This article will breakdown how to find production assistant jobs. Production Assistants, also known as PA’s or Runners are the first rung on the ladder of film set work.
This is the first most junior entry-level job role, and as such finding work within this role is especially competitive. Find out where to find jobs, a production assistant job description and Q&A’s from people struggling to find PA work below.
Where can I find film production assistant jobs? If you have been struggling to find work within this job role have you tried all of these techniques listed below -
10 Ways To Find Production Assistant Jobs -
Film Job Sites
Any Social Media
Large Company Websites
Small Company Websites
Film Crew Dictionaries
Trainee & Internships
Without a doubt, the easiest way to find work is to be recommended for a job from someone you know. This could be a family member, an old school friend or maybe a past college. If you know someone already working in the industry ask if they could get you onto an upcoming production.
Film Job Sites
There are sites out there that focus on advertising only freelance film set work. You can find a list of worldwide film job sites here. Try to find 5 or more websites that routinely advertise work in your location. Regular job sites such as Indeed.com will still advertise film jobs but more likely full-time positions as opposed to film set work.
This wasn’t even an option 10 years ago, Facebook groups are a great way to meet local filmmakers and find work. You can find a list of worldwide filmmaker Facebook groups here. Have a look to see what groups are active in your location. Some of these groups straight up advertise paid work, others are good for chatting to other filmmakers about the local industry.
Any Social Media
Facebook groups are likely the best way to find work right now, but that doesn’t mean you can't use other social media. Any social media Twitter, Instagram, YouTube could potentially introduce you to like-minded others and in turn, create work. You should be using at least one social media platform to promote yourself on, and this can lead to online contacts and work. For example, you can use the twitter search bar to look for film work in your area.
Sometimes you need to step outside of your home and meet people face to face. You can find a list of film networking events here. Networking events can be found organised on Facebook groups, film job sites, film festivals or film commissions. Simply turn up, ideally with a business card and introduce yourself to as many people as possible.
Some people have a good response from face to face networking others don’t get much value, either way all you can do is try and see if it works out for you.
Film commissions, otherwise known as film councils are government-run organisations. You can search for your local regional/state film commission with a simple google search. For example, Georgia film council USA, or Bristol film council UK.
If you're based in the UK we have the major film council Creative England which oversees all regions. Some of these government film websites advertise work, others have a crew dictionary that you can place your details onto.
Large Company Websites
You will need to research what companies are based in your location and bookmark their career pages, keeping a lookout regularly for job postings. Keep in mind that these jobs will not be film crew, production type roles but more likely full-time admin and business positions.
Small Company Websites
There are thousands of media, film and commercial type companies that you could work for. Often people only think of the major companies, and as such these positions are very competitive. Have a google search for smaller companies local to you (you can do this with google maps) and check out their career pages.
Smaller companies don’t always have a career page, sometimes they use social media to put up job postings instead. If you can't find any job openings but you are interested in working for the company, simply send them a polite introduction email and attach a CV/Resume.
Film Crew Dictionaries
These are dictionaries of people that producers use to hire a film crew on short notice. You will find these on film commission websites, on film job sites and stand-alone sites. You will need to research into what crew dictionaries local producers use. For example, I have got paid work before by being listed on Mandy.com and Creative England.
Trainee and Internships
Trainee and internship placements are a great way to get paid professional on the job experience. Of course, these are competitive and might not be available in your location but it's worth a look. You might find these on film commission websites or advised by large companies.
For example, in the UK we have Screen Skills Trainee Finder and BBC apprenticeships. You can find a list of film and TV apprenticeships here. Film unions might also be able to point you in the right direction on how to get professional training.
A Production Assistant Job Description
The film production assistant job role, also known as production runner is the first entry-level job role in the film industry. It requires you to do simple non-skilled tasks to help the production flow as easily as possible.
You might be in the production office carrying out simple administrative tasks (such as photocopying and answering the phone) or on set. If on set your boss could be any head of department but most likely the producer or 1st assistant director.
Type of tasks a production assistant does
Make tea and coffee
Keep the set clean and tidy
Blocking off roads during filming
Driving actors to set
Delivering items to set (parcels, hard drives)
Even though these jobs seem simple, producers still prefer to hire people with experience and as such you might need to work some low-no budget jobs before acquiring paid work.
Skills that would make a PA stand out
Having a driving license
Having a car and driving license
Being Walkie talkie trained
Previous PA work credits
First aid trained
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Q&A Trouble Shooting Guide:
I’m applying to job ads but getting no response?
This could be for several reasons. Firstly are you applying to enough local jobs, expect to get 1 out of every 10 jobs you apply for. If you are applying to a lot of jobs but getting no response then you must not be applying properly. To apply for PA work online you will need a CV/Resume and a cover letter. A simple film set CV can contain previous work experience but it needs to say clearly on the top ‘Production Assistant’ (Or Runner if you are based in the UK). For your cover letter write a simple short email letting people know that you are available during the dates of the production.
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I can’t seem to find work in my location?
Any major city will have a film industry and film work. If you live in a small city or town you might have difficulty finding enough paid work. As such you might need to consider moving to make the most out of your career. Moving location or country is not always possible, so keep in mind that although there may not be a lot of major films shooting in your area. You might still be able to find work for smaller companies, by freelancing or by travelling between jobs. In the UK this is easier to do since we live in a small country but if you live in America you might need to choose a state.
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How do I find consistent PA Work?
Production assistant work is almost always freelance, which means short contracts anywhere from a few days to 6 months. This job role is also only going to pay you minimum wage and so making this work consistent and full-time can be difficult. Often people only work as a PA/Runner for a year or two before moving to another role. To find consistent work you will need to consistently apply for jobs. One way to do this is to bookmark job websites and spend one day a week searching and applying for work. Another is to keep in touch with everyone you work with, even on small gigs, and ask ever so often if they can get you on to an upcoming production.
How do I move up rank from the PA job role?
The production assistant job role if the lowest rank on set and sooner or later you will want to move up. Perhaps you already have an idea of what department you would like to work within. E.g the art department, you can begin to find work experience and apply to art department assistant jobs. You will only be able to move up rank if you know what job role you want to pursue in film. When you have some idea on what job you want and how to get there you can begin to change your CV job title and apply for work within that other role. Applying for work in another job role will also be easier when you have some initial PA work on your CV.
How much does a PA get paid?
You won’t get paid more than minimum wage for the PA job role when first starting. This will depend on your own countries wage rules that change every year. In the UK 2020, this means anywhere between £6.15 - £8.21 per hour depending on your age. Because of the low wages, PA roles are often only worked within for a year or so.
Do I have to be a PA to work in film?
No, it is not a compulsory job role. However, it can be good to work within this role as it gives you the chance to see how a professional set operates without having a ton of responsibility. You might have worked on a student film set or made short films but professional sets are a lot different. If you already have an idea of what department and role you want to work within you can begin by looking for apprenticeships specifically within that department. For example - camera trainee.
If you have any more questions about the production assistant job role, let me know in the comments section below -