If you’re interested in filmmaking and learning how movies are made behind the scenes, starting as a set production assistant might be the ideal path for you. The production assistant (PA) is an entry-level position in the film, television, and other production sectors. There are PAs for each department who are responsible for providing support to the production team in different ways, but in this article we are focusing on being the most successful set PA you can be. While the job can be challenging, it is a crucial position within any production, and it can open up thrilling opportunities for career growth in the industry.
What is a Set Production Assistant?
A set production assistant is an entry-level position in the film, television, or other production industries that provides support to the production team in various capacities. The set PA typically assists with chores including putting up equipment, managing sets, running errands, organizing paperwork, and supporting the actors and crew to ensure that the production runs successfully. Even if that includes going on coffee runs (but let’s save that for the office PA). Even while the work might be tough, it is an essential part of any production and can open up new chances for career advancement. Successful set production assistants are dependable, well-organized, proactive, and able to function well in a high-stress situation. It’s all part of the movie making process
Responsibilities of a Set Production Assistant
Working directly under the 1st Assistant Director, the Set PA must be prepared to work under pressure and anticipate the next move. This includes knowing how to read a call sheet, keeping a pair of sides on you at all times and making sure things run smoothly for the 1st AD. This ensures that everyone involved in the production is aware of their schedule and duties.
As a Set Production Assistant, setting up equipment is an important responsibility. This includes ensuring that all equipment is in working order and properly placed to meet the needs of the production. Running errands is another essential task for a Set PA, as it involves managing the day-to-day needs of the cast and crew.
Managing the set is another key responsibility of a Set Production Assistant. This involves overseeing the logistics of sets such as ensuring that all equipment is in place and ready for use, managing the flow of people and equipment on set, and coordinating with other members of the production team. Providing support to the cast and crew is also crucial, as it involves addressing any issues that may arise during the production and ensuring that everyone is able to do their job effectively. This can include providing assistance with costumes, makeup, and other needs that arise throughout the production process.
As a Set Production Assistant, managing paperwork is an important responsibility. This involves ensuring that all necessary documents, such as permits and release forms, are in order and properly filed. It also involves keeping track of any expenses incurred during the production and ensuring that all invoices and receipts are properly recorded.
Assisting with wrap-up tasks is another key responsibility of a Set PA. This includes coordinating the breakdown of the set, ensuring that all equipment is properly stored, and assisting with any other tasks necessary to wrap up the production. This is an important step in the production process, as it ensures that everything is properly accounted for and that the production team is able to move on to the next project without any loose ends.
What should you know as a set PA?
You should have a clear understanding of the various roles and responsibilities of a set PA, including assisting the production team, managing equipment and supplies, and performing administrative tasks.
Set etiquette: This one is probably the most important since you don’t want to step on any toes and be aware of set etiquette and conduct yourself professionally at all times. This includes being respectful of others’ time and space, following safety protocols, and being attentive to instructions from the director and other crew members, and knowing and using correct terms.
Communication skills: Effective communication is essential in any production environment. You should be comfortable communicating with different people, including cast and crew members, vendors, and location owners. You don’t want to be that person that’s not paying attention to what’s happening on set. That’s one of the quickest ways to get fired.
Problem-solving abilities: Set production can be unpredictable, and unexpected challenges may arise. Being able to think on your feet and find creative solutions to problems is a valuable skill for a set PA.
Time management: You must be able to manage your time effectively and prioritize tasks to ensure that production runs smoothly and on schedule.
Equipment and supplies: You should have a basic understanding of the equipment and supplies used in production and be able to assist with arranging and maintaining them.
Safety protocols: You should be familiar with safety protocols and procedures to ensure a safe working environment for everyone on set.
What does a typical day look like for a set PA?: All Production Assistant Responsibilities
More likely than not, you are going to wake up early and arrive early on set. You’re going to arrive groggy and still feel groggy even during the safety meeting, then you are going to get your assignment whether it be walkies, guiding first team, or even standing on a corner three blocks from set. Regardless of where you land, everyone’s role is going to be different so here’s an idea of standard duties you will be performing:
- Arrive on set early to ensure everything is ready for the day’s shoot.
- Assist with equipment and supplies, including cameras, lighting, and sound equipment.
- Help organize and manage the set, making sure that everything is in its place and ready to go.
- Run errands for the production team, including picking up and dropping off equipment, supplies, or props.
- Assist with managing talent, including escorting them to and from their trailers and helping with wardrobe changes.
- Assist with crowd control and security.
- Help with catering and meal services for the cast and crew.
- Manage paperwork and administrative tasks, including taking notes and organizing paperwork for the production team.
- Assist with clean-up and breakdown after the day’s shoot is complete.
Tips for Becoming a Successful Set Production Assistant
As a Set Production Assistant, there are several extra steps you can take to be successful in the role. Building a network within the industry is crucial as it can open up opportunities for growth and advancement. Continuously learning about the industry and staying up-to-date with new technology and trends is also important for success.
Being proactive and taking initiative is another essential quality of a successful Set PA. This means anticipating the needs of the production team and being one step ahead of any potential issues. Staying organized and managing time effectively is also crucial to keeping the production running smoothly.
Strong communication skills are essential to the success of any production. This means not only being able to communicate effectively with the production team, but also with the cast and crew. Being reliable and following through on commitments is also important for building trust within the production team.
Finally, a successful Set PA must be able to stay calm under pressure. This is a fast-paced and high-pressure job, and being able to handle stress in a professional manner is crucial to success. By following these extra steps, you will be successful as a Set Production Assistant and open up opportunities for growth within the industry.
Challenges of Being a Set Production Assistant
Working as a Set Production Assistant can be challenging due to the nature of the job. One of the biggest challenges is the long hours and irregular schedules. Production schedules can vary greatly, and a Set PA may be required to work early mornings, late nights, or even overnight shifts. This can make it difficult to maintain a work-life balance and can be particularly challenging for those with family.
In addition to the long hours, Set Production Assistant work can be physically demanding. Set PAs may be required to lift heavy equipment or stand for extended periods of time. They may also need to work outdoors in various weather conditions. As a result, physical stamina and good health are important for success position.
Finally, Set PAs work in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment. Productions are often on tight schedules and any delays can have significant financial consequences. This means that Set PAs need to be able to work quickly and efficiently while still maintaining a high level of accuracy and attention to detail. The ability to stay calm under pressure and problem-solve quickly is crucial for success as a Set Production Assistant.
Further steps you can take to be a successful in working on a production
Build a network of contacts in the film production industry. It can be difficult, but can also be incredibly helpful in finding job opportunities and advancing your career. Attend industry events, join online groups, and connect with others in the field.
You have to CONSTANTLY be hungry to learn. Continuously learning and improving your skills can help you stand out as a set PA. Take courses in related fields, such as event planning or videography, to expand your knowledge base.
Taking an in-person course is what we recommend because it gives you hands on experience. If you’re interested in learning more about how to be an ideal set PA, check out PAbootcamp.com. This is the original PA Bootcamp recommended by industry professionals and TAUGHT by industry professionals.
Finding Jobs in Film Production: (Job Boards)
If you are looking to find a job in film production as a set PA (Production Assistant), there are several ways to go about it. One option is to search for job openings online, either on industry-specific job boards or on general job search websites. Make sure you have a strong resume and cover letter that highlights your relevant skills and experience. Finally, be prepared to work hard and start at the bottom – a job as a set PA is an entry-level position in the film industry, but it can lead to other opportunities and advancement in the future.
Being a successful set production assistant requires a combination of skills, knowledge, and personal attributes. By building a strong network, continuously learning, being proactive, staying organized, developing strong communication skills, being reliable, and staying calm under pressure, you can become someone people will want to hire and position yourself for success in the industry. The role of a set production assistant is crucial to the success of any production, and by taking these extra steps, you can demonstrate your value as an indispensable member of the production team. With dedication and hard work, you can enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career as a set production assistant in the film, television, or other production industries.