I’m writing a follow up blog to supplement my video. Hopefully this will be good information for you to take on your next production gig. The video How To Be A Good Production Assistant is below. If you like the video and this blog, please consider subscribing!
I’ve spent the past 8 years working with networks as a PA. I share some of my basic knowledge (from experience) that will help you stand out and get hired again and again.
What you need to know as a Production Assistant
(An outline of the video above)
BE A GREAT LISTENER If you take the time to look someone in the eye and listen to their needs/requests they’ll go to battle for you.
Get familiar with all aspects of the film making process Do a little research before a job. If you want to be in the camera department, learn a little about the camera the production will be using before you show up!
Be respectful, courteous, and mindful of others. This seems like common sense but you will really stand out (and get hired again) if you’re respectful to EVERYONE, put others first (sometimes it feels like no one is watching but they are smarter than you think), and try to anticipate a need someone might have. If you see a camera person trying to get a shot where they’re holding a camera over their head, go grab an apple box and stand by. When they realize they need an apple box and you’re standing there with one, they try to get production to let you hang out with them all day long!
PC - Petty Cash
Apple - They mean apple box. Full apple, half, quarter, and pancake.
C47 or Bullet Clip - Clothes line clip
CTO - Color Temperature Orange
CTB - Color Temperature Blue
Sticks - Camera Tripod
Stinger - Power Cord
Radio call 10-1 - They are going to be offline for a moment while they are peeing!
Radio call 10-2 - You can guess what this is.
If you want to be hired again, NEVER SAY NO.
This one is tricky. If someone asks you to do something ridiculous, or immoral, what do you do? Could this hurt your career if you don’t listen to this person? Sets are not even close to politically correct and probably one of the most hostile work environments out there (especially for conservative people). The best advice I can give here is to be quick to listen and slow to speak. If someone has a request for you that you don’t agree with or have no clue what they’re asking for your response should always be “Let me go find out”. If they ask for a piece of gear or something totally whack say that you’re “on it”. Fake it till you make it folks! Run around like a chicken with your head cut off (only in front of other PAs or someone you trust like the audio guy) and repeat the thing you’re not sure about that the camera person asked for. Someone will point it out to you or take you to it. Now you know what that term means and you delivered.
You can never be good enough at listening!
I stress this sooo much because I’ve seen so many production assistants who don’t listen to what is going on around them. Most anyone can listen to orders, but can you listen for the subtle hints in someone’s voice? Can you listen to a conversation and anticipate the actionable items that will come from that conversation? If so, this is one way you will MEGA stand out. All you need to do is take the extra care to be focused while you’re on set. Learn what your team is there for individually. Money? The credit? The experience? Because they love it? If you can recognize why particular people are there, on set, and what their true motivations are, you’ll be able to figure out how to act and talk towards them. This gets you more jobs.
Learn more than the average PA by asking questions.
This goes hand in hand with the listening skill you’ll need to succeed. More than likely, you’ll find someone on set (a lot of times its the audio person!) who is so easy going, sits in the background, and sees everything. This is your best friend. They will be experienced in multiple areas and they will have a good grip on the production as a whole. Let them be your information resource and be thankful. They enjoy helping people who work hard and respect others.
There is obviously A LOT more to being a great production assistant, but I hope this helps you get a good idea of where to start. Really if you’re half brained and respectful, you’ll be successful. I’m NOT saying production assistants aren’t important and anyone can do it, but rather that there are a lot of people currently filling PA positions who you could out perform. I think the fact that you’re reading this post (especially all the way to the end) says that you’re dedicated to being a hard worker. If you need help finding or applying to gigs, I have a great success rate with my applications. Feel free to reach out to me on instagram and I’d love to give you some tips on applying for a gig.