Production assistant

Last updated

A production assistant, also known as a PA, is a member of the film crew and is a job title used in filmmaking and television for a person responsible for various aspects of a production. The job of a PA can vary greatly depending on the budget and specific requirements of a production as well as whether the production is unionized.


Production assistants on films are sometimes attached to individual actors or filmmakers.


In the United States, production assistants in union and non-union workplaces face various tasks on the movie set of a filmmaking project. Most union PAs are asked to complete tasks with a certain focus. Union PAs only are asked to do a few tasks that may be related to one another and they normally receive tasks concentrated on the actual making of the movie. For example, union production assistants may be asked to evaluate a movie's daily rushes for a film director or help the film editor decipher ways to alter a scene. Those who are non-union production assistants are usually asked to complete a variety of tasks by a department head on a film set. The tasks of a non-union PA can match those of a union PA. These tasks asked to be completed by either a union or non-union PA are requirements that are related to the movie's production, such as setting up props on set and negotiating with the director on how a scene should be shot. However, non-union PAs commonly may be asked to complete a wider array of tasks since these tasks may not necessarily be associated with the film. For example, non-union PAs may be asked to input data in a computer, wash dishes, sort letters in the mail room, and buy coffee for department heads. Basic duties of non-union PAs can be classified as running errands for any person in the production department. [1]

Most PAs work with many people since their job requires them to complete generic obligations. Therefore, PAs must be proficient with their communication skills. Traditionally, PAs communicate with department heads by walkie-talkies on and around the films set. However, PAs can be asked by any member of the film crew to complete a job via interpersonal communication (talking to each other in person) or across technological devices such as a cell phone. Aspiring PAs must also expect to be attentive on set since they may be asked to complete any job for anyone at any time through any medium of communication. Former Production Assistant Caleb Clark recommends that people who want to be PAs must avoid sitting down, remaining alert at all times. Clark elucidates that PAs must be vigilant because they could be asked for help by any other person at any time of the day. In addition to their improving their skills pertaining to communication and readiness, PAs must adapt to their film set environment. Many movie sets that production assistants work on may vary in terms of luxuries. Since movie sets are given different amounts of amenities, not all of them may have the properties and resources that a production assistant will need to complete certain assignments. Therefore, PAs should be able to familiarize themselves with the movie set in order to increase their success rate. [2] PAs also must be aware that they may need to bring their own form of transportation on the set. Due to the little resources some sets may have, PAs should consider bringing their own cars or trucks to the set so that more of their long-distance tasks can be completed. [3] The people that normally ask PAs for help are usually superior to them within the film crew. Those that ask a production assistant for help typically include people at the top of the film crew's structure, such as the production coordinator, screenwriter, producer, and especially the film's director. [2]

Television and feature film

In unionized television and feature film, production assistants are usually divided into different categories: "Set PA", "Truck PA", "Locations PA", "Office PA", or "Set Runner" and "Extra PA or Daily" - Variations exist depending on a show's structure or region of the United States or Canada.

Office PAs usually spend most hours in the respective show's production office handling such tasks as phones, deliveries, script copies, lunch pick-ups, and related tasks in coordination with the production manager and production coordinator.

Set PAs work on the physical set of the production, whether on location or on a sound stage. They report to the assistant director (AD) department and key set PA if one is so designated. Duties include echoing (calling out) "rolls" and "cuts", locking up (making sure nothing interferes with a take), wrangling talent (actors) and background, facilitating communication between departments, distributing paperwork and radios, and related tasks as mandated by the ADs. Set PAs usually work 12- to 16-hour days with the possibility at the end of a shoot to work more than 20 hours a single day and are regularly the "first to arrive and the last to leave".


Commercial Set PAs share the same responsibilities as their Television and Feature Film counterparts (see "Set PAs" above), but also inherit additional responsibilities traditionally encompassed by other departments in the television and feature film structure. These responsibilities range from providing both critical and mundane production support equipment such as dollies, cranes, director's chairs and pop-up tents to standing in for talent and even filling in for other departments who might be shortstaffed. It is not atypical for a commercial set PA to be seen handling trash one minute, and the next minute assisting the electricians or grips with a set-up. A select group of commercial set PAs are given the responsibility of driving and managing the production and camera cube trucks. This responsibility is often given to the more senior PAs because it provides several extra days of pay.

Set PAs in commercials are more commonly hired by the production coordinator and/or production manager as opposed to an AD or key set PA. However, many commercial ADs will.

Standard rate for a commercial PA in the Los Angeles area is a flat rate of $200 per day. On February 1, 2008, benefits for qualifying freelance PAs became available through the Producer's Health Benefits Plan. [4]

Union vs. non-union

In North America, no union currently exists for production assistants, but the affiliation of a production with a union (or unions) can affect the job responsibilities of a PA. Less unionized film productions have more positions that can be serviced by non-union personnel; consequently, PAs on such productions may take on a greater variety of non-traditional duties. Examples of this would be a PA setting a light bounce (grip department) or driving a passenger van (teamster/transportation department). PAs on a union production generally have less variety in their job duties whereas a non-union PA can be asked to perform any kind of task by a department head. [1]

In British Columbia, which has the third largest film and television production sector in North America, PAs are represented by the Director's Guild of Canada. Production assistants represented by the DGC work in the Locations Department and work both on and off set with duties including locking up the set, traffic control, echoing rolls, firewatching, and liaising with the public and location owners. The Key-PA is in charge of all the PAs and is the 1st ADs' right-hand man when it comes to do with the on set aspects regarding a location. From this position DGC PA's can move up through the Locations Department or the Assistant Direction (AD) Department as either a Training Locations Manager (TAL) or a Training Assistant Director (TAD), respectively. Office production assistants work in the production office as an Office PA and they work for the Production Manager, Production Coordinator, Assistant Production Coordinator, and / or other office staff in maintaining the work-flow in the office. From this position, Office PAs can work their way up through the office by becoming an Assistant Production Coordinator (APOC), which is unionized under IATSE 891. Pay for PAs according to the DGC Collective Agreement in BC is $283.93 (non-key) to $290.28 (key) for a 15-hour day. An 8-hour day is approximately $117.00. [5]

In Quebec, the Set PA is part of what is called the "Unit Department" or "Régie". Usually, there is a Unit Manager, Assistant Unit Manager, Set PA, Truck PA, Set Runner, and the "dailies" as needed for street blocking and extra set ups. In other states and provinces these duties are often taken care of by the AD Department, Locations or Transport. The Unit Manager and his/her team are the ones who deal with the daily logistics of shooting on location and/or in studio.[ citation needed ]

There are two film unions in Quebec: IATSE 514 and AQTIS: L’Alliance québécoise des techniciens de l’image et du son. In both cases the PA's are unionized.


Production assistants are also present in fields other than film and television, as publication businesses also have a need for PAs to regulate the production process of making professional written pieces such as articles, books, records or any other kind of production involving the preparation of written words.

Educational and publishing companies

The tasks taken on by a PA will depend on the type of educational and/or publishing company that employs them. If the assistant works at a textbook or publishing company, they may oversee the art and composition of written works. P.A.s at educational companies may also oversee work in proofreading departments, as well as for freelance copy editors and authors. When looking at documents and other materials uploaded by the author the production assistant has to make sure everything falls within the requirements of the company they work for. This includes items such as the format, correct file types, positioning, captions and obtaining copyright forms from authors.

If the assistant is part of a publications department for a scientific or professional organization, they have daily jobs that which involve keeping records that are important for their company. They may take care of editing, sending or reading information in databases or manuscripts. Production assistants may also team up with Information Technology workers to help streamline the tasks of the publications departments since it involves keeping track of large amounts of data and information. Working with an I.T. department to create a specific sorting program can improve the speed at which documents are proofed and organized. [6]

Entertainment companies

In entertainment companies, production assignments may have to do technical work such as typesetting, printing and binding. They must also be good communicators and be good with deadlines. When working for magazines or newspapers, production assistants may need to keep track of things like individual teams and the cost of producing a physical product. Clients and stakeholders may be involved in a magazine, so P.A.'s have to be professional. There may also be journalists who are on deadlines or need extensions. There are also creative processes that a production assistant can be involved with. They can work with book designers or magazines to ensure a client's specifications are followed properly and may then have to send a copy of the draft for approval to clients. This can last until the final piece has been completed. When printing a piece of work, production assistants may deal with is how files are supposed to be submitted to printers, along with publication dates, and any printing or copy issues. Even after a final piece is complete, the PA may need to ask a client their thoughts on final product. [7]

Related Research Articles

Film crew

A film crew is a group of people, hired by a production company, for the purpose of producing a film or motion picture. The crew is distinguished from the cast, as the cast are understood to be the actors who appear in front of the camera or provide voices for characters in the film. The crew is also separate from the producers, as the producers are the ones who own a portion of either the film studio or the film's intellectual property rights. A film crew is divided into different departments, each of which specializes in a specific aspect of the production. Film crew positions have evolved over the years, spurred by technological change, but many traditional jobs date from the early 20th century and are common across jurisdictions and filmmaking cultures.

Stage management Theatre or event coordination and organization

Stage management is a broad field that is generally defined as the practice of organization and coordination of an event or theatrical production. Stage management may encompass a variety of activities including the overseeing of the rehearsal process and coordinating communications among various production teams and personnel. Stage management requires a general understanding of all aspects of production and offers organisational support to ensure the process runs smoothly and efficiently.

A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, editing; and arranging financing.

"Below-the-line" is a term derived from the top sheet of a film budget for motion pictures, television programs, industrial films, independent films, student films and documentaries as well as commercials. The "line" in "below-the-line" refers to the separation of production costs between script and story writers, producers, directors, actors, and casting and the rest of the crew, or production team.

Key grip

In North American filmmaking a key grip is a senior role for an experienced professional necessary on every set. Their responsibilities are extensive and range from supervising grip crews, assessing what equipment is necessary for each shooting location, coordinating the transportation of this equipment and its set up, arranging the general movement and positioning of the camera and collaborating with the director of photography. The key grip relies on the best boy as their second in command to aid in coordinating the grip crew.

Set construction

Set construction is the process undertaken by a construction manager to build full-scale scenery, as specified by a production designer or art director working in collaboration with the director of a production to create a set for a theatrical, film, or television production. The set designer produces a scale model, scale drawings, paint elevations, and research about props, textures, and so on. Scale drawings typically include a groundplan, elevation, and section of the complete set, as well as more detailed drawings of individual scenic elements which, in theatrical productions, may be static, flown, or built onto scenery wagons. Models and paint elevations are frequently hand-produced, though in recent years, many Production Designers and most commercial theatres have begun producing scale drawings with the aid of computer drafting programs such as AutoCAD or Vectorworks.

A physician assistant or physician associate (PA) is a type of mid-level health care provider. They are not to be confused with a physician. PAs may diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and may serve as a principal healthcare provider. PAs are required in nearly all states to have a direct agreement with a physician for supervision and collaboration. PAs practice in several medical settings and specialties, and may contribute to improving healthcare access.

Art director is the title for a variety of similar job functions in theater, advertising, marketing, publishing, fashion, film and television, the Internet, and video games.

The role of an assistant director on a film includes tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking cast and crew, and maintaining order on the set. They also have to take care of the health and safety of the crew. The role of an assistant to the director is often confused with assistant director but the responsibilities are entirely different. The assistant to the director manages all of the directors in development, pre-production, while on set, through post-production and is often involved in both personal management as well as creative aspects of the production process.

Filmmaking is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commission, through screenwriting, casting, shooting, sound recording and pre-production, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a film release and an exhibition. Filmmaking takes place in many places around the world in a range of economic, social, and political contexts, and using a variety of technologies and cinematic techniques.

Casting (performing arts) Pre-production process for selecting actors, dancers, singers, or extras for roles or parts

In the performing arts industry such as theatre, film, or television, a casting is a pre-production process for selecting a certain type of actor, dancer, singer, or extra for a particular role or part in a script, screenplay, or teleplay. This process is typically utilized for a motion picture, television program, documentary, music video, play, or television advertisement, etc. This involvement in a dramatic production, advertisement, and or industrial video is intended for an audience, or studio audience.

Television crew positions are derived from those of film crew, but with several differences.

Organizating or organising is the establishment of effective authority relationships among selected work, persons and work places in order for the group to work together efficiently. Or the process of dividing work into sections and departments.

Location scouting Filmmaking and commercial photography production process

Location scouting is a vital process in the pre-production stage of filmmaking and commercial photography. Once scriptwriters, producers or directors have decided what general kind of scenery they require for the various parts of their work that is shot outside of the studio, the search for a suitable place or "location" outside the studio begins. Location scouts also look for generally spectacular or interesting locations beforehand, to have a database of locations in case of requests.

Location manager

The location manager is a member of the film crew responsible for finding and securing locations to be used, obtaining all fire, police and other governmental permits, and coordinating the logistics for the production to complete its work. They are also the public face of the production, and responsible for addressing issues that arise due to the production's impact on the community.

A production coordinator is a unionized position in stagecraft under the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and is governed in Los Angeles by Local 871.

A dialect coach is an acting coach who helps an actor design the voice and speech of a character in the context of an on-camera, stage, radio or animation voiceover production. The dialect coach often does original research on dialects and speech patterns, prepares training materials, provides instruction and works on lines with the actor. A dialect coach will give the actor feedback focusing on issues of credibility, consistency, and clarity. A dialect coach may also be employed to help comedians hone impressions of celebrities, to train non-actor public speakers in vocal character and delivery, or to help singers improve in diction and attain a balance between tone and articulation, especially when singing in a second language.

In the cinema of the United States, a unit production manager (UPM) is the Directors Guild of America–approved title for the top below-the-line staff position, responsible for the administration of a feature film or television production. Non-DGA productions might call it the production manager or production supervisor. They work closely with the line producer. Sometimes the line producer is the UPM. A senior producer may assign a UPM more than one production at a time.

A production report ("PR") is a filmmaking term for the form filled out each day of production of a movie or television show to summarize what occurred that day. There is no standard template for a production report, and each show usually has an original template, often created before production begins by one of the assistant directors ("AD"). Besides superficial differences, most forms record the same information and are simply a series of blank tables created in Excel printed double sided on a legal sized sheet of paper. The purpose of this form is to keep track of a production's progress and expenses and to help determine what salary is owed to the cast and crew. It is finally sent to studio executives and is permanently filed to serve as a legal record.

Director (business)

The term director is a title given to the senior management staff of businesses and other large organisations.


  1. 1 2 production assistant; PA. (2014). In R. W. Kroon, A/V a to z: An encyclopedic dictionary of media, entertainment and other Audiovisual terms. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
  2. 1 2 Clark, Caleb. "The Production Assistant's Pocket Handbook" (PDF). Inkslinger Press.
  3. Griesinger, Justin. "Movie Crew Job Titles". Film In Colorado. Film In Colorado.
  4. Producer's Health Benefits Plan
  5. "British Columbia Minimum Wage increase" (PDF). Director's Guild of Canada. October 21, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 24, 2012.
  6. Thomas-Medwid, Rachel S. "Lauren Foster." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 89, no. 10, Oct. 2008, pp. 1592-1593. EBSCOhost
  7. “Types of Publishing Job.” The Society of Young Publishers, The Publishers Association,