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Production Meal Penalty


Kenny Williams
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I am a pa and recently worked on a show during the load in week before shooting. It was to my understanding that even walk away lunches were to be reimbursed. Apparently I was informed that if it's a one hour walk away even on a 12 hour day it isn't? I thought legally we had to be fed? Does anyone know anything about this and if it's a lie who do you talk to when you're a non union pa?

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Legally they don't have to feed you nor do they have to reimburse you (unless it's in a contract). Legally they are required to pay meal penalties in California if the time card reflects it as so. However, the meal penalties, for non-union, only apply for the first meal and not the second.

I'll be honest, though, PA's get the short end of the stick when it comes to labor protections in the US. Unfortunately, production treats it as an easily replaceable job, whether or not they actually replace the PA. It's hard to stand up for what's right when they tell you not to come in the next day.

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The smart production companies that can't afford to pay for a meal will have a really nice crafts services spread and somebody watching it over it at ALL Times to ensure flies are not getting into anything, the sun is not suddenly lighting up the craft services area, nor the wind suddenly disrupting the contents. The idea is crafts services works well at the beginning of the day, for drinks and snacks throughout the day, and then the last 4 hours of the 12 hour shoot in lieu of a second meal.  So besides the one meal the crew is paying for themselves, the crew should be well supplied with drinks and decent snacks throughout the entire day.

If there is no meal being provided, and no crafts services table, and the pay is really bad, but better than nothing, I would anonymously blast the company after the shoot is done on whatever sites rate production companies, for being so narcissistic.

Edited by Alessandro Machi
grammatical corrections.
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Any Production company with integrity should never make a P.A. choose between a minor car repair they suddenly need for their car versus having some spare cash for meals for a week. P.A.s are sometimes asked to pick up something or deliver something of value, it seems shortsighted to not supply a daily meal and crafts services so the money they saved from not buying meals for a couple of weeks might instead go for basic maintenance for their car, or to catch up on a smart phone bill.

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On 9/21/2020 at 3:09 PM, Kenny Williams said:

I am a pa and recently worked on a show during the load in week before shooting. It was to my understanding that even walk away lunches were to be reimbursed. Apparently I was informed that if it's a one hour walk away even on a 12 hour day it isn't? I thought legally we had to be fed? Does anyone know anything about this and if it's a lie who do you talk to when you're a non union pa?

Don’t know the specific rules about walk-always since we don’t really do those in SF. But I would say, get out of non-union PA work as soon as possible. Since you’re in LA, you will have options once things get back to normal. 

I say this as someone who worked their way up the non-union camera department ranks (only PA’d on a few jobs early on though). We have an unusual market in SF where there’s been enough union and non-union work for experienced local crew to demand good working conditions on most non-union jobs (10hr day, meals every 6hr, OT, arranged parking, mileage outside production zone, full rates, etc). In these circumstances, staying non-union for your entire career is feasible, you’ll just be barred from working on some bigger shows.

Here’s a video from one of my local colleagues about how things work in our market: 

But I recognize that this is not the case in most other places, where non-union work is often synonymous with sub-minimum wages and sometimes abusive working conditions. I think you can get some valuable experience early on doing low budget non-union shoots as a DP or AC - but there’s rarely anything to be gained by being a non-union PA unless you’re just starting out, have zero marketable skills, or don’t have any contacts yet. That’s where we all start, but the sooner you move up, the better off you’ll be. 

Being a PA is a hard enough job without having to deal with crap like walk-away meals and not getting fed. But that’s just my opinion!

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On 9/22/2020 at 10:03 PM, Satsuki Murashige said:

Don’t know the specific rules about walk-always since we don’t really do those in SF. But I would say, get out of non-union PA work as soon as possible. Since you’re in LA, you will have options once things get back to normal. 

I say this as someone who worked their way up the non-union camera department ranks (only PA’d on a few jobs early on though). We have an unusual market in SF where there’s been enough union and non-union work for experienced local crew to demand good working conditions on most non-union jobs (10hr day, meals every 6hr, OT, arranged parking, mileage outside production zone, full rates, etc). In these circumstances, staying non-union for your entire career is feasible, you’ll just be barred from working on some bigger shows.

Here’s a video from one of my local colleagues about how things work in our market: 

But I recognize that this is not the case in most other places, where non-union work is often synonymous with sub-minimum wages and sometimes abusive working conditions. I think you can get some valuable experience early on doing low budget non-union shoots as a DP or AC - but there’s rarely anything to be gained by being a non-union PA unless you’re just starting out, have zero marketable skills, or don’t have any contacts yet. That’s where we all start, but the sooner you move up, the better off you’ll be. 

Being a PA is a hard enough job without having to deal with crap like walk-away meals and not getting fed. But that’s just my opinion!

Thank you so much for your insight! Is there a specfic way to get into union work? Everything I've ever been offered/worked has been non union. Union work is like Narnia to me and just about everyone I've come across. Is it just suddenly a union job may appear forcing you to join to work it? I honestly don't even know how the union really works I'd appreciate any information or a point in the direction to find information! 

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28 minutes ago, Kenny Williams said:

Thank you so much for your insight! Is there a specfic way to get into union work? Everything I've ever been offered/worked has been non union. Union work is like Narnia to me and just about everyone I've come across. Is it just suddenly a union job may appear forcing you to join to work it? I honestly don't even know how the union really works I'd appreciate any information or a point in the direction to find information! 

In the US, there is no union for PA's. They are the only people who are non-union in the crew on a union production.

A way to get to those union productions is to contact the 2nd AD, 2nd 2nd AD, or Key PA. My wife's first union PA job was on Lone Ranger right out of college. She used IMDb Pro and found, I think, the UPM or 2nd AD's contact info (can't remember at the moment). She spent a lot of time and energy contacting them until they responded and essentially said, "If you can get yourself out to Utah, we'll get you some days". She drove out there and stayed in a campground (the production was remote in the desert) until they had a day where they needed additional PA's. She kept being available and showed up to enough that they brought her on as a staff PA. (She eventually got a hotel room, but still on her own dime because they were hiring her as a local)

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I agree with AJ. You want to meet people who are working on those union jobs and are willing to give you a shot. Larger rental houses are good places to make new contacts while either working there or doing your drop-offs and pick-ups, since both union and non-union shoots use them. Really get to know them, be friendly with them, and let them know you want to work. I’m sure there are a bunch of other ways new PAs have been hired on big shows, I just don’t know them. 

Typically, union jobs mean commercials, movies, and narrative tv shows. There are a lot of union crew who also work on reality shows, live concert/comedy shows, and corporate jobs, but it’s a bit of a different world. Lots of people get a call to crew on movies after working on a big commercial, you’re less likely to get that call after working on a reality show. I’d say you’re more likely to meet good contacts on low budget indie films in the sub-$2M budget range (not no-budget self-funded movies). I’ve met at least four top-tier feature film DPs on low-budget indie films shot in my area, not even in LA.

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On 9/26/2020 at 12:23 PM, Satsuki Murashige said:

I agree with AJ. You want to meet people who are working on those union jobs and are willing to give you a shot. Larger rental houses are good places to make new contacts while either working there or doing your drop-offs and pick-ups, since both union and non-union shoots use them. Really get to know them, be friendly with them, and let them know you want to work. I’m sure there are a bunch of other ways new PAs have been hired on big shows, I just don’t know them. 

Typically, union jobs mean commercials, movies, and narrative tv shows. There are a lot of union crew who also work on reality shows, live concert/comedy shows, and corporate jobs, but it’s a bit of a different world. Lots of people get a call to crew on movies after working on a big commercial, you’re less likely to get that call after working on a reality show. I’d say you’re more likely to meet good contacts on low budget indie films in the sub-$2M budget range (not no-budget self-funded movies). I’ve met at least four top-tier feature film DPs on low-budget indie films shot in my area, not even in LA.

Good to know great information! I primarily work on reality I've only been fulltime freelancing for about a year currently on my 4th show. Before that I was working at a tv news station doing a variety of jobs for almost two years. I was able to meet another pa a few weeks ago and we became fast friends and she recommended me for a big budget commercial for a day. That was an eye opening experience and I made an impression on the coordinator, so hopefully that can be my break to break out of reality sometime down the line. I am grateful to be working anything in these times and it seems like it's mostly just reality shows shooting right now, but I'll definitely follow theae helpful tips. Thanks everyone!!! 

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