Similar Titles

Production Runner, Assistant Director (AD) Trainee, Office Production Assistant, Set Dresser Assistant, Camera Assistant/Trainee, Grip/Electrician Trainee

Job Description

If you’ve ever seen the credits of a film or television program, you probably noticed there are hundreds of people involved. From screenwriters and Production Assistants to cinematographers, production designers, and makeup artists, it takes a community of creative professionals working together to bring a movie, show, commercial, or music video to fruition.

Among the key behind-the-scenes players are the Production Assistants, or PAs, who help ensure all operations run as smoothly as possible. As “jacks of all trades,” they’re involved in the whole production lifecycle, including pre- and post-production phases, helping departments with tasks ranging from scheduling and equipment setup to running errands, delivering scripts – and enabling effective communication among the cast and crew.

Essentially, Production Assistants are the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry, whose hard work and dedication are crucial in turning creative visions into reality!

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working in dynamic creative environments and helping cast and crew stay in synch
  • Gaining valuable hands-on experience in the entertainment industry
  • Opportunities to work closely with industry professionals and build a network
  • Contributing to the creation of media content seen by potentially millions
2024 Employment
2034 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Production Assistants may work long and irregular hours, including nights and weekends, depending on the production schedule. Work environments include studios as well as outdoor set locations. They typically work on a per-project basis, so once a production ends, they may need to look for additional opportunities. However, some are steadily employed with studios, networks, or production companies.
  • Typical Duties

Duties can vary considerably, based on the project, number of other PAs, and experience. Below are just a few of the possibilities!

  • Pre-Production
  1. Assist with securing permits and locations for shoots
  2. Coordinate cast and crew schedules
  3. Perform administrative tasks such as filing paperwork or managing databases
  4. Ensure props and set pieces are accounted for and placed correctly
  • Beginning of Production
  1. Assist with setting up and breaking down equipment
  2. Help set up craft services (food and beverage stations) and do coffee runs
  3. Distribute call sheets, scripts, and other materials
  4. Transport crew members and talent to and from locations
  5. Handle talent check-ins and manage their schedules
  • During Production
  1. Support various departments, including camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, and props teams, as assigned
  2. Run errands and take care of minor logistical tasks
  3. Assist with on-set crowd control and security
  4. Monitor sets for potential issues. Report or resolve them promptly
  5. Facilitate communication between the cast and crew members
  6. Be mindful of production hierarchies and protocols (such as relaying messages to high-profile talent through an assistant director)
  7. Assist during rehearsals, including marking actors’ positions
  8. Helping day players and background extras understand their tasks
  • Ongoing Tasks
  1. Ensure that the set is safe and organized
  2. Maintain professionalism and strict confidentiality
  3. Help to foster a positive, productive working environment
  4. Handle petty cash and manage receipts for on-set expenses
  5. Coordinate with the transportation department for equipment and vehicle needs
  • End of Production
  1. Prepare and distribute daily production reports
  2. Assist with clean-up actions
  3. Ensure all props and set pieces are accounted for 
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Active listening
  • Attention to detail
  • Budget-conscious
  • Calm under pressure
  • Collaborative
  • Communication skills
  • Confidence
  • Decisiveness
  • Detail-oriented
  • Flexibility
  • Multitasking
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • Persuasiveness
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Reliability
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Technical Skills

  • Basic understanding of film and video production processes and terminology
  • Familiarity with production equipment
  • Proficient use of handheld radios and, in some cases, lavalier (i.e. lapel ) mics
  • Proficiency with scheduling software and admin tools  
  • Knowledge of safety protocols on set 
  • Ability to perform minor technical troubleshooting  
  • Basic administrative skills  
  • Familiarity with sound and lighting technologies 
  • General understanding of the roles and responsibilities of crew members
Different Types of Organizations
  • Advertising and PR firms
  • Motion picture studios and independent film companies
  • Music video, commercial, and event production companies
  • Performing arts industries
  • Television studios, including news organizations
Expectations and Sacrifices

Many job descriptions are specific about the duties expected for that position. But when it comes to Production Assistants, flexibility is key. They must be ready to tackle a huge range of tasks, without necessarily being an expert at them. And because they’re always on the move, they must quickly master the use of radios (i.e., “walkie-talkies”) and the affiliated lingo.

Film production is extremely expensive, with every minute on set costing potentially tens of thousands of dollars. That’s why the role demands attention to detail and the ability to thrive under pressure. PAs often put in long hours with potentially unpredictable schedules. To avoid burnout, they’ve got to practice self-care, such as eating right, staying hydrated, and resting between productions. Some are full-time employees who enjoy a bit of job security. But most work on a per-project basis, relying on connections and word-of-mouth to maintain consistent employment.

The job offers valuable industry experience and networking opportunities that can lead to further career advancement for those with ambition. But sometimes PAs deal with stressed-out actors or crew members, which requires the ability to remain calm and professional. That doesn’t mean tolerating abuse, though. As valuable team members, PAs deserve the same respect as anyone else on set – and are usually appreciated for their efforts! 

Current Trends

The entertainment industry is rapidly evolving, impacting the roles of many trade professionals. PAs are not immune to these changes. For example, they must keep up with new software programs used for scheduling or new protocols for maintaining the confidentiality of scripts. Remote and virtual production trends also present new opportunities and challenges for PAs. PAs may be involved in implementing and maintaining these sustainable practices on set.

Additionally, the rise of streaming platforms has shifted the landscape, creating a demand for more diverse and high-quality content. PAs find themselves navigating the complexities of multi-platform releases and managing tighter production schedules to meet viewer expectations.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Production Assistants often enjoyed working on school projects, organizing events, or participating in theater and AV clubs. Growing up, they likely had a keen interest in movies and TV, and how things work behind the scenes. 

Education and Training Needed
  • Production Assistants need at least a high school diploma or GED. A college degree isn’t necessary but taking some classes related to film and media studies can be advantageous in a competitive job market
  1. Film schools such as New York Film Academy offer short programs as well as full degree programs (see our list of Resources > Film Schools)
  • Practical experience is extremely important for this role! Almost any entry-level position in production can be highly valuable
  • Ad hoc programs such as PA Bootcamp can bolster your credentials and prepare you for the challenges of the job
  • Courses in communications, conflict resolution, safety, and project management can also be helpful
Things to look for in an University
  • PAs don’t need a college degree, but if you opt to pursue one – or any other type of training program – consider the following:
  1. Costs of tuition and any discount or scholarship options.
  2. Whether federal aid will help cover costs or not.
  3. Whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. Ideally, you’ll want as much hands-on practice as you can get!
  4. Program faculty awards and accomplishments (such as what films they’ve worked on).
  5. Graduate job placement stats and details about the program’s alumni network.
  6. The program’s facilities, equipment, and software for students to train on. 
Things to do in High School and College
  • In high school, volunteer for activities where you can learn to work effectively as a team and manage projects
  • Learn about the behind-the-scenes of TV shows and filmmaking by watching videos, reading articles, or helping with local productions and media events
  1. Get some real-world experience before deciding if this is a career you want to pursue. The idea of working in the entertainment industry may sound glamorous, but the reality can be very different! Note, that many PAs use the job to get their foot in the door and then go to work in specific departments such as production design or wardrobe
  • Consider taking courses in film and media, and joining local AV (audiovisual) clubs or indie film projects
  • Get to know the ins and outs of every major department involved in filming TV shows, ads, documentaries, etc.
  • Build a portfolio of projects you’ve participated in, to showcase your skills
  • Network with industry professionals and seek mentorship opportunities
  • Stay updated on industry trends and technologies. Learn the terminology used on sets
  • Ask a working Production Assistant if they’d do an informational interview with you
  • Apply for film internships and attend film festivals or film school open events
  • Join professional organizations to learn about trends and grow your network 
Typical Roadmap
Production Assistant Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • It’s not easy to break into the entertainment industry, even to get an entry-level job
  • Many Production Assistants land their roles through word of mouth or referrals from others in the industry. So let your network know you are looking for jobs!
  • If you attend a training or degree program, talk to the program manager or advisor for help
  • Visit your film school or college’s career center for help with resumes, mock interviews, and job searches
  • Rack up as much related experience as you can before applying. Also, learn the terminology used on sets and get practice using walkie-talkie radios
  • Move to where the jobs are! Per BLS, the states with the highest employment for producers and directors are California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The highest concentration of jobs is listed in Washington D.C., New York, California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Georgia is also known as a leading designation for filmmaking!
  • Hop on Quora and ask job advice questions to PAs and other industry professionals
  • Check out film job sites and forums as well as job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, and Glassdoor
  • Ask your professors, supervisors, and peers if they’ll serve as personal references
  • Review Production Assistant resume templates to get ideas for formatting, phrasing, and keywords. Common keywords may include:
  1. Adaptability
  2. Communication
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Production Support
  5. Scheduling
  6. Script Management
  7. Tech-Savvy
  8. Time Management
  9. Virtual Production
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Be resilient and maintain your professionalism at all times. Build your reputation as a Production Assistant that actors and crew enjoy working with
  • Always show up on time, well-prepared for the day’s tasks, and ready to get to work
  • Stay in shape and take care of yourself so you can have the endurance needed for long hours on set
  • Constantly listen to and learn from experienced cast and crew members, including more senior Production Assistants
  • Demonstrate a willingness to assume more responsibility and tackle increasingly complex tasks
  • When problems arise, stay calm and offer feasible solutions. 
  • Productions are extremely expensive and any small delays can add up to huge costs
  1. For a simplified example: a 2-hour film with a $200 million budget has a total cost of ~$1.67 million per minute of finished film
  2. Costs during actual production alone can range from $50,000 to $250,000 per minute, counting cast and crew salaries, equipment and set rentals, logistics, security, special effects, etc.
  • Knock out additional education and training to improve your technical and creative skills
  • Keep growing your professional network. Attend film festivals, local events, conferences, and workshops
  • Join professional organizations and try to win recognition that’ll look great on your resume!
Recommended Tools/Resources

Film Schools



  • Getting it Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide, by Joshua A. Friedman
  • Gofers: On the Front Lines of Film and Television, by Daniel Scarpati
  • How to Survive On Set: The Set Production Assistant’s Guidebook, by Jessica Dean Rose
  • The Complete Film Production Handbook, by Eve Light Honthaner
  • The Production Assistant Passport, by Alvin Williams
  • The Production Assistant’s Pocket Handbook, by Caleb Clark
  • Walkie Check, Good Check: The Complete Guide To Being A Production Assistant In The Television & Film Industry, by Jennifer Jedon Hatcher and Monique Shaw
Plan B

Production Assistants juggle a ton of tasks and responsibilities but don’t always get the pay or job security they want. Still, it’s an engaging profession with unique rewards – and a great stepping stone to other roles in the film and media industry.

For those interested in additional creative career paths, consider our list below!

  • A&R Executive
  • Actor    
  • Author
  • Camera Operator    
  • Choreographer    
  • Director
  • Event Coordinator
  • Film and Video Editor
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Media Planner
  • Photographer
  • Producer
  • Scriptwriter
  • Sound Technician
  • Special Effects Artist and Animator    
  • Talent Agent
  • Talent Manager


Online Courses and Tools