Learn About Being a Production Assistant

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

Related video: Career Paths: Film Jobs for Introverts

In this video, hear a screenwriter, storyboard artist and video editor describe their daily work and the skills needed to be great at their job.

What does a production assistant do?

A production assistant works on television, movie or theater sets to support the producer or director. They get the cast, crew and set ready for each day’s shoot. They help clearly communicate instructions from the director to the cast and crew. Other job responsibilities include:

  • Preparing and delivering daily call sheets that describe the scenes being filmed and the actors and items needed

  • Making sure actors get their makeup and costumes

  • Announcing when each shoot starts and ends

  • Identifying issues that occur during filming and communicating those to the director or producer

  • Running errands and gathering supplies

Average salary

A production assistant is usually an entry-level job that does not require a certain degree or significant experience, although that can provide more advanced or otherwise specialized opportunities.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $13.36 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $26.65 per hour.

Production assistant requirements

Obtaining a position as a production assistant may involve certain requirements depending on the level of jobs for which you’re applying, including:

Education, training and certifications

While not usually required, some production assistants have a bachelor’s degree in film, communication, media or a related field. Getting these degrees can give production assistants a strong foundation in skills such as set design, screenwriting, directing, audio engineering, film production and more. 

Production assistants who want to eventually become producers or directors will benefit from a degree when starting their careers. However, those who want to work in the film industry but have not received a college degree often get jobs as production assistants to gain real-life experience. 

Production assistants working in the theater might either get a theater degree or take acting, playwriting, directing, set design or other classes before applying for a job.

Individuals can take seminars and film industry orientation courses to prepare themselves for production assistant jobs. Training in film editing and other software programs might also improve your job chances.

Production assistants often need to have a driver’s license to run errands and travel between sets and other shooting locations.

Skills

Production assistants typically need the following skills to succeed on set and advance in their industry:

Communication skills

Production assistants are often responsible for interpreting instructions from producers, directors and other professionals on set. They must be able to actively listen to ensure they understand their tasks and responsibilities and can facilitate communication between parties.

Teamwork

Production assistants have to work well with a variety of people, including crew members, actors, makeup artists, costume designers, producers and other industry professionals. They also practice taking initiative and finding solutions to problems to ensure the production remains efficient.

Leadership skills

While a production assistant is not a leadership role, these individuals often oversee others on set and behind the scenes. Production assistants must be able to give direction well. Others often depend on production assistants to complete their tasks before they can do their own, which makes reliability an important leadership skill to practice.

Time-management skills

Production assistants must complete a wide range of daily tasks, so organizational, multitasking and time-management skills are essential for keeping productions on schedule. They often help others keep track of time, such as ensuring talent arrives to set on time.

Production assistant work environment

Production assistants working on television and movies typically live in or near a major city with filmmaking communities. When a project is in process, most production assistants work on the location of that film set. They might travel frequently and be away for weeks at a time.

Production assistants might work long days and nights and variable hours. During filming, they might be expected to work on scenes day or night. On television shows, production assistants may have time off during the editing and airing process before filming begins again. Those who work predominantly on films may find new employment with another film soon after completing their current work.

How to become a production assistant

To secure employment as a production assistant, you should find opportunities that allow you to build a foundation of media production processes and earn hands-on experience. Here are common steps to becoming a production assistant:

1. Get a film degree

While not required, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in film, acting, writing, communications and similar fields can give you an advantage when applying for production assistant jobs.

2. Sign up for training

Industry organizations and online programs offer seminars and film courses to help you learn about film production. They typically last a few weeks and can provide you with knowledge in areas such as editing, sound engineering, screenwriting and more.

3. Complete an internship

Gain experience by applying for a paid or unpaid internship with a production company. An internship can help you build your resume, lead to networking opportunities and might even result in a job offer to be a production assistant.

4. Search for employment

Apply for production assistant jobs at small production companies until you gain enough experience to qualify for a larger organization. You might need to move to a major city that does a lot of film production to get a job.

As you increase your skills and knowledge, you might be able to advance to higher-level production positions.

Production assistant job description example

Our film company is looking for a highly motivated Production Assistant to support the producer and crew on a variety of TV show and movie sets. The Production Assistant will be responsible for preparing sets, distributing daily call sheets, helping behind-the-scenes staff, and communicating between actors, crew and production team. Candidates should understand basic film terminology, be able to multitask with ease and be a positive team player. Prior production assistant experience or enrollment in production courses is a plus.

Related careers

  • Film and video editor

  • Assistant director

  • Writer

  • Multimedia artist

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