Do you ever notice those big yellow signs you see zip-tied to multiple light poles that say “to set”? Do you ever wonder how sets manage to stay clean even after a chaotic scene? This would be the undercover work of a location production assistant. But what exactly does a location production assistant do? Along with helping with lock-ups (specifically traffic lock-ups), a location PA helps with maintaining the flow of the set by putting up signs to direct crew, cleaning up garbage, and basically being present at whatever location the location manager needs them. They are often only on big budget project and not on set often, but play a large part during preps and wraps. In this post, we’ll break down the various tasks of and basic responsibilities of an entry level location production assistant.
What does a Location Production Assistant Do?: Duties During Film Production
As a location production assistant, you will be working in the locations department. This consists of the location manager, location scout, assistant location manager, and the location production assistant (you). As a location PA, you will be assisting with clean up, set up and break-down of signs and other duties on set. You will be wherever the location manager needs you, even if it includes being on tomorrows set.
On Set Responsibilities
A location production assistant’s other responsibilities may include:
- Setting up and maintaining the location
- Assisting with equipment management
- Ensuring that cast and crew have everything they need to work effectively.
A location production assistant will sometimes also be responsible for crowd control, safety, and managing the movement of people and vehicles on and around the location. This requires a high level of organization and the ability to think on your feet in a fast-paced environment.
Qualities of Location Production Assistants
An entry-level location production assistant will possess several skills and qualities to excel in the role. Attention to detail and the ability to problem-solve are essential as they will be responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly on set. Potentially, they need to have good communication skills with people on set and to interact with property owners and local authorities to obtain necessary permissions.
Location PAs should also be willing to work long hours in various weather conditions, as filming schedules can be unpredictable. Finally, they need to be able to multitask and work efficiently under pressure and be willing to learn as there are often tight deadlines and unexpected issues that may arise.
Locations Department Positions
There isn’t much else, other than familiarizing yourself with the entire location department if you see yourself working in this department and want to move up. These are all the crucial positions in the locations department.
Key Location Manager
A location manager is a vital member of the production crew. Their primary responsibility is to find and secure suitable locations for filming. This involves:
- Identifying potential locations
- Negotiating contracts with property owners (as well as maintaining positive relationships)
- Obtaining necessary permits
- Overseeing location logistics.
Location managers report directly to the Unit Production Manager (UPM) or Assistant Director (AD) to ensure that locations meet the creative vision of the film and are within budget. They also coordinate with various departments, such as the art department and transportation, to ensure that everything runs smoothly on set. In addition to their primary responsibilities, location managers are also responsible for managing the locations department, including hiring and managing location scouts and production assistants. Overall, location managers play a critical role in bringing the creative vision of a film to life while ensuring that everything runs efficiently and within budget.
Assistant Location Manager
It’s exactly in the name. The assistant location manager assistant the location manager with their duties including:
- Coordinating location scouting trips
- overseeing on-set operations
- Holding permits while on location
- Maintaining relationships with property owners
- Assuring the location is left clean
A location scout is a crucial member of the locations department. Their primary responsibility is to identify and research potential filming locations for a production which involves:
- Extensive research
- Visiting potential locations
- Taking pictures of potential locations
- Creating location reports
- Identifies potential base camp locations
Location scouts must be able to work efficiently under pressure and have a keen eye for detail to identify unique and interesting locations that will enhance the production. Most eventually become location managers.
The location researcher/coordinator handles a lot of online research which involves:
- Conducting extensive research on potential locations
- Working with location scouts to identify suitable options
- Negotiating with property owners to secure necessary permits for filming
Location researchers/coordinators are usually only used on larger productions, but they are still an essential part in the filmmaking process.
The job of a location production assistant is crucial to the success of any film or television production. Location PAs are responsible for securing and helping manage locations, as well as providing support to cast and crew on set. The job requires a combination of technical knowledge, organizational skills, and a passion for the film industry. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a location PA, it’s important to develop these skills and gain experience in the industry. With hard work and dedication, a career as a location PA can be a fulfilling and rewarding path.