Climbing The Film Ladder: Production Assistants

We tackle the gritty realities of starting at the bottom in the film industry, where the glamour fades and hard work takes center stage. We aim to pull back the curtain on the life of a Production Assistant, offering unvarnished truths and practical advice for navigating the trenches and occasionally thankless tasks that come with the territory. We hope to prepare you not just for the challenges you'll face but for the opportunities that often only appear after proving your mettle. Welcome to the real world of film, where your dream job demands more than just passion


3/12/20242 min read

Entering the film industry, almost everyone starts their journey as a Production Assistant (PA). Considered the backbone of production, PAs are crucial for the seamless operation of any project. If you've recently embarked on this path, seeking guidance to excel as a PA, you've come to the right place. This guide aims to equip you with insights to not just perform your duties effectively but to stand out, advancing towards your dream role in the industry.

Understanding Your Role as a PA

As a PA, you're the lifeline of the production process; the oil in the machine, if you will. Tasked with an array of responsibilities, you'll find yourself aiding various departments, primarily focusing on the production department's needs, such as catering, logistics, and miscellaneous errands. Attention to detail is paramount; you'll handle tasks ranging from actor transportation to acquiring props, ensuring the production wheel keeps turning smoothly. Tasks that don't require specific skills is what you'll be handling so that the specialty tasks can be done by those that have those necessary specialty skills. A make-up artist doesn't need to spend their time getting lunch for everyone because not everyone can do a make-up artist's job whereas almost anyone can pickup lunch. Make sense?

Strategies to Excel

Success as a PA hinges on two pillars: following instructions meticulously and proactivity. Initially, adhering to the directions provided by production managers will build your reputation. However, if you aspire to transition within the industry, merely executing tasks isn't enough. Demonstrating initiative and a positive attitude can significantly impact your journey.

Embrace Proactivity

Anticipating needs and offering help without being prompted can make you indispensable. It's about understanding the set dynamics and finding opportunities to assist, such as aiding the grip and electric teams with equipment. This doesn't mean overstepping your boundaries but rather identifying where your help can be most beneficial and welcomed.

Cultivate a Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive demeanor is crucial, especially during challenging times on set. Being a source of positivity not only makes you an asset but also fosters an environment where others enjoy your presence, paving the way for long-term relationships and opportunities within the industry.

Getting Into Your Desired Department

Gaining clarity on your preferred department is a natural progression after accumulating on-set experience. Whether your interest lies in camera work, wardrobe, or another area, positioning yourself as a dedicated assistant to that department can facilitate your transition. Balancing your primary duties with offering assistance to your chosen department—without being intrusive—can lead to mentorship and learning opportunities, eventually leading to your desired role.

The Takeaways

  • Prioritize your responsibilities as dictated by production.

  • Proactively support your future department, balancing diligence with discretion.

  • Be a team player, always ready to lend a hand, fostering a work environment where you're seen as a valuable, approachable colleague.

Always remember that you should strive to be someone that others want to work with. Things will eventually fall into place once you have achieved that. And don't be a worried about being a PA for "too long". Good PAs turn into Key PAs and Key PAs get snatched up by another department. At least, that is our strategy as sound mixers when on set!