Last week, I had my first production assistant job with NBC’s Peacock Productions, where I got to work on an episode of the show Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall. It was amazing to be on a professional set with a professional crew, and I definitely learned a lot. I was really nervous at first and not sure if I was doing a good job, but following our shoot, I heard nothing but good things from my producers and crew. Although many believe that the job of a production assistant isn’t really that important, I can say that being a really good, or really bad, PA can make or break your reputation in the entertainment industry. So, here are some tips for making the best of your first PA job and leaving a stellar impression.
1. Yes, you’re only getting coffee, but be the best coffee fetcher in the world.
Getting coffee seems to be the lowest of lows when it comes to working on a production set. Of course, all of us want to be behind the camera or writing the script, but the very best screen writers and directors most likely started out getting coffee, too. Take this job seriously. Coffee is a staple item during the day at shoots, and crews are expecting it to be available to them at all times. Be sure to write down how everyone likes their coffees, and make sure it’s available. Don’t wait for the crew to ask you to get coffee, leave early to grab that first pick-me-up for the crew, or run out to get it when you see that the caffeine-high is dwindling.
2. Carry a notebook/tablet to take notes
When you’re responsible for getting lunch for a crew of 10 people, it’s so important that you have something to write everything down on. Although carrying this stuff around may seem annoying, most of the crew members I worked with had very specific orders with substitutions and special directions, and writing everything down kept everything organized. You’re not impressing anyone with your memorization skills when you come back with the wrong order.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification
Most times on production sets, there are 10 things going on at once, and producers are usually running around like chickens with their heads cut off. In this scenario, it’s common for PAs to get a ton of directions once, and I’ll be honest, most of it doesn’t make sense the first time. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification. Although you may feel like you’re being annoying or stupid, you aren’t. Your goal is to complete the task given to you successfully. You don’t want to be in the middle of completing a task and not know what you’re doing!
Overall, a successful production assistant pays attention to detail, is super professional and is the first person on set and the last person to leave. I wish all of you aspiring to be in production good luck with your first PA jobs. I hope these small tips help make a memorable and beneficial experience for you. I promise you, it really makes a difference!
-Kayla Skipper is a graduate student studying television, radio and film