Become a Film Production Assistant: Step-by-Step Career Guide
Research the requirements to become a film production assistant. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in film production.
Do I Want to Be a Film Production Assistant (PA)?
Film production assistants perform numerous jobs on set, and while some PAs fetch coffee or make copies of scripts, others may assist with camera shots or move film equipment. The number of production assistants on a set will depend on the budget of the film as will the amount of money they earn. Typically, production assistants make a below-average salary, and they tend to work very long or irregular hours. Few make a long-term career out of this position. However, putting in time as a PA on film and television sets can prepare individuals to take on positions with more responsibility or creative influence.
A production assistant position is an entry-level job, and individuals who want to work as directors, editors or camera operators may begin their careers as a PA after graduating with an associate or bachelor's degree in film and video production or a related field. Having experience working in student films may be beneficial to gaining employment, as will networking and meeting with industry professionals. The table below includes information about how to become a film production assistant.
|Degree Level||No degree required, but most jobs require on-the-job experience or at least an associate's degree*|
|Degree Field||Industry-related fields, including journalism and communications** as well as media production*|
|Experience||Knowledge of media production and techniques*|
|Key Skills||Good communication skills, especially listening and speaking; good skills in time management, decision-making and problem-solving*|
Sources: *O*NET OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Step: 1: Earn a College Degree
A production assistant position may be a stepping stone to a higher level career involving film. Individuals who are looking for production assistant work may be recent college graduates who want to become producers, work behind the camera or edit footage. In order to obtain those jobs, individuals may need to complete an associate or bachelor's degree program in film and video production or a related area of study, such as journalism or communications. In order to prepare for various film-related careers, students will take courses involving lighting and sound, screenwriting, cinematography, camera operation, directing, editing and producing.
Step 2: Participate in Student Films
In addition to teaching students the basics of film production, some degree programs in film and video production offer students the opportunity to create a student film. Students will get to write their own short script, audition actors and take on directing and editing responsibilities. Other students will work as crew members and have the chance to help with the production process. This is good preparation for production assistant work and will give students experience on sets.
- Think about what type of career you want. While working on a student film, students should begin developing an idea of what aspects of film production they enjoy. Whether it's camera operation, lighting or sound, they may get an opportunity to focus their skills in these areas on numerous projects. Once a student is on set as a production assistant, he or she can put his or her knowledge to use and assist the producers and other film professionals during filming.
Step 3: Find Employment Opportunities
After graduating, individuals will need to pursue employment opportunities as film production assistants. Some degree programs may offer internships with production companies that can help recent graduates begin their career. Attending networking events can also help someone land a production assistant job.
- Look into production assistant programs. Some programs are available that will help individuals obtain film production assistant positions. If someone doesn't have a degree in film and video production, but wants to work as a production assistant, this could be an option. Enroll in a program that will teach about the film industry and prepare graduates to work with film professionals.
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