Production Assistants. Every show has them. Every show needs them. Not all are created equal. Whether you are a struggling PA, just out of film school or brand new to the industry, here are the things that make me ADORE a good Production Assistant.
10 Rules to Rocking It as a Production Assistant
1. Be organized and diligent. No matter the task, be organized about it. Parking signs? Make a list and map. Seven errands? Plan a route that is headed in one direction. Setting up crafty? Make it look presentable, be sure to ice chilled foods and rotate as necessary. The reason you exist is so other people don’t have to think about the small things. Trust me, if you make them think about the small things, like how long that creamer has been sitting out – you are NOT winning them over.
2. Keep every piece of paper (and email). Everyone knows receipts are important. But sometimes the other “thing” is too. You never know when the Coordinator or AD is going to ask if you might have that order form, etc. If you do, you might be the hero. And, always know who holds the key to the shred bin 😉.
3. Proactive is productive. A great Production Assistant on the team for Seaside did the following. We were filming in a gorgeous beach house location for three weeks. Because this was a tiny budget indie, I nailed down a delicious beer sponsor as an extra perk for the cast and crew. Every day she found a good time to ice the kegs, wash the frozen beer mugs, refreeze them and fill them full of frothy beer. They were ready and waiting after wrap – at sunset on the coast, so pretty much perfection. Another great PA on a short film I produced realized a parking catastrophe was about to happen when a parking location fell through and we had several vehicles parked on the street instead. What did she do? Create a list of license plates, collect keys and grab a card to rotate parking ALL DAY LONG without being asked. She won major points in my book!
4. Prioritize, together. This is something learned and sensed. Spend enough time in a Production Office or on Set and you’ll start to pick up on the things that are urgent. It’s also important to prioritize with the team. The more efficient and priority driven the team is, the easier it becomes to put out fires as they happen, cause come on, this is filmmaking, we know they will happen. When you prioritize well, you can respond to fires faster and better. 🔥🔥🔥 If you have a question about what you should be working on – ask!
5. Walk with a purpose. Even if it is taking out the trash, doing tasks with purpose and moving with urgency never goes unnoticed. For me personally, nothing rubs me the wrong way more than a person has a lackadaisical attitude or nonchalant way of doing things. Keep the pace of those around you.
6. Ask the right questions. Ask away! I love PAs who ask questions. To me, it shows they are actually thinking about what they are being asked, strategizing and trying to do it the right way.
7. Stink doesn’t sell. Seriously. Film sets and production offices tend to be close quarters. Take a shower, wear deodorant and don’t wear offensive scents or cologne. Boys, leave the AX body spray in the high school locker room.
8. Laziness is not becoming. Please, for the love of God and Country get your ass up and do IT. Whatever IT is. Is everyone unloading a truck? Don’t pick up the lightest single item you can find and then mosey it to its new home. Being lazy is a quick way to make enemies of your fellow PAs and your boss.
9. Team players are the MVP. Jump up and pitch in. Recognize when someone needs help. Believe me, no one wants to move that giant-ass piece of furniture, but it needs to be done. Every opportunity to make someone’s job easier should be taken.
10. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIGURE IT OUT. Don’t just guess at the right answer if it is in your power not to. Asked to make coffee and you’ve never done it before? (yes, this is not uncommon, although seriously unfortunate 😋☕ ) Ask anyone. Ask another PA. Ask Google. Ask the coffee label. There’s always a way to get the info you need to do the job the best you can, the first time.
There Will be Mistakes
Let us not forget – everyone makes mistakes. It’s unavoidable. One of the things I look for is someone who is able to own their mistakes, learn from them, and do better next time. Making mistakes is the way we learn and grow. The bottom line is this – lying or hiding is never the right answer. NEVER.
If you can manage to follow most of the above and not cover up your own mistakes, you probably have a good chance at making a great Production Assistant, and then, later, whatever else it is you dream of. Cheers to all those out there doing this most un-glamorous work. There may not be many who openly appreciate you, but secretly, we all do. We all need coffee.