Recently I go a text from a friend telling me that the PA position I had recommended them for was not paying. That really made me mad as I was under the impression that it was and that having to be informed of it this way was rather insulting. Now, the director of this film is a friend of mine and clearly all of this is being done in the indie filmmaking world. Having been essentially raised in that culture during my time at NYU and my continued experience in seeing it after graduation (it's kind of a side-effect of living on the east coast), I am no stranger to the challenges of trying to create something with no money and can only imagine that trying to make a feature length film is 10x more difficult in that regard.
Shooting a film is hard -- especially an indie film -- it is boasts all the problems of launching a start-up with significantly less flexibility in procedure and NO immediately marketable product. Despite all that, however, it is NOT ok to advertise a PA position that will ultimately be unpaid -- and let me explain why.
The film and television industry is flooded with naive kids ripe for taking advantage of -- all just trying to get into the industry somehow. -- I used to be one of them, so I know first hand how quickly you become jaded once something legitimate comes along (and rightfully so). Generally, it's not until then that you come to realize that at the end of the day, asking a PA to work for free helps no one but yourself. Typically, asking someone to work for free comes with something for them. It is only a partially legitimate argument that you can use whatever work you did on the film for your reel and that working on this project will be a great benefit for you once the film goes somewhere. It is a shitty reason at best, but at the very least, a reason. If we look at everything realistically, the chances that your indie film will go anywhere are fairly slim. Alongside that, as a PA, the very simple question arises of "how does this in any way benefit me?". If you are making a film with the intention of profiting from it, which you are (don't give me any bullshit about artistic integrity) unless you're a moron who likes to waste money (in which case, you can afford to pay your PA's) or a nonprofit organization (in which case you should either have a legit budget or be working with a skeleton crew), it is not fair to be asking someone to sacrifice weeks to months of their time for nothing when you clearly aren't willing to do the same.
As I stated previously, your film has little chance of going anywhere and in the unlikely case that it does, no one is gonna look at the film and say "hey, that's a really great film! I think I'll look through the credits and see who the PA's are so I can hire them, because they clearly did an amazing job on this film!" Credits do NOTHING for PA's except provide minimal bragging rights in the off chance your film gets anywhere -- and even then, "yea, I was a whole crew's unpaid bitch on that production" doesn't really sound impressive.
Now, having said that, with an indie film I understand that there are always budgetary concerns, and I'm not asking that PA's be paid the full $200 a day rate (as is industry standard), nor do I expect you to pay them more than your DP or Sound mixer -- especially if they are bringing their own gear -- but I do expect them to be paid something -- anything to at least let them pay their bills (at least pay them the equivalent of minimum wage).
Comments not only welcomed, but encouraged.