employees and talent in the W-4s and I-9’s (this helps to get them filled out more quickly and not be distracted from the job). When filling out these forms, although you may be groggy from your 6am call time, do your best to be deliberate - if you do it right the first time, you won’t have to go back through everything a second time. Once I filled these out, I scanned them into one large PDF file and emailed them to the Production Supervisor. 

The other thing I worked on was Petty Cash and Credit Card filing. The company files their petty cash and receipts in large envelopes with a written log on the front. I gathered the receipts and separated them into Petty Cash, Company Card & Personal card, then taped the receipts to blank computer paper, photocopied them and logged the purchase with the date, the vendor, why it was expensed, on the front of the envelope.

I was also tasked with finding a place for dinner and drinks for the wrap dinner. For this you’ll want to find out how many people will show and what time the shoot is likely to wrap. Some people won’t want to come by, so try to get a verbal head count. It's always better to tell the restaurant too many than too little. Open Table is a great way to find reservations unless the party size is too big, in which case just call up a bunch of restaurants and see if they can take you. If you make more than one reservation, be courteous and cancel the one you aren’t going with. 

Lastly I was asked to buy and prepare thank you cards. I gathered everyone’s contact info from time cards.

Once the shoot wrapped, we called taxis (in this case Uber) and headed to the wrap party* at The Salt Lick for some Texan chow and celebration of a job well done!

*Side note: At the wrap party, talk to other members of the crew and find out their story. How did they end up where they are? Did they have a mentor? Were they destined for the production field or did a serendipitous occasion land them their first job? It can be helpful (and interesting) to hear how others made their way.

Words by Christine O'Leary