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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. View article »

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Film Production Assistants (PAs)

Film production assistants perform numerous jobs on set including making copies of scripts, running errands, assist with camera shots and move film equipment, among other things. The number of production assistants on a set and the amount of money they earn depends on the budget of the film.

Production assistants typically make a below-average salary and work very long and 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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; on-the-job experience, associate's, or bachelor's degree typical
Experience Knowledge of media production and techniques
Key Skills Good communication (especially listening and speaking), time management, decision-making, and problem-solving skills
Salary $35,174 (2016 median for production assistants)

Sources: O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com.

Most film production assistant jobs require on-the-job experience or at least an associate's degree. Knowledge of media production and techniques is needed.

Good listening, speaking, time management, decision-making and problem-solving skills are needed for this career. According to 2016 data from Payscale.com, production assistants earn a median wage of $35,174.

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  • Cinematography and Film Production
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Become a Film Production Assistant

Step: 1: Earn a College Degree

A production assistant position is usually a stepping-stone to a higher level career in the film industry. Individuals seeking production assistant work may be recent college graduates who want to become producers, work behind the camera or edit footage. Individuals with associate's or bachelor's degrees in film and video production, or a related area of study, have a competitive advantage when applying for this highly sought after position. To prepare for various film-related careers, students will need coursework 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 television production offer students the opportunity to create a student film. Students write their own short script, audition actors and take on directing and editing responsibilities when creating these projects. 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.

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 may utilize those specific skills and gain additional experience.

Step 3: Find Employment Opportunities

After graduating, individuals will typically be qualified for entry-level positions such as production assistant. Some degree programs may offer internships with production companies that can help recent graduates begin their career. Attending networking events may also provide employment opportunities.

Step 4: Attend Seminars and Training Events

Some organizations offer training programs and seminars for those either already working as production assistants or those competing for production assistant positions. These programs are especially helpful for those who don't already have a degree in a film-related field. Those who have already obtained a PA position can use these programs to gain additional experience for career advancement. Those competing for PA jobs might gain a competitive edge and acquire additional experience by attending these events and seminars.

Film production assistants might have an associate's or bachelor's degree in film production, though several years' experience in the field might be a substitute.

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