It’s no secret that skilled production assistants are worth their weight in gold. Without them, most shoots simply wouldn’t happen.
It’s no surprise, then, that experienced commercial, television, and film PAs are a hot commodity. The market for Los Angeles production assistants, in particular, is notoriously competitive.
In this post, we’ll show you how to find the supply to meet your Los Angeles production assistant demand. We’ll run through the basics of what producers should look for in a good PA and break down how to find a production assistant that matches your needs.
We’ll even show you how you can leverage digital services to expand your pool of capable PAs.
To start, we’ll examine the PA’s value from a producer’s point of view.
Productions of all types and sizes depend on the humble production assistant to perform fundamental tasks. This is common knowledge in the production department.
Rather than describing production assistant jobs further, let’s take a step back and address the bigger picture. Let’s talk about the needs that PAs fulfill for producers and their teams.
The trick of how to find a production assistant who meets your needs is in understanding what your needs are in the first place. In very broad terms, production assistant jobs create a support structure that empowers the rest of the crew to focus on their own work, but what does that mean for a producer? How do we identify the specific utility of a PA within our production team?
We can start by talking about how PAs physically function on set. Minute to minute, what does a production assistant do?
The production department is largely confined to the production office during a shoot. Production coordinators are busy processing production paperwork. UPMs are occupied with budget management. Their ability to be present on or around the actual set is limited. They need someone to extend their reach.
That’s where production assistants come in.
The prime directive of all production assistant jobs is to act as the production department’s eyes, ears, and hands outside the office. Production assistants empower the rest of their department to optimize the flow of a production without being physically present for every single task.
Note, however, that a PA’s utility is also affected by the specific circumstances of each shoot. Commercial, television, and film production assistants develop expertise unique to their production types over time.
When hiring PAs, producers should consider the value of their unique expertise relative to the characteristics of the project at hand.
For example, what does a production assistant do when working around a client? An experienced commercial PA will understand both the expectations and boundaries of the situation, but a PA who primarily works feature films may not.
The point is that each production utilizes its PAs uniquely. Even if all production assistant jobs look more or less the same, the exact role that your PAs fill varies slightly from shoot to shoot. If you take the time to understand your production’s specific needs now, it will be easier to identify the kind of PA who can best meet them later on.
What is a production assistant’s best quality? The right answer will depend on personal preference and the nature of your shoot, but certain qualities tend to stand out in any situation. Below, we’ll break down eight characteristics that make a good PA.
Basic professionalism is the first marker of a solid production assistant. They’re team-oriented, punctual, and always aware that they’re on the job. They’re respectful of their coworkers, and conscientious about the quality of their work.
Listening skills are important for any crew position, but they’re critical for PAs. A good PA must be able to receive information fully, accurately, and immediately. That ability can mean a world of difference not just for the PA’s personal performance but for the efficiency of the entire production.
An attentive PA helps optimize the work of every department. An inattentive PA can slow everyone down.
While production assistants should be able to listen, they should not be robots. Productions can be chaotic, and PAs must meet that chaos with flexibility. What does a production assistant do when they run into an obstacle?
A strong PA will engage with it as a challenge, using their problem-solving skills to complete the task at hand instead of opting out.
Responsibility is a sure mark of maturity. A responsible PA will follow through on assigned tasks and communicate changes in plans or conditions.
If they make an error, a responsible PA will own it and attempt to correct it. They won’t let a small mistake quietly fester into a much larger problem. This basic level of trust allows the rest of the crew to operate efficiently and confidently.
Situational awareness is invaluable in a production assistant. The ability to understand what’s going on around them enables a PA to anticipate the needs of a production. This reduces a huge burden on the shoulders of coordinators, production managers, and assistant directors.
Situational awareness often comes with experience, but the signs of its potential emerge early on. If a production assistant is new to the production life, keep an eye out for a sense of curiosity. A person who acts with openness will inevitably develop situational awareness over time.
Commercial, television, and film production assistants must all have organizational skills. There are no exceptions.
Whether it’s setting up lunch tables or loading the production truck, a practical sense of order is a requirement for most PA tasks. It’s the difference between a job and a job well done.
Because production assistants move from area to area within a set, they’re frequently in the best position to spot and secure potential hazards. A good PA knows how small changes to an environment - moving a garbage can, putting up a sign, cleaning up a spill - can have a huge impact on set safety. They also know when to report more significant risks up the chain of command.
Nothing sets a production assistant apart from their competition like a willingness to make themselves indispensable. A strong PA is always on their feet and always at the ready.
They’ll seek out tasks and follow through once they have them. With the right PA, you won’t debate whether you should hire them because you won’t be able to imagine not hiring them.
Productions traditionally find and hire their PAs through professional networks. Someone knows someone who knows someone who knows a Los Angeles production assistant in search of a gig. You hire them. If you like working with them, you hire them next time too. Rinse and repeat.
The benefit of this approach to finding PAs is that they come through a connection. Theoretically, an individual you trust is directly or indirectly recommending this person. It feels reassuring to know that someone somewhere felt confident enough to vouch for them.
The downside is that connection doesn’t always equal merit. In the real world, recommendations for entry-level jobs aren’t necessarily made because of performance or experience. They’re made because of connection.
You have to accept a certain degree of trial and error when hiring PAs through your network. For every trustworthy referral, there will be an uncle trying to get his nephew a job.
To mitigate risks, your best bet is to seek recommendations from production crew whom you trust as professionals. You can do this by carefully reviewing your previous crew lists, one of many practices made easier with Wrapbook.
Wrapbook is a one-stop solution for payroll and production management. Instead of forcing you to use a crew list template, Wrapbook generates a crew list for each of your projects automatically. A searchable database- a powerful tool that connects crew info directly to your payroll system- replaces the static and simplistic document.
See for yourself. Check out the demo.
In recent years, the production industry has shifted more focus toward bringing opportunity to those who don’t have it. Today, digital services are changing the way shoots crew up, leveling the playing field for entry-level production work.
Organizations like ManifestWorks, Vets2Set, and Streetlights connect productions with talented professionals who are primed for opportunity. They find, recruit, and train individuals to work as PAs at the highest standards.
To illustrate, let's talk a bit more about ManifestWorks.
ManifestWorks connects individuals impacted by foster care, homelessness, and incarceration with job opportunities and long-term support systems. To prepare them for production life, ManifestWorks puts their applicants through ten weeks of intense training. Their focus is on immersive learning, using real-world experiences to teach real-world skills that are valuable on set.
The results are PAs who are both prepared and hungry. They aren’t connected, so they don’t show up late for call time with a sense of entitlement for being someone’s cousin. Instead, they show up ready to work and earn their next gig.
However, you don’t have to accept the sales pitch at face value. The proof is in the pudding, and ManifestWorks passes the taste test. Just look at these statistics:
These stats suggest that alumni of ManifestWorks aren’t just hired but rehired, over and over again on the road to building a successful career. They show that there is a clear and growing demand for their talent. ManifestWorks imbues a winning combination of instinct, experience, and strong work ethic to those willing to go through their process.
Ultimately, working with organizations like ManifestWorks is a win-win for your average production. As a businessperson, you’re receiving a high-quality PA who’s distinctly qualified to meet your production’s needs. As a human being, you’re providing a positive opportunity for someone to change not only the trajectory of their own life but the trajectory of their entire community. The process is both efficient and gratifying.
To hire a Los Angeles production assistant through ManifestWorks, all you have to do is email them about the job, providing shoot dates and whether or not the PA needs a car for the gig. You tell ManifestWorks your needs, they deliver.
A strong PA nation is an invaluable resource on any set. Now that you know how to source Los Angeles production assistants, you can turn your focus to more specialized tasks, like hiring stunt drivers or finding ways to save on payroll.
Scouting production locations? We’re breaking down 10 states with considerable film tax breaks so you can get the most bang for your budget buck.
Wrapbook's newest resource is our podcast, "On Production," which features experts in the field and tips on how to navigate the production world. Check it out!