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Production Assistant

Boston transplant Dave Rosenblum embraces his supporting role behind the scenes

Photograph by Dustin Snipes

» “We get to the set before everybody. When a truck lands, we pull off everything we need for the day. That includes the dolly to put the camera on, all the director’s chairs, trash cans, and trash bags.” 

» Rosenblum, 29, moved to L.A. three years ago to pursue a career as a director of photography while completing his graduate work in a Boston University satellite program. He mostly works as a production assistant on commercials. “It pays the bills and gives me exposure.”

» “I like that we shoot on location a lot. I love stadiums: Angel Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum. Anytime I’m on the field, I bring a football and kick field goals.” 

» One of the first PAs on record is Erich von Stroheim, who worked on D.W. Griffith’s 1916 film, Intolerance. Later, however, the Austrian actor-director claimed he was the uncredited assistant director on the production.

» The going rate for a PA on a commercial set is $200 a day. (Pay for scripted television shows, reality TV, and movies is typically $150.) “PAs are the only people on set who aren’t in a union, so it’s not unusual for us to work 16 or 18 hours for one flat rate. There is talk of organizing our own union, but when it comes right down to it, we’re easily replaced.”

» PAs can form bonds with their famous coworkers. “Jennifer Love Hewitt told me that she loved me because I was holding up a fan for her.” 

» Actor Daniel Radcliffe met his girlfriend while she was a production assistant on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and writer-director Tate Taylor were both PAs before working together on The Help.

» “I didn’t have a TV until about a week and a half ago. I could only see the commercials I worked on at a bar or a friend’s place or on YouTube.”

» The must-read for any PA is The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog, which describes itself as “a view of Hollywood from the bottom.” 

» “It’s not unusual for us to have to go through the trash. One time a producer lost her blueprint for what was going on in a commercial. She swore that it was thrown out, so all the PAs went through all the trash at the end of the night and looked for this sheet of paper. Never found it. It’s times like that when I think, ‘I’ve got to move up.’”