The Life of a “Gopher” or Production Assistant

9 Jan

By Parisienne

You know you hit the big time in Hollywood when you become a Production Assistant. That’s right the life of a production assistant AKA: PA/Gopher sounds glamourous. Right? Perhaps! However, the real life of a PA is anything but glamorous but can be very rewarding if you can persevere.

The job of a production assistant is a grueling one.  It is an entry level position on a television or film set.  The responsibilities of an assistant vary depending on what they are asked to do.  P.A.’s must have good listening skills, be extremely responsible and have a willingness to learn and practice having the patience of a saint.

Kathleen Kennedy started out as a production assistant for Steven Spielberg and was asked to organize some notes for him. He was very impressed with her organizational skills and mentored her.  She has since become a producer in Hollywood.

Please join us for a discussion Tuesday 1/10/2012@7pmE/12UTC


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82 Responses to “The Life of a “Gopher” or Production Assistant”

  1. littlebells January 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM #

    Thanks Paris!

    How does one apply for this position?

    What are some of the perks and cons of being a PA?

  2. Comic Relief January 9, 2012 at 6:43 PM #

    In regard to rank and seniority, is PA work governed or managed the same way work is organized in other fields?

  3. Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 6:38 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    LittleBells, Here is one job I found. One doesn’t need much education to do a PA job. http://www.4entertainmentjobs.com/jobs/ind/4entjob24775.html?utm_source=Indeed&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Indeed

    CR,

    I don’t know the answer to your question but I will try to find it for you. 🙂

    • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

      Thank you! I laugh at the requirements because I can’t tell you how many professionals I know who speak and write grammatically incorrect. It blows my mind. Well at least I know I have a job as a PA if I ever need one! 🙂

      • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

        🙂

      • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:16 PM #

        LB…U would have a ton of offers I’m sure.

  4. Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 6:49 PM #

    Littlebells,

    One of the cons, is being everything to everyone unless you specify that you want to work in the office or be a screenwriter pa or something like that. the pro is that you get to work on a set and see how a production is put together.

    • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

      I imagine if u want to maximize the position it’s better to have some idea of what u want to do and have some education or experience. No?

      Take for example Kathleen Kennedy. What was her experience or background prior to working as a PA?

      • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:16 PM #

        I think it is better to have some experience in different aspects. For example if someone is interested in screenwriting, there are screenwriting PA’s, Office PA’s etc.

        • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:19 PM #

          Due to the limited amount of time i had for research. I couldn’t find out much on Kathleen but she did work in t.v. doing various posts for KCST in San Diego.

          • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

            Thanks Paris…

            No problem. This is still good info.

  5. littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:01 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:02 PM #

      Hi LB!

  6. Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:06 PM #

    Hi Everyone-

    Great topic Paris!

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

      Thanks OB!

    • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

      Howdee!

      • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

        Hey Lurker! How are you?

        • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:09 PM #

          Hey Paris!
          I’m hanging in there – how are you doing?

          • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

            I’m doing great! Extremely busy.

            • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

              Me too!
              😉

          • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

            Hi Lurker!!

            Ahh! This is like old times. LOL!!

            • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

              I know! Hail, Hail the gang’s all here. 🙂

              • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM #

                Hi all!

                • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

                  Hi Ozzie!

                  • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

                    Hi Paris!

                • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

                  Hi Ozzie & LB!
                  *hugs*

      • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:25 PM #

        Hi Lurker! Hi OB!

        • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

          Hi LB & Oz!

          • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

            Hi OB!

  7. Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:20 PM #

    I have a question.
    Are PA’s paid positions or does it vary?
    The reason I’m asking is that I saw an article recently that there was a big uproar in HW with unpaid interns.
    Not sure if that turned into a lawsuit or not.

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

      Lurker,

      It depends on the size of the film that is being shot. Some PA’s are paid a daily rate and some PA’s are paid hourly. Some are not paid at all.

      • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:25 PM #

        The ones who are not paid usually have no experience, connections or education.

      • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

        Interesting. And I’m assuming that moving up the industry ladder is based on how well you do your job as a PA????

        • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

          yes. I would say so. I don’t know how many things i just read that say have a positive attitude, keep your mouth shut, be willing to learn don’t pretend you know something if you don’t know it and you’ll be asked back.

          • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

            It’s soooooooooooo nice to work with someone who has a positive attitude especially in stressful environments.

            • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM #

              I couldn’t agree more.

            • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

              when people actually show up is nice too.

              • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

                Yeah I don’t get that honestly.
                And it happens a lot all over the spectrum.

                • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

                  I know! Either show up or don’t. Pick one. Why even bother asking for the job if you’re not going to show? Irks me to no end. Plus its disrespectful, IMO

                • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

                  I don’t get it myself. It blows my mind honestly. I’ve shown up at a school and had to sub a different class because the other sub never showed.

              • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

                Yep! Show up early and on time is a real treat.

  8. Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:21 PM #

    I was just reading the job description for the PA job opening. I have many friends who work in various capacities as a PA. The PA job u posted is heavily writing based. Is that more common nowadays?

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:24 PM #

      Open Book,

      I don’t know if that’s more common nowadays. I just found it. I was trying to give an example of one of the many PA positions.

      • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM #

        Ahhh! Gotcha…..

      • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

        That job description is so vague!
        I’m cracking up.
        Sort of reminds me of the movie where Anne Hathaway takes the executive assistant job and is running around like a crazy person!

        • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:36 PM #

          It might as well say “must breathe”. Hahahahaha!!!!

          • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

            Lol!

          • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

            Actually in my industry we have a catch all task…
            “and other as assigned”

            That means whatever they ask you to do to get the job done!

            • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

              sorry missed a word

              “and other duties as assigned”

        • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

          It’s vague so they can keep piling on the work. LOL!!

          I love this line from Horrible Bosses.

          Jason Bateman’s character says: Success comes by how much **** u can take. He said his Grandmother died poor because she would not take any ****. LOL!!

          • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

            LOL that’s true though……also how well can you bull****?

            • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

              hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Well I guess I’m gonna die poor!

            • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

              Yes! The art of bull**** should be at the top of every PA’s resume. LOL!!

          • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

            Well as you move up the food chain, it honestly doesn’t get easier the work load changes but certainly the stress of more responsibility can take its toll. And then factor the specific industry. Its can be crazy!

            Just remember that line (can’t remember the movie at the moment)
            “thank you sir, can I have another”
            And say it with a smile.
            LOL

            • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

              LOL!

            • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

              “Oliver Twist”!!!

            • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

              Love that line Lurker…. What movie is that from? I’ll be back.

              • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

                OMG can’t believe I forgot that.

                ANIMAL HOUSE !!!

  9. ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

    I think this is what my quarter cousin is, lol! I’ll have to look her up and see.

    • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

      Ok, is a production assistant the same as a production secretary or an assistant production coordinator?

      • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

        great question!! (Hi Ozzie 🙂 )

        • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

          Hi LB!

          Thanks! I’m very interested in this discussion to actually find out more about what kind of job she does. When I see my Great Aunt, I get told of what films she’s worked on and who she has met, which is all well and good but I’d like to know what it is she actually does! I am just as interested in the behind the scenes stuff, as I am the finished product, lol!

      • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

        Honestly, IDK. 🙂 I need to do more research.

        • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

          Thank you Paris! 🙂

  10. littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

    Does the number of PAs on a film vary ? Do they go from film to film or do they usually stay with one studio?

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:36 PM #

      I’m not sure LB i’ll have to research the position more and get back to you.

  11. Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

    I was looking at some PA positions earlier and some of them you have to be proficient in Word and Excel and different types of PC programs.

  12. littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

    I thought this was great. I actually learned a lot on the first page alone!

    http://www.anonymousproductionassistant.com/

    • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

      I read that the other night and fell asleep on the PC.

      Also http://www.theartfulwriter.com is good too. Its Craig Mazin’s blog

      • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

        Did you drool?

        Ok, this is for everyone and anyone: say I get a job as a PA. Who is my boss? What if someone above me tells me to do something and another person tells me not to?

        • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

          I think….if you don’t have a specific role like screenwriter PA the AD is your boss. I could be wrong. I’ll have to look that up.

        • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

          Only listen to your immediate supervisor but the director trumps everyone.

    • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

      Hey this blog you linked to the guy is pretty funny!

      • littlebells January 10, 2012 at 7:58 PM #

        Informative and funny. I like that! 🙂

        Ok, I’m going to bid everyone adieu for now. Take care!

        • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

          Yes! That’s a fantastic blog. Love it!

  13. Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:53 PM #

    I need to get going ladies. Does anyone have any more questions?

    • Lurker January 10, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

      Good Stuff Paris!
      Talk to you again soon!

      • Parisienne January 10, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

        Night Everyone!

    • Open Book January 10, 2012 at 8:02 PM #

      Goodnight Paris!

      Good discussion.

      • ozzie20 January 10, 2012 at 8:09 PM #

        Night all! Loved this discussion! 🙂

  14. Open Book January 10, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

    Goodnight Everyone!

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