There are different types of production assistants and the work of each can differ depending on what you choose to do.
Further below, we will cover skills, requirements, and other details about the production assistant job despite the type of position.
The work of a production assistant is a sort of modern version of working in the mailroom for a TV company.
This position is entry-level and offers you a great deal of experience allowing you to get in your favorite field.
While working in this position, you can start developing a network of professional contacts for your future career.
Article Table of Contents
What Does a Production Assistant Do
The duties of a PA can differ based on the type of production and the department you’re working for.
A post-production or office PA can be employed with the same project for several months.
A set PA, on the other hand, can work on different productions for a different company every few weeks or even days.
Basically, in the position of a PA, you do whatever you are asked.
This can include everything from airport run to picking a talent, making coffee, or even winding up miles of cable.
An office PA usually has a relatively normal schedule and a standard hourly wage.
Set PA may start work as easily as 4 AM or work late in the night for only $150 a day.
The responsibilities of a PA can vary depending on the type of job.
Here, we’ve gathered some basic duties of the three most relevant PA positions.
- Put together call sheets, update them when necessary, and email them to key departments.
- Make copies.
- Complete assignments.
- Perform basic office administration duties.
- Receive and log DV tapes, flash drives, or hard drives and get them to Post.
- Pick up and drop off equipment.
- Make food runs.
- Pick up and drop off talent.
- Watch the equipment while the crew is shooting.
- Bring and distribute food and water for talent and crew.
- Help carry equipment, hold light stands, flags, silks, or bounce boards.
- Receive tapes or drives from office PA.
- Log clip descriptions.
- Log tape.
- Create assembly edits.
Among all the PA jobs, a set PA is probably the most difficult one.
They typically work long hours on set and have a wide array of responsibilities.
They should be the most flexible as well.
The following skills are essential for all types of PA jobs, but they are the most relevant for the set PA.
The media production area is intense and fast-paced, and everybody is usually too busy to supervise other’s jobs.
So, as a PA, you need to be able to work on your own without someone pushing you and looking over your shoulder.
Besides, you need to be that person that sees what needs to be done and goes ahead with this instead of waiting for someone to tell you to do it.
The phrase “time is money” is the most relevant for a set or production area.
A company can spend thousands of dollars per minute of production.
So, it is essential that you can find efficient solutions to problems quickly.
If you can do it, you will be in demand and advancing in the field.
Flexibility and awareness:
Working in a union and non-union set is a very big difference
On a non-union set, everybody works pitching in and helping with every job.
On the other hand, in a union set, every department has a specific job, and they don’t appreciate people from other departments doing their job for them.
As a PA, you need to be always ready to pitch in when necessary as well as know when you shouldn’t help with things.
How to Become a Production Assistant
The job of a production assistant is entry-level, so you don’t need much experience to get it.
If you have some experience, it’s great and will be extremely helpful in getting a job, in the first place.
But you can get one even without the experience.
Training and Qualifications
In LA, you can find a range of training classes that can help you get PA certifications.
But legally, there’s no official certification PA should have.
Getting a job as an office or post-production PA is usually more difficult than a set PA.
Post and office jobs are similar to administrative assistants’ jobs and come with benefits and salary.
Set PA jobs are quite easy to get as you need little to zero experience for them.
However, you should be ready to work extremely long hours for very little pay.
For example, you may have to work 15 hours a day for only $100 to $150 dollars.
One of the easiest ways to become a PA is working on some low-budget or student shoots.
With good performance, you can gain some good contacts that in the future will help you get better jobs on better sets.
If you prove to be a hard-working employee, shortly after you can be offered a better paying and higher-ranking job.
As mentioned, getting a set PA job is easy.
With great performance there, you can get promoted to a production coordinator, camera or producer assistant, assistant director, or assist in a specific field you’re interested in.
If you attend a film school, you can become an intern with a production company.
Such an opportunity can eventually turn into a regular job after graduation.
If you work as an office PA, you will work mostly regular hours.
But at the same time, it’s not uncommon to work for 10 days in a row.
During production, the days can even get longer.
As a set PA, your hours can be brutally long taking 10-12 hours a day or even 15 and 20.
Post-production PA usually works regular hours as well, but they can end up working up to 15 hours a day as the deadlines are approaching.
The job of a PA is usually highly demanding and low-paid.
But there are almost unlimited opportunities for advancement, and rarely people work as a PA for a long time.
Being a PA is hard, and you can either advance or fall out.
Office PA is an exception, as they tend to have more steady hours and a salary with benefits.
Office PA usually sticks to the position for a year or longer before advancing to another position.
Some even work as a PA for several years.
In this case, you can gain a very extended experience and when advancing to a higher position, you can skip a few steps on the way.
The production assistant isn’t usually turning into a career, but it’s a great entry-level job that can help you start in the field of media.
Based on your area of interest, you can even build a successful career by simply starting at the bottom and working your way up instead of getting a degree in this field.