The production assistant (PA) is an entry-level job for a film or television production. The position may be based in an office or on the set. 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.
Production Assistant Duties & Responsibilities
PA tasks vary widely but may include the following:
- Lift up to 50 pounds.
- Operate office equipment, such as copiers and faxes.
- Answer phones.
- Transport people or run errands using a motor vehicle, perhaps their own car or one provided by the production.
- Assist with on-set catering.
- Respond to requests from anyone involved in the production.
PAs are the worker bees of a film or television production. They get tasked with doing many of the small jobs other crew members don't want to do. The upside is that they learn about various aspects of the production and meet many of the people involved in it.
Production Assistant Salary
The pay for a production assistant varies according to experience, education, and geographical area. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not compile salary information for PAs. According to Salary.com, the average salary for a production assistant is $31,404 as of May 31, 2019. The pay typically ranges from $30,088 to $32,760.
Education, Training, & Certification
Although no particular educational background is necessary to be an effective production assistant, an associate's or bachelor's degree may put you ahead of other job candidates.
- High school diploma or GED: This is the minimal level of education aspiring PAs will need to be considered for a job.
- Areas of study: A degree in television production, film, communications, or an artistic field such as costume or graphic design would be helpful.
PA Skills & Competencies
The most important skill for landing and keeping a job as a PA is the ability to say yes to whatever someone asks you to do. The more you do as you're told, the faster you will rise. But that doesn't mean you should be a robot. Creative thinking is also an excellent asset to have as a PA. Here are some other important skills:
- Be a good listener: No one likes to have to repeat themselves, so be on your toes at all times and listen intently to the directions you're given.
- Be responsible: Production assistants are extremely easy to replace. You won't be there long if you're late, lazy, or hard to manage.
- Be willing to learn: Do all you can to learn as much as you can about every job on the set without getting in the way or becoming an obstacle.
- Be patient: If you're good at what you do, someone will notice.
The BLS does not offer predictions about the growth of PA jobs specifically. It predicts the number of producer and director jobs will grow 12% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the 7% average for all occupations.
PAs may work in a production company's office doing clerical duties or on the set, assisting any of a number of departments. Your previous work experience or primary area of interest may help determine where you end up.
PAs can expect to work long hours, including nights and weekends. Set-based PAs are tied to the schedule of the production, so their hours are typically more erratic. But even office-based PAs usually work 10- or 12-hour days.
How to Get the Job
REHEARSE FOR COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
The same questions often come up during job interviews. Prepare by reading a list of frequently asked questions and the best answers for them.
PLAY UP PAST EXPERIENCES OF GOING THE EXTRA MILE
Demonstrate the "can-do" attitude production companies are looking for by listing on your resume or mentioning in interviews examples of going above and beyond what was required of you in a previous job.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming a PA ultimately may land the following jobs. The figure provided is the median salary.
- Costume attendant: $41,190
- Film or television producer: $71,680
- Film or television director: $71,680
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018