Production assistant

Production assistant

A production assistant, also known as a PA, is an entry-level 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 or not the production is unionized.

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

Television and Feature Film

In unionized television and feature film, production assistants are usually divided into two categories: "office PAs" or "set PAs". Other variations exist depending on a show's structure.

"Office PAs" 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 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 and are regularly the "first to arrive and the last to leave".

Duties can interchange, such as an "office PA" working on location if an extra hand is needed, or a "set PA" working in the office on hiatus weeks when the physical production is shut down.

Pay varies widely depending on the type of television show or film production. Standard rates in film typically range from 112-150 dollars for 12 hours plus overtime. On a television show, pay ranges from 8 dollars an hour with overtime, to flat fees of 500-650 dollars a week, including or excluding possible overtime. Benefits are conferred depending on where a PA is employed. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Touchstone Television, and NBC all offer benefits to PAs.


Commercial production assistants inherit responsibilities traditionally encompassed by other departments in the television and feature film structure. These responsibilities include providing production support equipment such as director's chairs and pop-up tents, handling trash, and driving small cube trucks -- and exist in addition to the duties typical of a television and feature film PA.

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.

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

Union vs. Non-Union

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 shows 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).In Canada, the position of both the set and office production assistant is unionized under the DGC (Director's Guild of Canada).


Efficient relaying of information is a critical job function and a radio (walkie-talkie) is heavily utilized on set to communicate between the AD staff as well as all other departments. In addition a PA might also carry an assortment of pens and markers, a multi-task tool, an aluminum clipboard box (or "tin"), aspirin, gloves, and a surveillance headset.

External links

* [ How To Get Your First PA Job]
* [ A Few Things I Learned From My First Experience As A Television Production Assistant] (A first-hand account of one PA's experiences and lessons learned on the job)
* [ The Production Assistant's Pocket Handbook] Popular how-to written by a PA for PAs. Used by professors at several film programs. Available as a PDF or handbook.

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