SetPA

5 Do’s and Don’ts When You Are a Production Assistant

Production_AssistantEver wondered what a movie or film set is like? The first word that comes to mind is chaos; beautiful chaos. I’ve worked on sets as small as 12 people, and some larger than 50 people; that’s a lot to manage. Everyone has a specific job and schedule to keep up with, and sometimes they can use a helping hand. That’s where the PA (Production Assistant) comes in. I’ve worked on several productions as a PA, and from all the tasks I’ve had to complete, I think it’s safe to say the PA adds a drop of oil to the gears that make the production run smoother – or you’re the stick that gets caught in the gear and messes everything up.

The PA is there to assist, and the last thing you want to be is a burden. Here is a list of Do’s and Don’t’s that I have learned though my own experiences:


Don’t’s:

Don’t be in the shot. Ever.
As a PA, you have to be aware of where the camera is pointed at ALL times. Not unless you’re 110% sure the scene has been cut and you’re specifically asked to be in the room, don’t be near the scene, ever. If you’re in the way, people will notice. Even if you cross the camera when it is not rolling, be sure to say “crossing” as a courtesy to the camera dept.

Don’t be caught without food or drink.
Especially if you’re working on a large set. The “krafty table” could be a long walk away, having to make food runs is a waste of energy and time. Even if it means wearing a fanny pack (we all have to make sacrifices) always carry food or drink with you.

Don’t be lazy.
Working a set for an extended period of time can be tough. You can lose interest fast, and get the feeling that nobody notices the work you do, but in reality, they do. Don’t get lazy, lazy people won’t get asked back. Want the truth about being a PA? You’re 100% replaceable. Sadly, you’re the boy among men; the bottom of the chain. Unless you’re the directors favorite child, friend, or relative (still not a guarantee) you’re replaceable.

Don’t decline a task.
Similar to not being lazy, always accept a task no matter how ridiculous it is. Sometimes you will get asked to do ridiculous things, such as find a missing pen, or hold an umbrella over a food cart. Just remember to always put forward your BEST effort at all times, it will be noticed.

Don’t be flashy or try to get ‘discovered’.
Yes, this happens more than you’d think. Some people have this high ambition that they belong in Hollywood when they don’t. Don’t try to impress anyone, because 9/10 times, you’re annoying someone. You’re here to do your job, and that doesn’t include getting “discovered”.


Do’s:

Bring a backpack.
Forget the fanny pack mentioned earlier, bring a backpack with room for carrying water bottles, granola bars or whatever the Kraft services can offer. The backpack has a million uses, so use it.

Know the equipment.
If you really are a good PA, you’ll know what a C47 is, and how to set up ‘video village’ properly. If you’re unclear about something or how it works, ask. Don’t waste 5 minutes standing around attempting to figure it out when it takes 1 minute for someone to explain it to you.

Know the crew/talent.
It’s the night before the first day, what do you do? Besides a good night’s sleep, memorize the call sheet. Know names and who’s in each department. “Hey Greg, want a water?” sounds better than “Sir, would you like water?”

Bring extra call sheets.
Someone will forget their call sheet for the next location, guaranteed. Keep  at least 3 extra call sheets in that backpack mentioned before. Not only will you look great, people will look to you for resources on set, which is exactly what you’re there for.

Ask if anyone needs help.
Most film sets are chaos, which means there’s always something for you to do. If you can’t find anyone that needs help, you’re doing something wrong. Put yourself out there; make sure the crew knows you’re the PA.


If you follow this advice, you’ll be an awesome and diligent PA; which every set needs.

Be sure to tell me about your interesting PA stories in the comments below!

© 2014, Austin Braun. All rights reserved.




  • Stephen Kampff

    Off topic to a degree, but it goes to show how people treat PAs:

    When you’re a PA, you would try to wear all black like a stage hand (of course, depends on the setting). I’ve done this and everybody I know has done this.

    On day though, I was on a set and only there on my own accord to help out. I wasn’t technically working, I wasn’t being paid and I hadn’t been asked to go but the company was more than happy to have an extra pair of hands around.
    So, instead of all black, I wore a suit jacket, shirt and jeans. The director, floor manager, producers etc. would wear this.

    Cut a long story short, the floor manager asked me what I thought about the set, and he actually took my advice! There was a (stupid) issue with Moirre on set and since I’m an editor as well I gave useful advice when asked.
    Nobody asked me for food that day, nobody asked me to clean up and everybody respected me – simply because I wasn’t in all black and I didn’t have a radio on me. It has led to me being respected by the same people even when I’m working as a PA now, since they recognise me as a younger version of themselves (at their level socially, but not yet old enough/experienced enough to get out of PA gigs from time to time).

  • Sully

    Austin. Shut the *** up and stop blogging. You’re supposed to be on set in a vest locking up.

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