How Can I Become a Production Assistant?

Research what it takes to become a production assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and internships to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Production Assistant?

Production assistants work with many members of a film or television crew in the creation of a movie or television show. They take care of the many administrative tasks behind the scenes of movie or television productions. They might help producers develop the content, arrange for necessary personnel or equipment to work for the production, or deliver the finished product to editors. In television productions, production assistants research and book guests and prepare guests for their appearances. They also perform organizational tasks such as printing out scripts, taking notes, fact checking, and maintaining a production's library of material. For information about education, skills, and job growth, take a look at the following table.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree or vocational school recommended
Education Field of Study Film
Broadcasting
Communications
Key Skills Flexibility, patience, clear communication skills
Job Growth for Related Occupations (2014-2024)* 11% (film and video editors), 7% (broadcast and sound engineering technicians), 2% (art directors)
Median Salary (2017)** $36,282

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as a Production Assistant?

Film and television production assistants, or PAs, perform a wide variety of tasks on the set. You'll often work long and irregular hours and assist a number of different people, including talent, directors and assistant directors, lighting directors, producers and camera operators. Examples of the tasks you may be called on to do include errands such as deliveries, maintaining quiet on the set, logging 'takes', assisting with sets, performing research and conducting phone work.

What Skills and Education Do I Need?

You aren't required to have a specific degree or certification to work as a PA. Many PAs, however, do have bachelor's degrees in communication, film, television production or a related field. Some others complete vocational school programs in these areas, including short-term 'boot camps' giving intensive, hands-on training in the industry. In addition to the knowledge and skills these educational programs provide, they also allow an opportunity to make contacts in the field.

Whether or not you attend an educational program, you'll need to develop broad knowledge of the roles and tasks on a television or film set. You'll also need to demonstrate excellent communication skills, patience, punctuality and flexibility. Technical aptitude is important as well, as you may be assisting with lighting one day, cameras the next and audio equipment at another time.

A driver's license will be required for some positions. Additionally, any experience, skills or education you can demonstrate with cameras, computers and even carpentry may be an asset, as these skills are often needed on set.

Where Can I Work?

An internship or volunteer position can lead to a first paid job, as well as provide on-the-job training. Some state film bureaus provide career information or offer internship programs, and local television stations and cable systems often take on interns either through schools or through their own community programs. PAs are employed by television stations, film bureaus and production studios, advertising agencies and production companies. Often you'll need to work on a freelance or on-call basis, unless you're in a large media market.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in becoming a production assistant might also want to consider some related careers which require a similar level of education. For example, editors may work for publication or production companies by revising content prior to release. They generally have a related bachelor's degree to gain work. A second alternative is a multimedia artist. They use computer software to create animations for various purposes, ranging from movies to video games. They generally need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field to start working.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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