The Production Assistant

Who I am: Chris Parkhurst, thirty-seven

Where I live: Southeast Portland

What I do: “The production assistant, or PA, is an entry-level job in the film industry. We are the first to arrive, last to leave, and generally do whatever is necessary on set: help the grips set up equipment, assist the art department in painting a set, get coffee for the director, or stand out in the pouring rain for fifteen hours making sure passersby don’t walk where filming is taking place.”

My first big gig: “I worked on a World War II period feature in 2006 called Everyman’s War. There were armored vehicles, live pyrotechnics, and I’m pretty sure the people of Scappoose, Oregon, thought they were under siege on a few of those nights.”

How much I make: About $200 to $250 per day

How hard I work: “PAs are some of the hardest-working people I know. Sadly, our pay does not necessarily reflect this.”

Job perks: “There’s always something to learn on the set. And the great thing is that no one ever stays a PA. We’re all budding directors, cinematographers, and producers. I’m actually headed to Nepal this fall to direct my first feature documentary, Journey to Kathmandu, about Nepalese goat herders trekking through the Himalayas. There’s a common saying: ‘Don’t fuck with a PA too much. Tomorrow they could be your boss.’”

Job bummers: “We’re at everyone’s disposal, so we often feel like we’re everyone’s bitches. It can be frustrating to work your ass off yet have virtually no creative input. But that’s just how it works. You gotta get through boot camp. It’s a rite of passage.”

Worst on-set snafu: “No way, not gonna tell. Never gonna tell. It’s something no one ever knew about. And we’re all the better for it.”

Brush with greatness: “I was working on Management in the fall of 2007, and Steve Zahn and I were in the bathroom. He was wearing a monk’s outfit and came up to the urinal next to mine. He couldn’t quite get ‘it’ out at the right angle to properly hit the urinal. He said, ‘Dude, I wonder how monks do it.’”