Production assistant jobs are a great way to break into the film and entertainment industry, but they can be hard to find and even harder to book. Afterall, they’re highly sought after entry-level jobs. We’re going to help you find a movie PA job, teach you how to put together a production assistant resume, and answer the most important question of all: “How much does a PA make?” With this knowledge, you can find the best film production jobs and be able to negotiate a fair production assistant salary.
Production Assistant Resume
Create your film crew resume
You need to find PA jobs, like now. And you don't have a big contact book full of production coordinators champing at the bit to hire you, right?
So, how do you become a production assistant?
The first thing you need to do is build a film production assistant resume and quite possibly a very brief and straightforward cover letter. Film resumes, in general, are a little weird. Most people work a couple jobs for years and stretch every duty into a line item on their resume. In film production, your jobs and job titles are the bulk of the resume. For a complete guide to the major roles in film production, check out our ultimate guide to film crew positions.
Anyone hiring a PA knows what the job is, so writing, "tactful disposal of refuse in appropriately labeled receptacles" is not going to get you employed.
Here's a simple example of a production assistant resume below. I've used pink to make it stand out, but you should probably avoid using ostentatious font colors.
Production Assistant Resume Example:
What this shows is the title of the production, the production company, and the year you worked on the production. If Ridley Scott directed something you've worked on, go ahead and include that. The director can also be added to help people find the production on IMDB. If you've worked as a 2nd AD on student projects, add that as well.
I would suggest placing the most professional work at the top, and I would omit anything that is too personal and skews creative. You may have directed a short film, but that won't help you get hired as a PA unless you've sent the actual short film to a producer. Your PA resume will be stronger if you show you're able to be a team player, so a 'PA' credit is far more valuable than a 'Director' credit.
What if you've got nothing to put on a production assistant resume other than the summer you worked at the GAP?
Well… put that on there for sure, because there is probably more crossover than you might think, but this is where you can write a very brief and straightforward cover letter that expresses your desire to PA.
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Production Assistant Cover Letter/Email Example:
“Hello, my name is BILL, and I’m very interested in becoming a production assistant. My experience is limited, but I’m actively building a film and entertainment career. I would even be willing to shadow for a few days to bring myself up to speed. My availability is open, I own a personal vehicle with a clean driving record, and I’m eager to learn.
Thank you for your consideration. I’m excited to find an opportunity to work on a professional set and hope you have a lovely day.”
If they bring you on to shadow or work a free day, you can put that on your production assistant resume later. You will learn enough from just those few days on set to be able to reach out confidently.
If you show up, help out the crew, and are a pleasure to work with, they will likely invite you back for a paid PA job. But, if you’re super annoying, talk about your favorite movies and how you want to become a director and get in the way… no PA job for you.
How To Become A Production Assistant
Find production assistant jobs on entertainment career websites
Entertainment-based job listing sites have PA jobs. They have student PA jobs, professional PA jobs, all kinds of work — both paid and unpaid.
Here are some of the best websites for finding film crew:
Where to Find PA Jobs
ProductionBeast is a one-stop shop to post jobs and discover vetted video professionals on a user-friendly and polished interface.
Employers can post jobs for free, message and hire the best industry pros, shortlist people and manage their database of contacts.
Sites like ProductionBeast make it simple for producer’s to find and hire production assistants (as well as other positions).
Sites like ProductionBeast provide production assistant resumes, so you can upload and build your resume right on their platform.
FIND PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOBS ONLINE
EntertainmentCareers is less for set work, and more for office PAs and post-production PAs looking for long term gigs. You normally need experience and a nice PA resume to snag one of these jobs, so if this is your first production job, this may not be the right platform.
They have entry level positions, so it’s not like you can’t find something on there, but ProductionBeast will have more jobs available from day to day rather than from month to month.
HOW TO FIND PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOBS
The Anonymous Production Assistant
The Anonymous Production Assistant is a nice website with tons of tips, production job postings of all kinds, and some fun articles.
You can find a lot of helpful material on this website, so give it a look when you get a chance, and maybe you’ll find a nice PA job as well.
HOW TO WORK ON A FILM SET
Mandy Job Networks
Mandy is a production job board similar to ProductionBeast. They have a lot of paid and unpaid jobs so you can break into the film industry or get yourself a nice long term production assistant job to keep the lights on.
There are also production alert boards and some Facebook groups (depending on where you live) that can be really helpful for finding PA work, especially for jobs that need them fast.
You can cold-email and cold-call production offices, but you have to be brief, succinct, professional, and okay with hearing various reasons why someone might not hire you as a PA, so take it in stride.
Film Production Assistant Jobs
Film production jobs on college boards
Students film programs are always looking for PAs for their productions, and while the vast majority of these will be unpaid, you’ll actually find a few nice little paid jobs from students doing their thesis films.
For example, USC’s Cinematic job board has listings where you can find production assistant jobs fast, but USC is just one of many film schools in the country, so don’t stop with a single school.
FIND PA FILM JOBS
PA Jobs by word-of-mouth
A lot of work comes from word of mouth, because PA jobs come up, need to be filled quickly, and you need to be able to trust the crew. The quickest way is to hit up a production assistant who you trust, and ask if they have anyone they trust, and they will suggest… who?
Hopefully, you! You want to be that trustworthy PA they can call upon, and once you’ve shown you’re a good PA, they’ll call on you again, and again, until suddenly you’re calling your trustworthy PA buddies.
PAs often hire other PAs, or the producer asks ‘if they know anyone trustworthy’ to come on and PA for the week. Word of mouth is the best way to get work in production, and you don’t even need a PA resume.
How do you find people who can suggest you for PA jobs? Find PA jobs on student films, PA jobs on low budget projects, and do some free jobs here and there, just meet some crew people in your area.
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT SALARY
How much does a PA make?
So, you’ve gotten your first PA gig, or you’re ready to go out and get some paid production assistant jobs, but you’re not sure about the money part.
How much does a PA make?
The vast majority of production assistant work is based on individual jobs that can run anywhere from a few days to a few months, so while there very rarely is an annual salary, there are still standard rates.
More often than not, the hiring producer will let you know the salary rate over the phone, in person, or in an email. They will say:
“So for this job the rate is ____ for the day. Sound good?”
Here is the average production assistant salary:
AVErage PRODUCTION ASSISTANT SALARY
HOW MUCH DOES A PA MAKE?
- Feature Films | $200 - $250/day (12 hours)
- Television Show | $200 - $250/day (12 hours)
- Commercials | $200 - $250/day (12 hours)
- Indie Films | $150 - $200/day (12 hours)
- Music Videos | $150 - $200/day (12 hours)
You’ll notice how the rates are for 12 hour days, and that’s the standard length of a professional film shoo. Your rate is based around 8 hours at ‘standard time’, with 4 hours at ‘time and a half’.
This means you make 100% of your rate for 8 hours, 150% for 4 hours, and then 200% of the rate for any time after that — called ‘double time’.
The standard production assistant salary breaks down like this:
Your rate per hour will come in slightly above $14, but for this example we're going to use round numbers to illustrate the point.
- $14 per hour
- $14 x 8 hours = $112
- $21 x 4 hours = $84
So when you add them together:
- 12 hours = $196 (Rate $200)
If the production goes into actual overtime (after 12 hours), your rate will bump to double time, meaning it will be $28 per hour ($14 x 2).
Each hour after that will add $28 until you’ve reached 16 hours on set.
- 12 Hours = $200
- 13 hours = $228
- 14 hours = $256
- 15 hours = $284
- 16 hours = $312
These are standard federal employment rules. Now, if you’ve accepted a deal where you’re paid a flat rate, the amount of time on set can go as long as needed, and you will be paid $200 regardless if you wrap 7 hours into the shoot, or stayed for 16 hours.
There are still rules for:
- How long you can be kept on set
- When you need to break for meals
- The amount of time between the end of Day 1 and the beginning of Day 2
Read over you agreement papers, always get your deal in writing, always have a copy or photograph, and try to get something in an email.
Did You Know?
Kathleen Kennedy began her career as a production assistant and worked for filmmakers John Milius and Steven Spielberg. She went on to become one of the most successful Producers in Hollywood and now is the President of Lucasfilm!
Now, let’s say it’s your first PA job, maybe on an indie film with an 'okay' budget and it might go straight to DVD or end up in some festivals. The producer asks you if $150 for 12 hours is an acceptable salary.
What do you do here?
It’s your first movie PA job, and it’s not like this is a Pepsi commercial or Marvel movie where money is no object, so you shouldn’t feel offended. You should feel okay to accept the rate.
Production is tricky, but a movie PA job should be 'one-of-many' rather than a single job that pays for everything, so take the money, get the experience, and then make connections and get a better paying production assistant job the next time and continue to build on that momentum.
Once you’ve done ten or so film production assistant jobs, you’ll have learned the ropes mostly from personal experience, and you will be confident to ask for better rates, or be able to find high-budget jobs.
HOW MUCH DO PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS MAKE
What to do if you’re working for free?
If you’ve signed on to be a PA for a student film or some ultra-low budget production you’ve probably done this for one of two reasons:
- You personally know the filmmakers
- You’re trying to get some experience
If you know the filmmakers, that probably means you’ll have a pretty reasonable relationship with everyone and the shoot will be relatively relaxed and you will be treated with respect by your friends.
When you’re trying to get some experience, then you’ll probably have to use your better judgement from time to time. In our other post on Production Assistant Job Descriptions and Duties, we said you shouldn’t pay for supply runs (or anything) out of your own pocket?
This goes double for unpaid work.
When you’re an unpaid PA, you’re still at work, and you should still treat it as such, but you shouldn’t jeopardize yourself in any way when doing someone a favor… because ultimately that’s what you’re doing.
Now, if you accept the position, don’t come in with unreasonable expectations or delusions of grandeur, but you should guard yourself from low budget productions and filmmakers who may try to take advantage of your kindness and eagerness to learn. You still have the same responsibilities like safety, and that includes your safety as well.
Production assistant handbook
If you're looking to book your first movie PA job, or you’ve had a few production assistant jobs but left wondering why you haven’t been able to get steady production work. This post takes you through everything a production assistant needs to know during their time on set, in the office, and in the editing suite, including a downloadable handbook with everything the job requires.