How to Become a Production Assistant

How to Become a Production Assistant

Working as a production assistant can be a highly effective way to break into the entertainment business. But many people know that, which makes it a very competitive field.


If you’re lucky enough to get in, you’d start at the bottom (grabbing coffee, getting yelled at occasionally; rigging lights; doing pop-culture research, etc.). But it’s not all tears and regret; you could work your way up to become an editor, producer or director.


To get into this field, you’ll either need to land a great internship through your school, luck out on a job board, or get referred to a job by someone in your network.


Think you have what it takes to make it through the darkness and into the light? Good! Read on below, we’ll give you some great tips.



Education for Becoming a Production Assistant

The entertainment industry is generally considered to be a “who you know” and not “what you know” kind of business; having the right connections gives you a great advantage in your job search.


However, a film degree (or other degree for that matter) isn’t without its value. It can open up the doors to valuable internship opportunities with big production companies. In fact, being a current student is a prerequisite for many of the internships with big name film and television production companies.


A degree will also serve to show potential employers that you really care about the industry and are keen to learn about it. And let’s not forget, it will teach you about film!


So, while a degree in film (or any other field) may not guarantee you a job like being good pals with a big time director, it can be a great asset in your quest to become a production assistant. 




What is a Production Assistant?

A production assistant (P.A.) is an entry-level team member on a film or television crew. They provide general support and assistance to almost all areas of a film or television production.



How to Get into The Field

Whatever you do, don’t think that becoming a production assistant is going to be easy just because it’s the lowest position on the entertainment industry totem pole. So many people want this kind of job, which makes it very, very competitive. However, there is good news; there are many tactics for breaking into this field:



Friend of a Friend: One of the most effective ways to break into the entertainment industry is by networking, oftentimes it’s the friend a friend of a friend that will get you that first job. Build relationships and show that you’re a hard worker, and eventually someone will pass your name along to someone who’s hiring.



Looking on Job Sites: Go through entertainment industry-specific job sites every day to look for new jobs you can apply for:


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Ask the Right People for Advice: Once you start meeting people in the industry, work on building your relationships with them and pick their brains. Consider even asking if you can shadow them for a day.



Cold Call: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and see who’s hiring (the job posting might not even be up yet, and voila, it doesn't have to be because you just filled the spot!). Find an entertainment business directory online that lists all the entertainment companies in your area and call them one by one. And call them, don’t make it easy for them to ignore you by emailing them.







Success Tip: Gain Valuable Industry Experience

There are some forms of work experience that can be quite valuable when trying to become a production assistant, and others that won’t be as valuable as you think.


While you’re a student, for example, you may work on various student films, and you may even have a top job, such as Director of Photography, in a production. Unfortunately, while the experience may have been a great learning experience, many film and television production companies won’t care about such credits.


But don’t worry; there are plenty of ways to get experience that can take you places. For example, low-budget films often offer their crew (and actors for that matter) “deferred payment,” meaning they get paid if and when the film ever makes money.


Consider taking some of these jobs even if you never make a dime; they can provide you with hands-on experience and valuable introductions to film industry professionals (remember the “friend-of-a-friend” concept from above?).


Another way to gain experience while also building your industry network is to find and join a Meetup group of film production enthusiasts. This way, you can find a group you can work with regularly and rely on. This method will allow you to work in many different types of crew positions to see what you enjoy most, and then hone your craft.


As a crucial bonus, working on your skills will enable you to be ready when your dream opportunity comes along. A big production company needs an experienced editor? Good thing you joined that Meetup group and worked as an editor! 





Production Assistant: General Job Description

As a production assistant, you could help out with a production in general, or you could work for specific departments, such as art, location, and others. Below is an overview of common types of production assistants, and what they do:



Set P.A. - Manage Extras; help in company moves or crowd control; collect paperwork and out times for the production; pass out scripts and schedules; escort actors to and from their trailers; help load and unload equipment.


Art Department P.A. - Assist with office duties; run general errands; may assist with construction of props or set dressing.


Wardrobe P.A. - Assist Costume Designers and Costumers; label costumes; may organize costumes for laundering; run errands; assist with collecting costumes.


Location P.A. - Deliver contracts; put up signs to direct workers to the set; prepare and distribute maps to locations; clean up locations after filming; run errands.



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Career Advancement Opportunities

Even though you’d be starting at the bottom, it’s possible to work your way to the top. It’s not uncommon for production assistants to work their way into roles such as assistant editor, editor, assistant director, director, and producer.


If you let crew members and staff in different departments know that you’re interested in working with them at some point, they may think of you when an opening comes up, so long as you demonstrate reliability and an excellent work ethic in every job you get.


Working on low-budget films can be a solution if you feel stuck; they offer the chance to move up the ladder to higher positions than you’d qualify for on a big-budget film.


Success Tip: The people you work with will often become the people who hire or refer you for your next job, so make a good impression! If you're lazy or incompetent you will leave the business much faster than you got in!



Careers Similar to ‘Production Assistant’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as Production Assistant:


• Administrative Assistant

• Audio-Visual Technician

• Camera Operator

• Film Editor

• Film Key Grip

• Lighting Technician

• Location Scout

• Performing Arts Extra




Information for this career guide was compiled from the websites listed below. Some information has also been compiled from actual job postings from various organizations, which cannot be listed here due to the brief nature of their online availability.


California Entertainment Industry Resources:How to Land a Production Assistant Job in the Film Industry - Actionable Steps and Advice.” (April 2, 2015). Road Trip Randy website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

Podcasting:My life as a first-year…Production Assistant.” Nadira A. Hira (May 25, 2007). Fortune website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

Careers:Advice for Production Assistants.” (n.d.) Dallas Film Commission website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Production Assistant

The “Applicable Majors” section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a production assistant. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Production Assistant: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful for becoming a production assistant. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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