Life on the Set: Production Assistants

WHO ARE THEY?

If Hollywood was an army, production assistants (PA’s) would be the foot soldiers. They are the janitors, the assistants, and the worker ants who perform the dirty work needed to help a film shoot go smoothly. While they are often joked about as helpless minions who are ordered around by pretty much everyone else, the reality is that they are still a vital part of the filmmaking process.

ProductionAssistant

WHAT DO THEY DO?

The short answer? Anything and everything. The long answer is that PA’s do countless small tasks to make life easier for those who bear more responsibility in the Hollywood hierarchy. Some of these duties include:

  • Getting food and drinks for everyone on set, including picking up and delivering meals for people at the office.
  • Answering phones, organizing paperwork, delivering scripts to the people who need them (directors, producers, actors, etc.) and updating a company’s social media accounts.
  • Helping load and unload equipment on a film set, helping to organize extras, and making sure no unwanted people wander onto set.
  • Unclogging toilets and walking the Director’s dog.

The best way to look at a PA is that they do all the chores that everyone else (directors, producers, cinematographers, electricians, etc.) is too busy to do so they can focus on doing their jobs.

HOW CAN I BECOME ONE?

Many production companies are constantly on the lookout for PA’s, and many more people are self-employed as freelancers. PA’s are entry-level Hollywood jobs and thus require little to no formal education. If you want to become one, it’s important to be fast on your feet, a quick-thinker, good at taking directions, and anticipating what people need. Having a, “How can I help?” mindset and going the extra mile to make the lives of those around you easier is a great way to get noticed.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?

Being a PA gives you an up-close look at almost every aspect of how a movie is made. You get to see directors, producers, cinematographers and other departments at work and learn how they do their tasks, knowledge that will help you if you decide to pursue a career in film, as it did for Kathleen Kennedy, who started out as an assistant to filmmaker, John Milius, and is now the CEO of Lucasfilm.

While their work goes almost entirely unnoticed by the public, it is worth knowing that PA’s are the unsung heroes of Hollywod, and a vital part of getting your favorite movies onto the silver screen.

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