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Reel Opportunities

Production Assistant

Also known as: PA

What does a Production Assistant do?

The PA does just about anything and everything, from getting coffee to making script copies to shuttling crew or equipment around town as necessary. How much a Production Assistant does depends on the budget of the production, as well as how much confidence their superiors have in their abilities. They get tasked with doing many of the small jobs – such as copying call sheets & scripts, taking breakfast orders – and go around distributing these items to the crew. This allows them to learn about various aspects of the production. They can also do general office jobs like answering the phone, filing paperwork and entering data. They manage a float, buy stationery and keep everyone stocked up with caffeine and snacks. PA’s are usually freelancers.

Starting out as a PA is a great way to get to know what life on set is like and figure out what career path you may want to choose within the film world. Most departments on set, such as Art or Locations, have their own Production Assistants that are given tasks specific to that department. Depending on the production, there may be more than one type of Production Assistant on a film or television set such as ones that work on set (Set PA), or after everything has been shot (Post-production PA).

What’s a Production Assistant good at?
  • Taking instruction

    Listen carefully, do what’s asked quickly, stay calm under pressure

  • Taking initiative

    Have common sense, see what needs to be done in a situation, work without supervision

  • Multi-tasking

    Be able to be organized and prioritize when asked to do different things by different people at the same time

  • Watching film and TV drama

    Have a passion for the genre and a love of the industry

  • Learning by watching and asking

    Observe what’s happening and know when to ask about things you don’t understand

  • Reliability

    Get to set on time, be punctual

  • Communication

    Give clear and concise communication, learn the faces and names of all the senior crew members to excel in this position

  • Some items you might find helpful to take with you as part of your PA kit on set (especially on your first day) are

    Pen or Sharpie for taking notes & food or drink orders
    Flashlight for early morning or late night shifts
    Phone Charger
    Phone with map reading software
    Car mount for phone; it’s not essential but it’s very useful

Who does a Production Assistant work with?

Production Assistants work with almost everyone on the production team and crew. They are directly supervised by department heads and senior management such as the Production Manager. On a daily basis PAs interact with everyone involved. Being a PA is a great way to meet and network with crew members in the career path you are interested in.

How do I become a Production Assistant?

Educational Requirements: You might find courses in art and design, photography, drama and theatre, physics, psychology, English, graphic communication or business useful.

Make films: Learn how films are made by making films. This will help you learn the craft of film production and demonstrate your interest.

Learn to drive: It helps to get to film locations early in the morning and in out-of-the-way places.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.