The first thing to understand is that you do not have to live in New York or Los Angeles to get a job as a film or TV Production Assistant. While it is true N.Y. and L.A. is where most of production takes place, filming is done in cities and towns everywhere. What you have to do is find a production near you. There are many ways to find out this kind of information. You can find out about projects going into production by contacting your local Film commission. Check City permits offices to see what films are filming where on public streets. They need to pull a permit to do so and this is all public record.
By all means, consistently read the trades such as the “Hollywood Reporter”, Variety and many others both national and regional. Even your local and national newspaper can give you info on what projects are going into production and where they will be filmed. There are MANY ONLINE SITES THAT POST PA JOBS. See our “references” section at the end of this booklet for many other suggestions.
- Networking. The easiest way to get a job as a PA, is to know someone who is connected to production, or a friend that knows someone on the set. Knowing a friend of a friend is also a great way to get a job. In both cases, contact them and ask if you may use them as a reference. Or see if they will make an introduction for you, by way of a phone call, letter or meeting.
- If you don’t know anyone connected, it’s time to get creative, and go out and meet them.
- Show up at a films location or production office and introduce yourself to the 2nd AD, or anyone else who will talk with you. Talk to anyone you can. You never know who the person you start chatting to in the elevator actually is . He or she could be the film’s producer. Remember to be courteous and appreciative of everyone’s time. If there is no paid work available, offer to work for experience and credit.
- Start hanging out at the bars and clubs where industry people go. These always change, so just ask around; someone will be able to point you in the right direction. Remember you are not trying to hang out with the stars; you are trying to meet other PAs, and production staff. They are the folks you can casually talk to and get to know in a social situation. These people will be able to help you by introduction.
- As we touched on before, find out which companies are getting ready to start production. Read Industry magazines. Check out the “Hollywood Reporter”, “Back Stage West”, or any one of the other “Trade” papers. Find Film Commissions located near you, even if you don’t live in New York or LA. You can find additional information on the web sites listed in the resources section of this booklet.
Be consistent and diligent in your pursuits. Remember, the more information you can collect, the more opportunities you can pursue to get work.
- Find a production and call them up. Be courteous and friendly on the phone. Again, you never know who is at the other end. Ask if you may send them your resume or bring it by the office. If you already have an outstanding resume with lots of work experience and great references, fantastic. If not, don’t lie, it is a very small industry and everyone knows everyone else. As we discussed earlier, offer to work for free so you can learn the ropes. Every production company loves to save money when they can. If you choose this second option just remember that this could be a 12-week shoot with five 14-hour days a week. So you need an additional way to pay your bills or have enough money in the bank to tide you over.
- Another alternative is to hire a placement service. This is like an employment service, only they don’t pay you, you pay them. You can find these services listed in the back of every major “Trade” paper. These companies will charge you between $50 and $200 to supply a list of who is currently hiring PA’s. If you don’t have any experience they will arrange for you to train for free on a set for 2-6 weeks. This gives them more contacts and the production company gets free labor.
This may be the only option for those of you who are just starting out and have no connections in the business. The great thing is it will give you free on set training and experience. Most importantly it will allow you the chance to start “Networking”. The down side is that they don’t pay you, and it is up to you to get hired on future jobs. The service will provide you and for example 500 other people a list with only 100 jobs on it. It is up to you to be a better candidate than at least the other 400 with the list, if you want to work. But remember, these services are not your last resort. If they don’t sound good, feel like a scam or cost too much, don’t get involved with them. Trust your instincts here. Just be patient and work a little harder at the other options until something comes through. Remember, it is worth it.