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An Interview with Writer/Director and Producer of PA, Zack Burkett

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Atlanta Film and TV: Talk to us about who you are and what it is you do in the Atlanta Film and TV community.

Zack Burkett: I’m Zack Burkett—I’m an independent filmmaker in Atlanta. I’ve written and directed short films like Kung Pao Corpse (2019) and Champ (2020), both of which screened and won awards in various film festivals. I am also an editor, having edited a great deal of films directed by my friends and colleagues. Many of these have gone on to show in festivals as well. I’ve also worked as a production assistant on a handful of shows like The Walking Dead, The Staircase, and P-Valley.

Atlanta Film and TV: You are the writer, director and producer of the short film PA. What was the inspiration behind the film?

Zack Burkett: The idea for the film came to me while I was working as a PA myself on the set of a TV show. The job of a production assistant can be strenuous and physically taxing work, sometimes requiring you to stand on your feet for 12 or more hours a day, often out in the elements. It was one particularly hot and grueling day that I thought to myself, “This job is hard enough on a young person… what would it be like for someone much older?” I wondered what it would be like if my grandpa tried to do the job of a production assistant. And then it clicked. “Grandpa… PA… Pa!” It was then that I knew I had to tell this story.

Atlanta Film and TV: Without giving away too much, could you give us a brief synopsis about the film?

Zack Burkett: After his wife of 50 years passes away, a 75-year-old retired veteran named Arthur decides to follow his childhood dream of making movies… and becomes a PA. When he gets on set, he quickly realizes that the film industry is not as glamorous as he imagines. At first, the young crew doesn’t take him seriously. On a film set, time is money, and they think Arthur is a waste of their time. But he strikes up an unexpected friendship with the film’s young director—who is also judged by his age—and the two unlikely friends encourage and inspire one another to persevere against the odds.

Atlanta Film and TV: You have a few key people from Atlanta who not only will work behind the scenes of PA, but also those in front of the camera. Could you share about a few of those people?

Zack Burkett: We are extremely lucky to have Kevin Saunders and Amanda Seay as our producers. Kevin is well known in Atlanta as an actor, but he is also a natural producer and leader with a knack for getting things done. Amanda has been incredibly valuable, working hard behind the scenes on the budget and all manner of logistical things to make sure we are set up for success. We’ve also partnered with Caroline King and her organization CinemaLife to help produce our project. Behind the camera is our amazingly talented director of photography, Brady Holcomb, who we’ve worked with many times. And cast in the roles of Arthur’s fellow PAs are Anissa Matlock, Hananya Allen, Ryan Holcomb, and Jack Ha, who I’m excited to work with for the first time since Kung Pao Corpse. We are still working on finding the perfect Arthur, so stay tuned for that announcement soon!

Atlanta Film and TV: You have a Seed & Spark campaign where people can donate to make the film a success. Could you share some of the incentives of donating?

Zack Burkett: We offer a wide range of incentives for those who support our campaign. Some of the lower levels include Instagram shoutouts or personalized “Thank You” videos, but the rewards increase with the size of the donation. Some of our higher incentives include joining us for a day on set, attending a special Q&A session with the filmmakers, and an invitation to a private screening at the Plaza Theatre (my favorite incentive)! There is also a chance to become an Associate Producer or Executive Producer on the film.

Atlanta Film and TV: Where can people donate?

Zack Burkett: Here is the link to our Seed & Spark crowdfund campaign. We would appreciate anyone who is able to show support to our film! Our campaign ends October 1st and our crowdfund goal is $32,000. We are currently 55% to our goal, but we only need to hit 80% in order to keep the funds. I feel confident that we can make it!

Atlanta Film and TV: What is your hope for PA?

Zack Burkett: Pa is a proof of concept for my first feature film. My hope is that we are able to get this short into some of the more prestigious film festivals, so that it might attract the attention of producers or investors who would be interested in producing the feature version. But beyond that, I hope that PA inspires people to think differently about the elderly and realize that all people have value regardless of their age. I hope that the film shines a light on the hardships and challenges that PAs face every day on set, which oftentimes go unappreciated. But my greatest hope is that our film compels audiences, after they’ve seen it, to call their grandparents and tell them how much they appreciate them.

Be sure to follow PA short film on Instagram @pashortfilm and ZebraCat Productions @zebracatproductions

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