Melissa Caswell is an Oklahoma-based script supervisor and production assistant who has worked as a base camp pa on the Sundance award-winning Minari, as an office pa on Stillwater, and as an assistant production coordinator on the independent film, Ike Boys.
In pre-production, an office assistant is brought on to help set up the production office. This can include working with vendors to organize routine cleaning services or to get internet, copiers, and phones set up for the office. During this time, the office pa will also work to help acquire office furniture and appliances for the office, print directional and name signs, stock the kitchen.
There are a variety of daily tasks for an office production assistant as they support the production office team. If there are two office pas hired, often they will switch opening and closing duties each week. An opening office pa will be the first to arrive at the office. They will make coffee, clean the kitchen if needed, put away dishes, and check the production office phones for messages. This pa will be in charge of choosing a place to get lunch for the office, distributing menus via print or an online method, placing orders with a restaurant, and going to get the lunches. The closing pa will arrive when the rest of the office arrives. Their daily duties include taking out recycling and compost, cleaning dishes, and making sure that the office is closed and locked properly before they leave for the day.
During filming, additional daily duties for an office pa can include answering phones, going on crafty runs for the production office kitchen, completing any errands necessary for the production, running needed items to set, scanning and uploading production paperwork, taking mail to the post office, and distributing any packages that arrive at the production office.
An office pa will complete these duties each day, often continuing to work after filming stops until the production office wraps.
Organization: An office pa needs to be able to juggle a lot of tasks at once. They will keep track of errands that need to be run, crafty inventory, and paperwork that needs to be filed in addition to meeting needs that arise. This requires an ability to stay organized and on task even when things at the office get hectic.
Reliability: The office relies on an office pa to arrive on time to open and stay late to close. This is just one of many tasks that an office pa is entrusted with as a member of the production office team and requires a good work ethic and positive attitude, as well as personal responsibility, time management skills, and integrity.
Communication: Be able to listen to the APOC and Production Coordinator, communicate pleasantly on the phone, and problem solve with members of the production office if an issue arises that needs to be solved. Also includes being willing to ask questions if you don’t understand a task.
Listening: The ability to understand instructions quickly will help you avoid mistakes and accomplish tasks effectively. In addition, sometimes a crew member will come to an office pa with questions or a need. It is the office pa’s responsibility to listen and understand those needs in order to clearly communicate them to the APOC and POC.
Paying attention: An office pa needs to be ready at any moment to jump in and help support the office. Paying attention to tasks that need to be done will help. When an office pa finishes a task earlier than they thought, they must find something else to do to help out like sweep the floors, organize the kitchen or office supplies, or take out the trash.
The position of office pa is hired by the production coordinator. A good way to prepare for this position is to work as a set pa or a base camp pa. This allows you to see all of the departments and how they work together to meet the needs of production, which will help you as you work to support each department as an office pa.
The office pa rate varies per production, but you can expect around $700 per week.
Phone charger/car charger (a lot of group texting with the production office team while on runs drains a cell phone battery)
Small notebooks to take notes
Kit box rate: approximately $10 per day. If you use your car, you may be able to get paid a daily rate or for milage.
Crafty: Refers to “craft services,” or snacks, drinks, etc which are provided for the crew.
Learn more about Kim Mott: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2714739/?ref_=fn_nm_nm_16
Learn more about Melissa Caswell: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm10743307/
Thank you to the Oklahoma Film and Music Office for sponsoring this episode!
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