Scam Alert: Production Assistants Needed

There is a hiring scam in the film industry aimed at production assistants. Their ideal target? Someone who is new and eager to the business, with little experience how the hiring process works.

This isn’t a new scam — it’s been going around for at least six months. The Anonymous Production Assistant mentioned it a few months ago, but the scammers haven’t stopped. It breaks my heart because their target is the kind of person who reads this blog: a hard worker with nothing but a dream and the desire to just get their one chance. And it’s disgusting.

One variation of the e-mail reads:

Company profile: Good Clean Fun’s state-of-the-art production facilities are where the magic happens. Our seasoned professionals oversee each and every part of the process. From creative development, to production and post, it all happens under one roof. Every project is driven by our vision and branded with our unique point of view.

 

Responsibilities include the following:

 

Good Clean Fun LLC, will be producing a TV commercial to promote our new show *Barely Famous* and your assistance will be needed. Below are the job duties:

 

Operate Studio Camera, Audio, Graphics generator or teleprompter 
Organize studio sets, cameras and monitoring
Maintain studio and lighting
Use microphones, IFB receivers, and audio facilities
Setup and review graphic elements 
Perform other job-related duties as assigned

 

Note: The production will be done in San Francisco between 10-21-2015 to 10-24-2015 in Blast Digital Studio, Toland Place, San Francisco, CA but you’ll be needed here in San Francisco from 10-19-2015. Both travel/hotel expenses will be covered by the company.

 

Instruction: Please respond with your contact information such as your full name, address and cell number where a check will be mailed out to, it is for your traveling and lodging expenses (more information will be provided as we progress). You will also be provided an itinerary by the designated travel agent arrangement.

 

How to Tell This is a Scam

Very rarely is anyone hired so quickly and impersonally with zero mention of who referred you.

When you’re at the entry level of any industry, there’s a lot of people vying for jobs because the barrier to entry isn’t very high. You’re usually hired based on (1) experience, (2) word of mouth, (3) your own persistence, or (4) applying to a job on Staff Me Up. Typically, when you get offered a job, they production coordinator or producer will make mention of how they found you.

If you get approached for a job through email, it’ll read something like this:

Hey M, so-and-so recommended you for a PA position. Can you shoot me your resume?

Thanks,

PC

Production Coordinator

No production assistant on any REAL project is expected to handle all of the responsibilities.

Unless it’s a student film or some unscrupulous producer with zero concern for doing the project properly and is stealing all the cash anyway, no one hires PAs with the expectation that they will run cameras, lighting, and sound. Those are positions filled by highly skilled and experienced people. Those are the jobs you’re aiming for when you begin as a production assistant, but you don’t start out by touching the most expensive equipment on one of your first days.

Normal PA duties are: going on runs, assisting the production coordinator or assistant director, handling extras, getting releases signed, etc. It doesn’t sound as glamorous, but these are very important tasks that no movie or television show could be made without.

“But it seems to be a real production company with a legit website?”

This is the worst and most clever part of the scam. The scammer will impersonate a real production company — Good Clean Fun, LLC was the alleged company in the example. (And yes, they are a real company.) The scammer will then purchase a domain name very similar to the real production company domain, maybe missing one letter so you will hopefully not notice — and send out the email. As is the case in the example, the domain was something like “@goodcleanfunlc.com” — while the REAL production company’s web address is actually goodcleanfunllc.com. Did you realize there’s one L missing?

The money is too good to be true.

In variations of the scam, the proposed rate is something obscene — $400 or $500 per day, plus travel expenses. Once you reach a certain level, then yes, you can make that kind of money — but let’s be real, this is not a realistic rate for a production assistant gig.  The average rate for a PA ranges from $150-$250.

In most cities, production companies RARELY pay for out of town PAs.

In the example, it says the production is going to take place in San Francisco. There are dozens of qualified production assistants already living in San Francisco. Why on earth would a production pay to fly someone in and put them up, especially someone with little experience?

There’s an exception, though: Occasionally, productions from Los Angeles/New York will think the local crew couldn’t possibly have the chops and they’ll fly in everyone, including their PAs. But even then, someone on the crew will have known/recommended the PA in advance.

If you’ve never worked on a film set before, it’s highly unlikely someone would pay for your travel.

In other variations of the scam, there’s a lot more travel involved–probably to make the shoot sound more alluring and exotic.

The cost to travel a crew member isn’t cheap. It usually includes airfare, car rental, hotel, and per diem– the total is often thousands of dollars depending on the length of the shoot. For this reason, only the essential crew members are paid to travel. Everyone else is hired locally.

Sometimes, a production will travel their PA, but only if the PA has been with them for quite a while and is very experienced.

We all want to be successful and land an amazing gig right out of the gate that pays us more than we’re worth and flies us all around the world, and of course, anything is possible — but if any of these other factors I’ve described are true, then unfortunately, you are probably being scammed.

You’re NEVER given money in advance.

I’ve traveled for different shoots for five years now, for multiple production companies and networks. Never was I fronted any money to arrange my travel through a travel agent, it’s all handled by the production. At most, they’ll ask for my full name and date of birth, as that’s required when purchasing airline tickets.

This is how it works: The production coordinator or travel coordinator books ALL flights and hotels for crew. You’ll then receive an e-mail with your itinerary, flight details, and transportation information. You’ll either be given per diem on the ground as cash, OR you invoice for it after the fact. Most importantly and unlike this scam says, you’ll never be told how much your flight or hotel cost, but sometimes you can get reward points if you have an account.

Also, for the most crew and production positions, you don’t get paid in advance for work you haven’t done. There are too many variables in a freelance world to do otherwise: People get sick, cars break down, shoots get postponed or cancelled, etc. You get paid after the shoot, always.

How This Scam Works

It seems these scammers find their victims through various job boards. I’d also be wary of Craigslist postings.

How the scam actually works is tricky, but I know these companies will send fraudulent checks for you to cash to “pay for your travel”. When that check doesn’t clear, that’s where the scam comes into play and I’m not entirely sure what happens — if they ask that you cover the expense, if they steal your bank info, or what — but basically, the gig never materializes and you’re out the cash they were supposedly fronting you.

What to Do if This Happens to You

Alert the real production company that they’re being impersonated so they can take legal action. If you are listed on job boards, alert the job board of the scam. Leave a comment here or at our Facebook group with the details — it could help others figure out if they’re a target.

If you know anyone else trying to get into the film industry, share this post with them. The only way to beat these unscrupulous asses is to educate and prevent future victims — eventually they’ll stop this fiasco.

Variations of the Scam

As of January 2017, these types of scams are still going strong, albeit with a different twist. If you’ve been targeted, forward it on and I’ll add it to the list:

Pin it: production assistant scam

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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14 Comments

  1. So this just happened. I got that similar email. The reply email asked for so much personal info back I knew it wasn’t right. When I get hired on a regular legit gig they barely ask for my last name lol… and maybe s headshot! Every legit production job I’ve had , they would always speak to me over the phone first so I knew something was up . First thing I checked her name IMDB and there was nothing so I definitely knew something wasn’t right. So then I googled her email and here’s your article! Bam! Thank you so much for writing this I really appreciate it… I would love to forward you her email she sent me because it is kind of different so it must be he newest one lol! This gig I get to work from home because she is always traveling away with her children and her filming .. blah blah blechhhh!!!

    Post a Reply
    • Joy, I’m sorry you were targeted but relieved this post helped you!

      And, please, forward her email on to me if you would (laryssa at needlegirlhaystackworld.com)– I’m starting to posting examples of each scam to help people out who are suspicious, like you were!

      Do you know how she got your information?

  2. You guys this happened to me and I’m so scared. I’m so devastated I wish I would of known.

    Post a Reply
    • Did they get your bank account info? Let your bank know, ASAP! See about changing your account numbers!

  3. think it just happened to me, her name is Alison Simon.

    Post a Reply
    • Oh, yikes!! It seems like they’re hitting it hard…can you post a portion of the email?

  4. EMAIL RECEIVED :

    Production Runners are the foot soldiers of a film or television production team, performing small but important tasks in the office, around the set and on location. Their duties may involve anything from office administration to crowd control, and from public relations to cleaning up locations. Production Runners are usually employed on a freelance basis, are not very well paid, and their hours are long and irregular. However, the work is usually extremely varied and provides a good entry level role into the film industry.

    I will like to thank you for your interest in the job offer.After reviewing your email, I am glad to inform you that I am impressed.

    As my assistant, your activities amongst other things will include:
    Creation and distribution of reports and schedules
    Booking travel arrangements for shoots
    Making copies of scripts and distributing them
    Getting approval for the utilization of any clip or music that may be copyrighted
    Check Processing
    Buying equipment that would be needed for production.
    good organizational skills Serious sense of
    humor required and mandatory to work with me Ability to handle highly sensitive
    and confidential information Perform duties with accuracy, quality, and
    integrity You can only apply for this position if you own a personal computer.
    Basic wage is $550 a weekly.
    About me: I am married and have 3 kids. I have been short movie producer, director in many places in Europe and I want to shoot a short documentary, so right now getting the actors ready and the manager as well. .I travel a
    lot,hence the reason why i need an assistant to handle affairs for me on the home front when i am away on business which is usually quite often. This position is home-based and flexible you can be in any location,working with me is basically about instructions and following them, because working from home now, you take care of things that need being taken care of till the venue is decided and the actors assembled and production starts.This is only an introductory e-mail, as time goes on we should be able to arrange a proper meeting to get things started officially. I do have a number of things you could help me with this week if you will be available for me. This can act as a stable foundation to our working relationship.
    Note:This position is home base office work you can be in any location and work
    with me from your home. Let me know your interest if you are ready to work with
    me from your home Mon-Fri @ 10am First Name :- Middle Name :- Last Name :-
    Street Address :- apartment number{if applicable},City, State, Zip Code:- Sex :__________ Age :- Nationality :-
    Cell Phone Number (___) :- Home Phone Number(___) :- Email::- Current Job:-
    Thanks for your time , hope to hear from you again. Fill the Application and
    E-mail It back to get started Asap!!!
    Regards

    Post a Reply
    • Oh my god I just got this EXACT email yesterday as a Craigslist ad under gigs. The serious lack of attention to detail and spelling drew red flags right away! Not to mention all the information she (they, idk) asked for at the end. Thanks for posting about this! Definitely know what to look out for in the future!

  5. This just happened to me! Here is the email I got. Yes, they spelled “regards” wrong…

    Hi,

    Aurora coast productions will be shooting a TV commercial for American Eagle Outfitters and productionhub highlighted you as a great fit for the production assistant position we have available.

    The TV commercial shoot is at Las Vegas, NV from 22nd Feb to 24th Feb but all crew members including you are expected in Las Vegas, NV by 21st Feb. Both travel/hotel expenses will be covered by the company. Shoot hours will be from 6am to 11am daily. The pay is $350 a day and paycheck or transfer *which ever you prefer* will be issued on the 24th of Feb.

    The production assistant will liaise between the Producer and the production team, help keep the studio, showroom and storeroom areas well-organized and presentable at all times. Support with all administrative tasks, e.g. paper work, couriers, samples, travel arrangements and accommodation. May also have to handle floats and petty cash during production. It is also critical that you possess strong writing skills and some technical fluency to clearly communicate workflows to other departments.

    If you are available and interested in being part of the shoot, kindly reply with your current number for more information about the shoot.

    Best Regrads

    Aurora Coast Production
    Donell Armstrong
    331 Newman Springs Road Building 3, Suite 310,
    Red Bank, NJ 07701

    Post a Reply
  6. Hi,

    Aurora coast productions will be shooting a TV commercial for American Eagle Outfitters and productionhub highlighted you as a great fit for the production assistant position we have available.

    The TV commercial shoot is at New Orleans, LA from 22nd Feb to 24th Feb but all crew members including you are expected in New Orleans, LA by 21st Feb. Both travel/hotel expenses will be covered by the company. Shoot hours will be from 6am to 11am daily. The pay is $350 a day and paycheck or transfer *which ever you prefer* will be issued on the 24th of Feb.

    The production assistant will liaise between the Producer and the production team, help keep the studio, showroom and storeroom areas well-organized and presentable at all times. Support with all administrative tasks, e.g. paper work, couriers, samples, travel arrangements and accommodation. May also have to handle floats and petty cash during production. It is also critical that you possess strong writing skills and some technical fluency to clearly communicate workflows to other departments.

    If you are available and interested in being part of the shoot, kindly reply with your current number for more information about the shoot.

    Best Regrads

    Aurora Coast Production
    Donell Armstrong
    331 Newman Springs Road Building 3, Suite 310,
    Red Bank, NJ 07701

    Post a Reply
  7. This is horrible. A sample of the email here. Googled them and couldn’t find a tiny foot print of a film company called The Rain Studios

    kelvin@therainstudios.com

    Hi,

    I’m delighted you’ll be available for the commercial and as you may already know, you’re required to perform basic PA duties such as help prepare the set with lights, props, equipment etc, Assist costume designers, directors, camera people and other crew members, Print and distribute daily paperwork (e.g. scripts, call sheets), Perform administrative work (answering phones, paperwork etc.) Book hotels and making travel arrangements. Undertake errands as assigned

    The shoot will be done in Portland, OR from May 24th -26th, your flight will be scheduled to leave by 11: 30am on May 23th as you’re required to work from May 23th-26th. Work hours are between 6pm to 1am and pay is $400 daily, so a check for $1600 will be issued at the end of production, you’ll also receive $500 as per diem to cater for your meals throughout the shoot and this check will be issued early next week.

    If you’re interesting in moving forward kindly reply this email and I will send you a production deal memo tomorrow.

    Best Regards

    TheRain Studios

    Kelvin Hoffman

    11900 West Olympic Boulevard,
    Los Angeles, CA, US

    TheRain Studios is full service film & video production company. We specialize in branded content, corporate videos, digital content and post-production. The company was founded in 2009 and is based in Los Angeles with additional office in Tennessee.

    “Deal memo”

    PRODUCTION MEMO FOR MARC JACOBS PRODUCTION
    Production Assistant: xxxxxxxxx
    Production Company: TheRain Studios

    Agreement dated 04/26/2017 by and between TheRain Studios and xxxxxx for the production of a TV commercial entitled Marc Jacobs TV commercial to be produced on 05/24/2017 by TheRain Studios.

    1. ENGAGEMENT: The Production assistant will liaise between the Producer and the production team, and help prepare publicity materials. You may also have to handle floats and petty cash during production. It is also critical that you possess strong writing skills and some technical fluency to clearly communicate workflows to other departments and outside vendors. Perform other job-related duties as assigned

    2. COMPENSATION/SERVICES: When TheRain Studios elects to proceed to production of the Marc Jacobs commercial:
    (A) Fees: Provided production assistant is not in default and has performed all required services hereunder, Production assistant shall be entitled to receive the following for furnishing services hereunder:? PA Fee: $400 per day.?
    3. OWNERSHIP: TheRain Studios thereof, shall own all rights in the production, the component parts thereof, and the copyright for use throughout the world in any and all media.

    Wherefore this Memorandum of Agreement is executed in 04/26/2017 as of the date first written above.

    Production Assistant TheRain Studios

    By: _______________________ by: Donnell Armstrong

    xxxxxxxx xxxx

    Post a Reply
    • “Kelvin Hoffman” tried to get me too. Everything about the so-called company he represents is bogus. Not sure how the scam works but I’m sure at some point, they ask you to send them money.

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