BECOMING A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
If you’re looking to get into film or television production but don’t have any experience or qualifications a production assistant (PA) position is a great place to start. PA’s work on set assisting the production staff.
PA’s can pretty much be asked to do anything on a production set for various departments, e.g., grip, electric, camera, props, etc… Some of those functionalities can range from grabbing coffee for whoever asks, unloading trucks, to potentially being a background extra. However, on big budget films each department will have their own PA’s.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Long hours! Work hours are long and become longer, and can be stressful, as deadlines approach.
Like minded people. Just about everyone you know loves television and films, but they can care less about the production aspect. As a PA you’ll meet like minded people who love film/television production as much as you do. And this is great because it’ll give you hope to see that others have the same or similar aspirations as you.
Unemployment? Yes. Periods of unemployment may occur as one project ends and you’re looking for another one. Therefore, the friendlier you are on set and the more you network you can lessen this period because of the contacts you make. And with time, you may be going from project to project with shorter unemployment intervals.
HOW TO SUCCEED
- Develop your communication skills. For example, tone of voice, choice of words, body language, etc…
- Smile, be friendly. You should be friendly simply because you should. But filmmaking is a small world. Eventually the word will spread if you’re not a pleasant person to work with…or for?
- Do and follow through on your assigned tasks. As a PA there are expectations of you. Therefore, meet them…exceed them!
- Go the extra mile. Again, exceed them.
- They may not know your name, but remember theirs. This is good for many reasons, here’s one: people note people who call them by their name.
- Know filmmaking terminology. It sucks to be asked to do something and you don’t know what to do because you’re not familiar with filmmaking vernacular. Some terms you need to get familiar with, among others, are: FRENCH HOURS: No meal breaks! Food is passed out on set and people stuff it down whenever they can, where ever they can. LANDED: Arriving on set. This term is used to describe things that have arrived at the immediate filming location. TEN-O-ONE: I need to use the toilet. And this is a basic intro to a film director’s terminology, it’ll also help.
You may be told that you must have a college degree of some sorts, film related, preferably, to get a PA gig. That is not true. Most of the time PA’s are hired simply because they’re recommended to UPM’s (unit production managers) by immediate crew. Many times producers will place adds on line and simply by calling and expressing your eagerness to learn, a long with a copy of your resume, is enough to get your foot in the door.
HOW MUCH WILL I MAKE
This depends. It can be from zero dollars (plus food) on a low budget shoot to $150 a day on high budget shoot (plus food). But really, it depends. Either way, have a good attitude about it and remember that you’re there to learn, help and to network. Eventually you’ll make your way up the latter and you’ll be making money.
HOW TO GET A PA POSITION
Apply to positions either online or in person. Contact production coordinators, producers, or assistant directors either by telephone or in person. You can find productions looking for PA’s by doing a Google search of by going to your cities film and television office or website.
Though you may be able to find a PA gig in your local town, that may be the only one for some time. To hasten the process up the film/television production latter many make the move to either Los Angeles or New York City. The reason is because these cities offer majority of the work opportunities for PA’s. Other cities that really make noise in PA positions are Miami, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, and a few others.
Also, if you know anyone in the business, see if they can put in a good word for you.
Being a PA is a great way to get your foot in the production world. However, you don’t want to be a PA for longer than you have to. Therefore, be a proud PA, work hard and network, network. If there’s a department that you gel with, get information from them on how you can eventually make your way into that particular production area.
Below is an informative video on becoming and being a PA by Jordan P. Anderson.
VIEW FILMS ON MARILYNFILMS.COM
Below is a button link to view independently made films available here on MarilynFilms.com. We encourage you to support independent filmmaking by viewing the films and we’d love to hear your take on them. You can simply comment below or send us your comments via our CONTACT page. Check out Kerri’s IMDB page. It includes her extensive and recognizable television and film appearances.
Hey, why not subscribe to our newsletter? We’ll keep you updated with everything MarilynFilms.com and you’ll receive promo codes directly to your inbox (one email a month).
Also, would you share this article? It’s extremely helpful in our mission to promote independent filmmakers and their films. You can do so simply by clicking on your favorite of the social media icons listed below (scroll down). Cheers ??.