Wanted: a few good Production Assistants

Production Assistants wanted!Maybe you’re new to filmmaking.  Maybe you don’t know which aspect to explore first.  Maybe you’re dying to get involved, but are embarrassed because you don’t know the first thing about making a movie.

Can you walk and talk?  If the answer is yes, we’re not only willing to have you on our crew, we need you.

From the crew’s point of view, Production Assistants are the main source of information on a film set.  It’s an entry-level job, but an important one.  Each day, good PA’s arm themselves with as much information as they can get their hands on – call sheets and shooting schedules, the moment-to-moment whereabouts of every key crew member and the cast,  where the bathrooms are, and where and at what time the crew will be eating lunch – and each day they are relied upon to convey that information to everyone who asks.  Despite being at the bottom of the film industry food chain, they are expected to know everything and if you do, it can pay off in all kinds of opportunities to learn and network your way to a better job.
Read on to see the PA Checklist…

The PA checklist

At the beginning of each shoot day, arm yourself with the following items:

  • 4 ballpoint pens, 3 of which you will likely loan out
  • 1 red sharpie for changing call sheets on the fly
  • 3 copies of the day’s call sheet, 2 of which you’ll probably give away
  • 1 copy of the shooting schedule
  • a wristwatch (NOT your cell phone)
  • C47’s for the crew– as many clothes pins as you can clip to your clothing
  • 2 extra walkie-talkie batteries

How to spend your day

  • Show up 10 minutes before your call time and be on walkie-talkie before the Assistant Directors
  • Know where key personnel are at all times so you can find them when needed
  • Loudly (quietly, if you don’t have shooting permits) call out the commands you hear over the walkie from the AD’s to the rest of the crew, i.e. “Picture’s up!” “Rolling!” “Cut!”
  • Keep the crew quiet while the camera is rolling or when the director is speaking on set
  • Review your call sheet often so you always know what’s happening next
  • Pay attention and learn to anticipate what or who will be needed on set
  • Go to the camera for every new set up so that you know what the shot is and can help the crew understand where to stand or stage equipment during filming
  • As assigned by your AD, guard doors, driveways and sidewalks from passersby who may ruin a take; politely stop them until you hear “Cut!”
  • Run everywhere

See?  You’re qualified!  That’s it.  It’s a simple job, but an exhausting one.  Then again, 12-hour shooting days are exhausting for everyone, aren’t they?  Don’t worry, you’ll catch up on sleep on your day off.

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11 Responses to "Wanted: a few good Production Assistants"
  1. burcu says:

    I worked as a production asistant when I was a student at university. I want work again:)

  2. If anyone is still looking for a PA I am entirely interested. I am a student currently working towards building a portfolio for my transfer to film school so any aspect of film making count me in!

  3. I am an independent filmmaker looking to get more hands-on experience! I have just relocated to the Bay Area from New York City and if you still need PAs, I am available and enthusiastic about the opportunity to work on set!

  4. Mariko Terazaki says:

    I would like to volunteer on a film production project.

  5. Catherine says:

    I am new to filmmaking and do not know how to get started. I have previous stage/youth theater experience and had a dream of becoming an actress since childhood. Aspiring working actress in film so any experience that I can get on set would be great. It takes a village to create a movie production and I want to learn all aspects of filmmaking. PA is an excellent start to learning the ropes so count me in!

  6. rekz says:

    Another tactic is –> show up, be eager, and be willing.

    If you are there *on-time* that’s often fine. Earlier is better. PA’s are often the grease that keeps the machine moving.

    Attitude is everything. The “can-do” person (who asks questions when they don’t know how-to) is much better than the “I’m bored” person who drains everyone’s energy.

    Having a nice, upbeat personality is great. Don’t let it go overboard when your producer/director is having a melt-down (ie don’t get involved), but if you give them an ice cold water when they’re freaking out b/c of stress, you may be remembered for your good nature.

    PA can be a thankless job, but I’ve done it a bunch & I almost always have a blast. Sometimes (on Hollywood productions) they may treat you like dirt, but don’t take it personally, have a smile and a business card and if you tough out the rough patches you might get a break.


  7. Hello…I am a new member to Scary Cow and I am very interested in being a PA. I feel I was born for this job. I am constantly multitasking with efficiency, and I am very organized and up beat! I find my best quality is enthusiasm and I am ready for action! Please let me know if i can be of assitance to any project! I am happy to help!

  8. Istvan says:

    I’d love to get involved, please let me know how.

  9. Chantal says:

    I recently moved to the Bay Area from NYC and would love to get more experience working as a PA.

  10. Deion Higginbotham says:

    Hello I live in the bay area and would like to work more on the set to become familiar with the career I want to do. Ive written scripts, acted, directed as well as produced I have the triple threat when it comes to this and I would like to make it a career.

  11. Eric says:

    Hi, Great List. One thing though, I was told by a seasoned grip back when I got started to not run on set. He said if someone is running something has gone wrong and it makes people nervous. A brisk walk is cool. And it looks like you mean business.

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