Skip to main content

5 Essential Production Assistant Skills

By January 16, 2023March 8th, 2024Certificate Programs, Digital Filmmaking

Working behind the scenes in film as a production assistant (PA) is exciting! You get to be involved in bringing a story to life and eventually onto the big screen. However, it takes important skills to succeed in the production assistant role.

What is a Production Assistant?

An on-set production assistant works behind the scenes to assist various film departments in moving production forward.

“We have a joke that PA really stands for ‘practically anything,” shared Romone Reeves, a graduate of Villa’s digital filmmaking program. “Production assistants deal with everything and everyone, whether that’s collecting food orders or standing in for talent fittings or marks.”

As a production assistant, you will work directly with the film’s department heads and even some film equipment. Growing your skills as an on-set production assistant is a great way to become familiar with the industry and get your foot in the door to bigger productions or larger roles on set.

If you’re interested in getting into the film industry, the on-set production assistant certification course at Villa may be perfect for you!

Production Assistant Skills Tool Kit

Knowing some general production assistant skills prepares you for success on set.

1. Social Skills

Being an on-set production assistant is a very social role. Because PAs don’t work for a specific department, they need to have good relationships with every department on set. But being a good PA is about much more than just having a bubbly or extroverted personality.

“The production assistant is the most social role on set, so it’s important to know how to talk to people,” Romone said. “It’s also just as important to know when to be social and know when you need to be quiet. You need to know how to toe the line between being everywhere and nowhere, seen and unseen. Those skills can make an impact… with departments on set, which can lead to other opportunities.”

2. Networking

You always hear about “connections” that help graduates get a foot in the door in many fields. Well, that sentiment isn’t false. The more connections you make, the more possibilities you may have after becoming certified. The film industry is tough—plain and simple. It’s hard getting that dream position working behind the scenes or that job assisting the perfect producer. However, when you work hard in your certification courses and make those connections, dream positions may become easier to snag.

“PAs actually have a lot of opportunities to grow their careers. Getting your foot in the door starts with positive interactions,” Romone shared. “Let’s say you helped the costume department out as a stand-in or picked up costumes for them. Doing a good job and building the rapport could lead them to ask you to work with them on other productions.”

If you’re taking the on-set production assistant certification course, create a professional relationship with the instructors. Talk to them, ask them questions, and do all you can to grow your knowledge. Practice improving your communication skills; good communication is essential to networking in the field.

3. Industry Knowledge

Most new students don’t just walk into a class without any idea of what will be taught. The same goes for on-set production assistant students. Before attending your first class, you want some understanding of the field and skills that will help you succeed as a production assistant.

Watch films and read accounts from PAs to familiarize yourself with the role. Follow professionals on social media, learn about their film teams, and try to get an understanding of their work ethic and dynamics. The same goes for local productions in your area. Buffalo has an impressive theater district and community! Attend productions, dissect shows, and even ask about becoming involved. Get to know Buffalo FilmWorks, the space where Villa’s certification courses are held.

4. Creativity

Thinking outside of the box is not only a beneficial skill in the film industry; creativity is valuable no matter what career path you follow! However, when focusing on solid skills for production assistants, creativity is essential. It’s key to being able to help solve unexpected problems during production with new, fresh ideas.

5. Go-Getter Attitude

Having a positive attitude and willingness to help is huge for morale on set. Despite having a behind-the-scenes role, production assistants can help keep spirits high on set.

“Being able to help someone out and do it with a smile goes a long way. PAs have to always be ready to do something on set and have a good attitude while doing it,” Romone added.

How to Become a Production Assistant

If you ask Romone what it takes to become a PA, the answer is “good shoes, a license, and a smile.” Having interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic, and creative problem-solving certainly help too. But what you really can launch your PA career is experience, which you can get by taking Villa’s on-set production assistant certification program. Get in touch with us to learn more about this opportunity.