What You Should Never Do as an On-Set Production Assistant

What does the job entail, and how do you be an all-star PA?

Venturing into the film industry can be stressful and intimidating. One of the best ways to get your foot in the door is working on sets as a PA, AKA a production assistant.

But like any on-set job, it comes with expectations and rules, some of which you might have to learn quickly and on the fly on your first day.

But we'd like to help you be prepared for your first day on set as a PA with the following tips!

What a PA Actually Does

A production assistant typically works on television, film, or even theater sets to assist in the overall production and process. Your duties can range from picking up and setting up crafty, helping with crowd control, handling production paperwork, or communicating directions from higher-ups to the rest of the crew.

Every set you work on will be different, but it's important to be open and ready for any tasks that are asked of you. Although a PA is technically a lower- or entry-level job on sets, it's still one of the most integral and important jobs to keep the production running smoothly and on time.

A recent Tiktok from goodforyouproductions highlights some important tips to stay afloat on your first PA job and we're breaking them down! There's also a link to the original Tiktok below. 

@goodforyouproductions

what else should you avoid doing on set? #tipsforyou #filmtiktok #filmtok #productionassistant #setlife #setpa #filmproduction #womeninfilm #fyp

♬ Chill out lofi hip hop(912904) - osuga satoshi

Tip #1: Actively do Nothing

So, you just got to set, and you're super pumped about your first day. You want to be useful so you go run to all of your department heads and ask them what you can do. Wrong! 

Though this might instinctually feel like the right thing to do, it can actually create more work and stress for those that you're nagging. Don't make people manage you.

Instead, what you want to do is something called "actively doing nothing." This could be restocking water bottles, cleaning a table, picking up garbage, etc. The goal is to stay productive and ready for when something is asked of you. This will leave a great first impression on your colleagues. 

Tip #2: Don't Hover

Film sets are environments where there are tons of people under an enormous amount of stress, constantly moving and working toward the next step of the production. As a PA, you might feel the need to get involved or try to get knowledge of what's going on, but it's important to keep your distance from areas you aren't needed. 

One of the most important places to stay out of the way is in doorways. You don't want to be blocking the pathways for the cast/crew. This also can cause a safety hazard. 

Although we've touched on tips that keep you mostly distanced, it's still important to check in now and again. But, make it quick and brief! 

Tip #3: BTS Is Not Your Job

We all know the euphoric and surreal feeling of being on set, and sometimes we want to capture that moment in pictures/videos.

But it's so important for a PA to never take out their phone and begin taking any behind-the-scenes media. For one, unless you've asked permission, there may be rules against it. Two, it makes it look as though you are not actively ready to jump into your next task.

Overall, it just comes off as very unprofessional, and you should leave BTS to the BTS person. 

Takeaways

Look, being a production assistant isn't the most glamorous job in the world. You don't always get treated the best, and it can be very overwhelming.

But it's also the best way to network and learn how a set actually works. I have met so many amazing friends and now colleagues that have continued to be a part of my film career to this day. So if there's one last piece of advice we could give you—

Keep your head up, stay busy, network, and have fun! We are making film and TV magic, after all...     

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1 Comment

Listen to what's going on and be aware of what's happening. That will give you a good idea of what needs to be done. Also never touch lighting or camera gear unless specifically asked to do so. It expensive and breakable and there are already people there to do that. It doesn't matter if you're familiar with it or not.

September 13, 2021 at 2:55PM

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