A Production Assistant (PA) is a critical part of any film set. A PA job is an entry level job, but the presence of a production assistant is essential on any film set as they are able to complete any jobs and tasks as needed on set.
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What is a Production Assistant?
A production assistant, at its core, does the jobs that no one else particularly wants to do.
Now, I know that’s not exactly a very appealing job description, but obtaining a job as a PC is extremely valuable since it’s a total entry level job within the industry.
Some jobs that a PA could end up doing on set are answering phones, doing paperwork, setting up the craft services table, or simply making sure everyone on set has everything they need. They could also drive actors and crew members to and from set, clean the set, and transfer equipment.
Basically, a PA does whatever is necessary to be done on a film set.
These tasks can, and will, vary from day to say, but one of the most important things that a PA can do is to be a supportive member of the crew.
Different Kinds of Production Assistants
There are also different divisions of PAs; you could be hired as an office PA, as a post-production assistant, or as a set PA.
As an office PA, you would be responsible for dealing with things like paperwork, phone calls, being involved in the writer’s room, and picking up supplies.
In contrast, as a post-production assistant, you would be responsible for supporting the editors. Some of your responsibilities would then include keeping footage organized, picking up supplies, and scrubbing footage.
As a set PA, you would need to be able to support the production department, meaning the assistant director or production manager.
Why Should I Become a Production Assistant?
Not only does becoming a PA help you to get your foot in the door in the industry, it also gives you real experience on a real set.
Being a production assistant helps you to become familiar with numerous different departments on a film set.
This helps you to not only be able to figure out what it is that you like on a set and what you may want to do in the future, but it also helps you to gain experience in different departments on set and help you later when you’re applying for jobs on sets.
When you’re applying for jobs within the field, one of the first things that hiring managers look for is whether you have experience on a film set. If they see that you’ve worked as a PA before, it instils a great amount of credibility in you and increases the likelihood of you being hired.
What Makes a Great Production Assistant?
A great production assistant is someone who is organized and is a great communicator.
As a PA, much of your job will be bringing things or messages from one person to another. In order to do this well, you must be able to clearly communicate what one person wants you to say to the next.
A PA is a trusted individual on set, and with trust comes great responsibility.
You must also be well versed in film; you will need to know how to decipher things like call sheets and budget plans.
A production assistant must also maintain a positive attitude. As we’ve already stated, much of a PA’s job is doing things that others don’t want to do. As such, a PA mustn’t let their attitude fall sour.
A negative attitude is something that will easily impact whether or not you are rehired.
A PA should also be driven and motivated. If you get sent on a supply run, make sure that you go, pick up the items, and come back. Do not waste your producer’s time just because you want a break.
The job of a PA is long and sometimes not too fun, but it’s a great way of getting experience in the business and you will want to make sure you are making a good name for yourself.
It would also work to your benefit to learn everyone’s names on set and introduce yourself to people. As we’ve noted before, networking is crucial in the industry. Use this opportunity to grow your skills and make a name for yourself.
Also, always be early to set and be confident in your abilities.
Should a PA Bring Anything to Set?
There are also a couple of little items which would be helpful to have with you on set. The first being a comfortable outfit. You will most likely get dirty during filming, so don’t wear something fancy or something that you wouldn’t want getting dirty.
Also, always have a backup set of clothes with you just in case you ever need it. Sunscreen and sunglasses won’t hurt to have either.
It would also be beneficial to always have a pen and paper on you. People will tell you important things and the key to successfully remembering those things would be to write them down. (Plus, this will impress your boss to see you’ve come so prepared!)
You should also have with you a multi-tool and zip ties in addition to a walkie talkie in order to maximize communication on set.
Be sure to keep in mind that different departments utilize different channels on the walkie talkies and there is a certain lingo that you should be familiar with when using yours.
There is also a set of on-set vocabulary you should familiarize yourself with before working on set, which can be viewed here.
As you can see, a PA has a great responsibility during production, and while it is a perfect opportunity to get your name out into the industry, make sure you don’t underestimate the role and responsibilities of a production assistant.
If you’re thinking of hiring a PA for your film, don’t forget to enter our contests to help you win funding and other prizes for your project!
Remember: a PA is essential on any film set, and without them, it is likely to be difficult to get the wheels moving on your set without their help.