HOW TO GET A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB
You have decided that you want to go into film/television production. It’s what you’re passionate about and it’s what you want to do. Now you want to know how to get started in the film/television production industry. You want to know exactly how to get a production assistant job. For most people this means starting at an entry level position. This entry level position is a production assistant position.
But exactly how do you find a job as a production assistant? In this blog post we will give you the multiple avenues that you can take to get a production assistant job that can potentially lead you into the career in production that you desire.
WHICH PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB DO YOU WANT?
If you want to get a job as a production assistant it’s important to know that, depending on the capacity and budget of a production, there may be three different types of PA’s. They include:
- SET PA’s: They are the most common PA’s on shoots. Set PA’s work on sets/locations during principal photography. They are hired and report mainly to the production department. However, depending on the size and budget of a shoot, every department may have their own Set PA’s.
- OFFICE PA’s: They work in the office, can be from pre to post production, handling clerical responsibilities in the production office. Such responsibilities include answering phones, running errands, organizing scripts, making copies, among other clerical duties.
- POST-PRODUCTION PA’s: They work to help the editors put the footage together after the shoot. Some of their responsibilities include keeping the editing bays clean, deliver hard drives of footage, group shot footage, etc.
HOW TO FIND A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB
There are various methods to finding a production assistant job. Below we outline the most common ways to get a production assistant job and we will also give you our take on what can be most effective to finding a production assistant job:
ONLINE JOB WEBSITES
You can search for jobs/job openings by visiting job boards like Mandy, Indeed, Backstage and Glassdoor. Facebook also has some recognizable groups like Film Production & Jobs, NYC TV & Film Production Community and Paid Film/TV Production Jobs: Los Angeles Area.
PA TRAINING PROGRAMS
If you live in a city where filming for television and/or film is prominent, the Mayor’s film office of your city may have a program for training production assistants. These programs function for the purpose of enabling aspiring production assistants to learn the ropes on becoming a PA. They provide you with in house training and have contacts to potentially get aspiring PA’s a production assistant job.
For example, New York City has the Made In NY Production Assistant Training In NYC. Many major Hollywood studios and entertainment unions have PA training internships. Some websites where you can find such internships include Internships.com and BarefootStudent.com.
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE (FIND THE KEY PA)
This is, from our perspective, the more likely way to get a Production Assistant job. What we mean by put yourself out there is to do exactly that. Go out there where the shoots are happening and let it be known that you want a job as a production assistant.
We’re not saying for you to harass people on production sets/locations, however, go to the locations where filming are taking place and talk to the right person(s) about how to get a PA job.
The right person to speak to on a location about getting a PA job is the Key PA. The Key PA is the head of all of the PA’s. The key PA hires the PA’s on set. Therefore, if anyone can help you get a production assistant job, it’s the Key PA.
However, you have to go about it the right way. You cannot just show up on a location and demand to speak to the Key PA. That won’t work. You can show up on location and ask one of the PA’s who the Key PA is and if they can get you his contact, or even better, if you can speak to the Key PA when he/she is not busy. Bear in mind, you may have to wait one hour or more until the Key PA is available. However, if you can speak to the Key PA, you’re well on your way to getting a PA job.
HAVE A PA RESUME
Have a resume that outlines your qualifications, skills and experience is a must. Upon making the right contact(s) you will be asked to furnish a resume so that the hiring person can make an assessment of your capacities. Therefore, have a resume and keep it up to date. Plus, you’ll need a resume to submit to online job sites.
HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PA ON THE JOB
You worked tirelessly to get the job as a PA. Using a walkie talkie is a fundamental aspect of being a PA. Here we share with you some fundamental, must know tips on how to be a successful production assistant when using the walkie talkie:
SET WALKIE TALKIE LANGUAGE
In a film production environment It is imperative that you as a production assistant know walkie talkie language. Otherwise, you won’t understand instructions coming in through the walkie and you’ll sound amateurish if you can’t communicate adequately on a walkie talkie.
There’s a wide array of walkie talkie language when on set. Some of the most common walkie talkie lingo on set include:
20 – It means location and it is used : What’s your 20?
10-1 – It means I need to go pee and it is used: I need to go 10-1 or Bill is 10-1.
10-2 – It means I need to go to the bathroom for number 2 and it is used: I need to go 10-2 or Bill is 10-1.
10-4 or copy: It means I heard and understood the message.
Lock it up: This is instruction given to a PA to lock up the set/location, meaning don’t let pedestrians walk through. That is, lock up your location.
Rony for Erica: “Rony” being your name and “Erica” is the person you’re calling for on the walkie talkie.
Go for Erica: It is Erica saying, I heard your call, what is it?
Go again: If someone relays a message and you do not understand it and you want them to repeat it.
Flying in: When someone or something is on its way. For example: Actor Joe is flying in.
Eyes on or Does anyone have eyes on _______: When someone or something that is being looked for you say, I have eyes on______. Or if you want to know where someone or something is then you say, Does anyone have eyes on________.
On it: When a request is made and you are actively working on it.
First Team: They are the principal actors in a scene. You may hear over the radio, bring in first team to set or walking first team to set.
Second team: These are the stand in actors for the principal actors.
Walkie check: It’s what you say when you first turn on your walkie and you want to make sure it’s working. Someone will reply “Good check” so that you know that your walkie is working.
Stand by: It means I hear you but I’m too busy to reply.
Standing by: This means you completed your task and you are standing by waiting for further instructions.
Hot brick: A fully charged walkie battery. For example, I need a hot brick.
Cold brick: A dead walkie battery.
Bogey (boggie): It’s someone that is not supposed to be in the shot/set. For example, Lock it up. No boggies!
FAQ: How To Get A Production Assistant Job
What are some tips on becoming a successful production assistant once you get the job?
A key feature to being a great production assistant on a set is about predictability. That is, being able to foresee what will be required of you and getting it done beforehand.
It isn’t cut and dry as to exactly what will be needed of you because sets vary from production to production. However, the sooner you can familiarize yourself with the environment and start to predict what will be required of you, the more professional and helpful you will be looked upon.
For example, if you’ve been on set/location a few days and everyday your Key PA asks you to find out what’s on the catering menu for breakfast, let him/her know before they ask. You may, for example, take a picture of the menu as soon as you arrive on set and send it to him/her.
To sum it up, predict what will be asked of you and execute beforehand.
How does a production assistant make a great impression the first day on the job?
There are several things that a production assistant can do to make a great first impression the first day on the job. We will bullet point a few here:
- DON’T ARRIVE ON TIME, ARRIVE EARLY (15-20 MINUTES EARLY): By arriving early you are displaying many great characteristics to your Key PA and everyone on set. You are showing your eagerness, dedication, willingness to learn and commitment to the job. Arriving early is an absolute sure way to make a great impression on the job. And make your best effort to do so everyday. It will payoff as your reputation of a timely and great worker spreads.
- GET A SURVEILLANCE HEADSET: Even though it’s your first day on the job, you don’t want it to look as such. By having your own surveillance headset it will spear you the embarrassment of wearing a BK. That’s right! If you don’t bring your own surveillance headset, you will be given one like the ones at a BK drive through. Not a good look for a PA! It screams, NUB! Get you a reputable and trusted surveillance headset.
- REST: Get plenty of rest the night before your first day on the job as a production assistant. You’ll want to be well rested because with 12 hour days, you many not get 7 hours of sleep for a week or more…who knows.
- KNOW WHERE MOST THINGS ARE: There’s so much going on during film production and you want to know as much as possible. You’re there to help and knowing where most things are is very helpful. The reason is because you will likely be ask to run errands and you need to know where you are going. Get the call sheet and study where everything is. For example, know where the camera truck, props truck, electric truck, next set, honeywagon, crafty, catering, etc, are.
How should a Production Assistant dress for the job?
Production Assistants are advised to wear comfortable clothes that correlates with the work environment that they will be in. Production Assistant work hours are long and they’ll want to make sure they’re comfortable in the clothes they’re wearing throughout the work shift.
Bear in mind, PA’s spend hours on set, hours standing on their feet and they do plenty or running around getting assigned tasks done.
Exactly what to wear as a PA is also determined by the environment you’re in. That is, indoors, outdoors, cold, hot, rain, etc. Whereas in one scenario shorts, a t-shirt and sunscreen will do, but in another it may not. In other words, be mindful of the weather that you’ll be working in.