Production Assistant Job Description and Duties [Updated]


For those out on the world wide web who don’t know what a Production Assistant is:

What is a Production Assistant?

A Production Assistant, also known as a PA, is a entry level position in the entertainment industry.  No education is required, but you must be a hard worker, responsible, and willing to learn. That’s right, you DON’T need to go to film school to become a PA. Who knew? If you work hard as a Production Assistant, people will notice. It’s not a glamorous job by any means — and you mostly get shit on — but many leading industry professionals once started out as PAs. It’s a entry level position that, if worked right, can launch you into any part of the industry.

There is no “age-limit” for being a PA, but it’s basically low-pay grunt work for those looking to break into the industry — primarily occupied by people in their early to mid 20’s. Work hours vary, but usually fall into 12-16 hour days — depending on the shoot. Pay can range anywhere from $100-$250 a day — also depending on the shoot. Film and TV usually falls closer to the $100-$125 side of things. Commercials and photo shoots can move closer towards $200-$250.

Production Assistant Job Duties.

A PA’s job duties can vary depending on what the budget is, or what department you are working in. Different types of PAs include Office PAs, Set PAs, Art PAs, Writer’s PAs, Wardrobe PAs… etc. Basically every department could have a PA working in it.

An Office PA works in the production office, and has job duties that include things like answering phones, going on runs (picking up/dropping off everything from equipment to payroll), taking lunch orders, picking up and distributing lunch, running copies, paperwork distro, maintaining office craft service, maintaining office supplies, etc…

A Set PA works on set, and job duties include things like “lock up” (making sure no one walks into the shot) and echo-ing “Cut” and “Rolling” as they come across the radio.  They could be “running talent” or background, distributing paperwork and walkies, picking up trash, managing the craft service table, going on coffee runs, ..etc.  The list of what a set PA ends up doing is… endless… and can even include picking up dog shit and used condoms off the side of the road. I wish I was joking.

[Updated 10/29/13: Just made some minor updates]

Also check out:

27 thoughts on “Production Assistant Job Description and Duties [Updated]”

  1. Hey, I’m a senior year in college pursuing a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Entertainment Studies. As of now I have yet to decide which area of the Film Industry I’d like to work in and in research came across your blog & had a few questions if you don’t mind. First, I have many interests in the field & have been trying to find one to focus my efforts into. My front runner right now is Casting & I was wondering if you knew anything about how Casting is ran or any tips on getting into that area? My other question is about P.A.’s, & what are the different career paths they lead to? Also, how long do most people work as a P.A. before moving on to something else? Would you recommend working as a P.A.?
    Thanks for your time! 🙂

  2. Hey! Sorry for the long delay. I’ve been working hard and haven’t really had a lot of time for this blog! I will answer your questions soon. Maybe I’ll make a post about it!

    Ben

  3. A ton of stuff. My personal experience in the art dept. lies in Set Dressing and Props… Set Dressing usually involves moving a lot of furniture, doing some basic construction, and painting. It’s a pretty fun gig. Gets you out on all the sets and lets you work on creating and decorating all the different places in the film. Then you gotta break all the shit down. Hard work, but you get a chance to be a little bit creative and directly influence the look of the film. Expect to move a lot of furniture.

    Props works directly with anything that comes in contact with an actor.

    The Art Dept can be very big and contain many different facets.

  4. Hi there! I have, after many furious brain wrackings, i decided to pursuit a career in film and television, yahoo! i stumbled on your site and it is very informative just what i needed, thankyou! so i am in my early twenties, no experience, no degrees, but very enthusiastic and passionate to commence. I would love you to shed a little wise advice on where to begin, i would like to begin as a production assistant, this actually sounds like fun for me, i am based in sydney, hoping to move to Paris one day, and yes so should i just get in contact with agencies or what is the best way to secure my first unpaid or paid production assistant role. i greatly appreciate your time and advice. have a lovely day, cheers.

  5. what are the duties of a production assistant working in structure and logistics company if i may ask

  6. Find out where they make movies in Australia. Move there. Bother everyone in the industry until someone lets you work on set. Work really really hard. Be willing to do anything. Meet everyone. Get phone numbers or email addresses (most of this should be on the callsheet) and tell them you’re looking for more work. Rinse and Repeat.

  7. Hi I’m in my late 40s and would like to apply for an assistant position , would they consider someone in my age group. I’m a hard worker and happy to do anything, not fussy .

  8. Hey there. I am a second year film student and am having the hardest time getting PA jobs. I have very limited on set experience, but hey, you need to start somewhere, right? What am I doing wrong? Here is my profile on http://www.staffmeup.com : http://staffmeup.com/profile/joshgelb

    Any suggestions? I feel like once I get a credible gig, it will snowball from there, but am having the hardest time getting that first one. Anything you would add or omit? Thanks for your time.

    -Josh

  9. Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. If you can milk any contact to get on a shoot do it. Your neighbor’s brother’s neighbor works on commercials? Find a way to get an informational meeting with him. Networking is key. Let him know you want to work. I’m not sure how much work is done in Seattle, but try and get some work at local smaller production companies to at least get SOMETHING on your resume. When it comes to PA work, hardly anyone gets hired based on their resume, it’s who you know. That should be your number 1 priority. Meeting people and letting them know you want to work. Basically what I’m saying is, your online profile doesn’t really matter. And your paper resume will only matter when you can put something on it. People hire people they know, or people recommended by people they know. You just gotta find that person willing to give you a chance, and it has nothing to do with your resume.

  10. Going to be honest with you, I’ve never worked a job with a PA older than 30. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s grunt work. My production coordinator calls us “kids”. Because most of us are early to mid 20s.

  11. I am 34 (but can pass for 25) and am starting to get regular PA work.

    Age aint nothing but a number.

    My question is, what is a reasonable amount of PA work to be doing gratis before you can expect to be paid? I don’t want to shoot down opportunities but at the same feel like I am being used. Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget? I worked 35 hours on a 3 day shoot thinking I was getting paid and then I didnt. I even paid out of pocket for lunch and didnt get reimbursed. They want me to work for them again and say it wont be paid (a pretty decent sized indie studio). I told them I would do it but expect to be paid in the future. Am I out of line? Am I burning bridges? Did I shoot myself in the foot? The whole if you wont do it, someone else will line is getting old. People have to live. People have to pay bills. I cant keep working for free, can I?

  12. Breaking into the film business is definitely very difficult and once you’re in, if you don’t work hard, you won’t stay in very long either. This is a great article that gives a brief description about what a production assistant does, but the only way to truly learn and understand is to work on set.

  13. Damn bro, it’s cool.
    a whole i read your blog, and now i really understand how PA is shit about. But i don’t care and take this shit because i like it 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *