One of the best places to start when working in the film and television industry is as a Production Assistant. A production assistant can have many different responsibilities, which puts you in a great position to learn about all of the different departments.
When getting hired as a Production Assistant you have to be prepared to do anything and everything that is asked of you, the task may be as simple as grabbing coffee or as messy as taking out the trash.
There are different types of production assistant’s, you can be an office PA, you can be a PA assigned to a certain department or you can be a general set PA. In most cases you will report to the Production Manager. Having your driver’s license is a major asset if you are thinking about becoming a production assistant.
A few things you should always have on you as a PA are:
- Screwdriver – available from Amazon.com
- Multitool – available from Amazon.com
- Petty Cash (given by production) – Click the link for a follow up blog that outlines how to manage petty cash and expense reports.
- Smartphone – having internet access is very important
- GPS – available from Amazon.com
- Flashlight (amazon)
- Work Gloves – available from Amazon.com
Production assisting can be different every time that you do it, you will find that you add things to this list for certain jobs. My personal experience as a PA on a television show had me doing all kinds of things. My responsibilities included paperwork, drop offs and pick ups, food for the crew, assisting with lights and camera and basically any odd job that needed to be done. My experience as a PA had me doing a lot more than the average hired PA would do but it was important for me to always have a backpack with my paperwork, water, Tylenol, snacks, gloves and a flashlight.
I also had a vehicle for my job that was given to me by production. It is important and very useful to keep any extra things that you don’t need to have on your person in the vehicle. Try to keep your vehicle organized so that you can get to things quickly. I would keep a cooler with drinks and ice in it, props, snacks, extra footwear and clothes, umbrellas and all of the craft supplies that I was responsible for.
You have to be open to anything as a PA and you have to be willing to work hard. If you are a hard-working PA it is more than likely that someone will notice and it will be easier for you to get hired into the department that interests you on the next job. My rule is to say yes to everything unless of course you are concerned about your safety.
Being a production assistant can be a lot of fun and is a great way to meet the crew and learn about how a set works. PA’s are at the bottom of the set totem pole, which means watch and learn, don’t give your opinion if it isn’t asked for. Be an observer, this is the best way to decide which department you specifically want to work in.
Some on the best directors and cinematographers today started out as production assistants and it is because they understand everyone’s role on set and appreciate the work that they do because they themselves have been there and done it. Remember to have an open mind and not be afraid of a little hard work, learn as much as you can but also have fun with it.
For more details on the tools you should have, check out Technician’s Tools.
If you have any experiences to add or any crazy stories about working as a PA please share!