Getting Started as a Production Assistant
A Production Assistant (PA) is an entry-level position that assists with general tasks on a film, television, commercial or digital media production. Some PAs work in the production department with the First or Second Assistant Director to provide support and communication to multiple departments. PAs may also work in the production office or in other departments, such as the art, wardrobe, animation, development or locations department.
- Set PA - Set PAs work on set under the guidance of the Assistant Directors and will have interaction with most departments. Set PAs help with the entirety of a production day, from set up through breakdown. Responsibilities include maintaining base camp, distributing paperwork, running errands, making sure no one walks in to a shot, managing the craft service area, helping with company moves, managing crowds, extras registration, loading / unloading equipment and other duties as assigned.
- Office PA - An Office PA works in the production office and provides traditional clerical support including answering phones, data entry, managing paperwork and running errands.
- Art Department PA - Art Department PAs assist the art department with office duties, running errands and may assist with construction of props or set dressing.
- Wardrobe PA - Wardrobe PAs support the wardrobe department and assist the costumer with labeling costumes, organizing costumes for laundry service, costume collection and running errands as assigned.
- Location PA - Location PAs assist the location department with location management and maintenance. Some of the duties include distributing location agreements and neighbor notification letters, setting up signs directing crew to set, creating and distributing maps to locations, distributing notification letters, running errands and cleaning a location after wrap.
What to expect
- The main function of a PA is to support the department in which they work by completing assigned duties.
- The pay rate depends on the production’s budget and is usually a fixed rate per day.
- PA positions are freelance and have a fixed time period for the duration of employment.
- Long hours and a constantly changing work environment are the norm.
- PAs are generally hired as locals.
Skills & Qualifications
- A PA may not need a college degree in a specific field of study, though it may be necessary when advancing your career in production. Many industry organizations have workshops that provide an introduction to working as a PA. Check the events calendar on our website or with a Regional Film Commission in your area for a list of upcoming opportunities.
- Working as a PA requires a strong work ethic, punctuality, flexibility, attentiveness, strong communication skills, attention to detail and resourcefulness. PAs are expected to think quickly, listen to and follow directions precisely.
- PAs frequently run errands, so a valid driver license and reliable vehicle are usually required.
- Having a basic knowledge of how production works is a plus.
Many leads on jobs are through referrals of people with whom you have previously worked or met. Establishing a strong work ethic, building a professional reputation and networking are important tools for finding your next job. Some helpful starting points offered by our office include:
- Job Hotline - our office lists crew calls for productions currently hiring in Texas.
- Regional Film Commissions - offers information on additional projects filming in your area.
- Texas Production Companies - lists local companies that may provide prospective employment opportunities.
- Texas Digital Media Companies - lists local digital media companies that may provide prospective employment opportunities.
- Texas Industry Associations - list of organizations that often host networking events and mixers.
Additional Online Resources
Contact the Texas Film Commission at 512-463-9200 and film [at] gov.texas.gov for more information. There are also many print and online resources available about getting started as a PA, including the following recommendations:
- www.nofilmschool.com - "Your First PA Gig: Everything You Need to Know"
- www.showhawk.com - "How To Get Started As a Production Assistant With No Experience and No Connections"
- www.nofilmschool.com - "7 Tips on How to Survive Being a Production Assistant"
- www.cineman.co.uk - "So You Wanna Work in Movies?"