Ask someone how they become a production assistant (and scored their first gig), and chances are, they’ll rattle off some convoluted trail of social connections that sounds a little something like this: “My cousin has a friend who dated a guy whose college roommate’s uncle worked in the costume department at Steiner Studios and he just like, I dunno *shrugs casually* managed to get me a job.”
But unfortunately, for a lot of aspiring PAs, the social network route simply isn’t an option. And in lieu of knowing someone, who knows someone, who’s willing to offer you a paid position on a silver platter, you’re going to need to find an alternative mode of entry.
If you want to work as a PA in the film and TV industry, here are five tips that will help you land your first job.
How to Get Hired as a Production Assistant
1. Industry Job Boards
Most PA gigs don’t get advertised online, but when they do, an industry job board is most likely where you’ll find them. Two big ones to keep an eye on are Entertainment Careers (free) and Staff Me Up (membership fees).
But do your research and see if there are any job boards customized to your local area. After all, the smaller the pool you have to compete against, the better your chances of scoring work!
2. Facebook Groups
If the job boards aren’t doing it for you, then it might be time to redirect your efforts towards Facebook groups. This is where countless PAs have managed to strike paid work gold.
The only thing to remember is that there’s a lot out TV and film networking groups out there—from nationwide communities like I Need a Production Assistant to the ones that only feature jobs based in New York or LA like Local Zero Heroes—so do your homework and find one that caters to your locations, genre preferences, and gender. (Yep, that’s right ladies. There’s a handful of Facebook groups designed specifically for getting more females into the biz. Find them. Use them.)
Still in school? Perfect! Funnily enough, PAing is one of the few occupations where your chances of finding work are actually better while you’re still enrolled in school. The simple reasons? Internships. The film industry loves them.
Peruse the website of any big network or studio—CBS, NBC, 21st Century Fox Studios, to name a few—and you’re bound to stumble across a bevy PA internship opportunities just crying out for you to sit down and apply for.
Disclaimer: You might not get paid a cent for these kinds of gigs, but the experience and professional connections you’ll gain will be well worth it.
4. Cold Call
We get it. The cold calling approach might sound a little scary, aggressive, or perhaps beneath you. But it has worked for a lot of PAs in the past and, with a little luck, it might work for you too.
Here’s what you gotta do:
Subscribe to Production Weekly. This is a paid pre-production database that sends daily listings of all the movies and TV shows that are about to go into production along with the production company’s contact information. Then if there’s something starting up in your area, simply give the studio a call and see if they need an extra set of hands or email them your resume flagging your interest.
Don’t hear back? Then dust yourself and try again.
5. Get Creative!
If there’s one single truth about finding work as a PA, it’s that no one gets there the same way. If the conventional routes aren’t working out for you, it’s time to get a little creative.
Here are some examples of how you can creatively land a job:
- Weasel your way onto a set as an acting extra. Once you’re there, flag your availability to return in a PA capacity later in the shoot. You never know who might take you up on the offer.
- Simply walk onto a set wearing a tool belt and begin helping out. As crazy as this sounds, we know a person who tried this once, and they were asked by the crew to return the very next day for a paid spot.
- Be willing to work for free. Sad but true, this is how a lot PAs get their start. Once you’ve built up a resume and gathered some solid professional contacts, finding paid PA work will become ten times easier.
6. Be Ready for the Next Job
Once you finally land a job PAing on a television show or feature film, you may not realize that your boss probably already has another production lined up to work on soon after the current one finishes—and they’ll need to build another crew all over again!
Believe it or not, it’s a lot easier to keep working with the same people rather than having to start from scratch. Don’t be surprised once things start to come to a close to get a tap on the shoulder asking if you’re available to work next week.
To increase your chances of being asked back, start to learn various set phrases that are essential to know for this role.
We hope these tips on how to get your first production assistant job come in handy. Landing the first (and maybe second) gig will always be the hardest, but rest assured that if you do a great job, you’re likely to crack into the film and TV industry. Once you’re known to be a reliable and helpful PA, regular work will surely follow.