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On-Set Production Assistant Duties: What to Expect

By January 23, 2023April 2nd, 2024Certificate Programs, Digital Filmmaking

An on-set production assistant (PA) is the backbone of any film, TV, or commercial production. Not only must they be present to support a producer or director’s requests but they must also be readily available for several key backstage duties.

We have a joke on set that PA stands for ‘practically anything.’

Rather than having routine daily tasks, every day brings a different set of responsibilities. Understanding what jobs you may need to perform as an on-set production assistant means you’ll be more prepared and confident in the role.

What Does a Production Assistant Do?

“We have a joke on set that PA stands for ‘practically anything,’” said Villa digital filmmaking graduate Romone Reeves. “PAs deal with everything and everyone because they don’t work for a specific department. Basically, they’re there to support the crew and keep things running smoothly by taking care of the jobs you don’t typically think about when you think of a set.”

Set-Up and Breakdown Assistance

Whether a set is small or large, it takes an entire support team to place equipment, arrange set pieces, and place marks. PAs may be required to work with on-set grip and electric crews to prepare a set for filming, so having some familiarity with equipment is helpful. Once filming is complete, they may also be needed to break down the set.

Process Paperwork

Even though production assistants do have exciting on-set tasks, they may also need to handle several desk duties. This often means printing and distributing scripts and call sheets, filing paperwork, sending important documents in the mail, and emailing key crew members. Even though making copies of scripts or faxing paperwork doesn’t sound glamorous, it is essential to a successful production.

Memorize Script and Set

If you thought you’d never have to physically take part in theater as a production assistant–think again! On-set production assistants often serve as stand-ins for actors, so they must be familiar with performers’ lines and actions. The same goes for the set, whether the production is on a stage, backlot, or public place; stand-ins may need to know how to interact with a set and hit marks.

Run Errands

As the production assistant of a film, show, or commercial, you make sure everything runs smoothly which includes meeting the needs of the most important members of the crew, like producers, directors, and actors. If the producer needs a coffee, the assistant grabs one. If a costumer needs a production assistant to stand in for an actor, assist with wardrobe changes, or pick up clothing from the dry cleaners, they handle those duties as soon as possible.

Why Become an On-Set Production Assistant?

According to Romone, being a PA is hard work that does have a valuable impact on set. “If a PA does a really good job and has a great attitude, people on set will notice. There’s definitely opportunity for a PA to rise in the ranks by making a good impression with a particular department.” Department heads may advocate for a PA, allowing them to work on future productions and continue to grow their skillset and career.

Explore Villa’s Certificate Programs

Buffalo’s film scene is booming! If you’re interested in working behind the scenes for local productions, check out Villa’s certificate programs. We offer several film certificate programs, including on-set production assistant and on-set grip and electric courses.