12 Practical Tips For TV Commercial Production Assistants

Hi reader! So you’re an aspiring film maker like me? And you are looking all over the web to know how to start off in this industry. Anywhere you go, it seems that everyone tells you that the best suggestion for this is always to get a job as a production assistant. It’s the famous starting point!

Well as you may and may not know, production assistants are not exclusive to film productions. These all around workers exist in film, television, commercial or any video production. Once you get a PA job in any of these video productions, it would not be that difficult to jump to any of the other types of production. There will be just some differences in the way you do things in each type but the skills you need are always the same.

In this article however, I shall discuss to you some really important tips that people may not tell you when you are a production assistant in a manner more specific to the process of TV or DIGITAL COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION. So here we go:

  1. Your phone is the most important thing in your life now

Always keep it around and always never go out of load! You would not want to experience an urgent matter at midnight where you have to contact people and not be able to find your phone or discover you do not have any load. Well lucky for you if you’re on a post-paid plan. If so, make sure to keep it that way. As a production assistant you’ll be responsible on relaying messages to almost everyone involved in the shoot; members of the production team, bosses, producers, admin staff, suppliers, caterers or any food establishment, and even service drivers! Be extra patient with service drivers, contacting them can really be a headache at times! Going to war without a gun is deadly, so take extra note of this!

  1. Taking down notes should be your hobby

Unless you’re a genius who remembers every single detail or information you receive then go ahead and don’t mind this tip but if you’re not, this is a must! Clients, the ad agency people and the producer all have different ideas and most of them quickly change their minds so if you won’t be able to take note of every changes then your preparations would be in ruins.

  1. It’s time to be a food lover

This may sound exciting because, well, to be honest there’s an abundance of food in this line of work. However, you’ll be the one to order and prepare everything. You should know the perfect food establishments or food providers where you can order for all kinds of meetings, for the shoot, for offline or online presentations and such. Know what your client and other bosses want to eat. Know the menu, services and prices of the food provider. Believe me, in this industry, if you serve good food, everyone will like you!

  1. Keep a document bag around

Don’t think you won’t deal with papers with this kind of job. Storyboards, pre-production agreements, call slip, attendance sheet, service request forms, requisition slips, liquidation sheets, and cash vouchers are just few of the papers you’d have to deal with. Dude, you’ve been warned!

  1. Liquidation sheet is the key to your pay slip

Unless you’re finish liquidating all your expenses, your full pay slip will be crawling its way to you so always make it a point to finish liquidating as early as you can. As I talk about expenses here, you should also budget the money of the project wisely. Remember, it’s not your money, so return whatever is left and better be extra careful and honest in the way you handle it.

  1. Save every contact

Every person you meet in this industry could help you with your future endeavors so always make it a point to save their contact numbers, emails or office addresses. Expanding your contacts will give you more options in choosing the people that could be best to work with in the future.

  1. Be a coffee-lover

Or if you can’t, take some Berocca during sleepless days. It’s like a vitamin tablet and you can get it in drugstores nearby. Trust me, coffee and Berocca could save you or if not, just steal some nap for goodness sake!

  1. Camera, Lights, Action!

Before the director could say that, of course you’d need cameras and lights, therefore, you need to book for those because it’s part of your job. Know the camera types and specs that you would need for the shoot. Be familiar with Arri Alexa cameras, Phantom, Weiss, Blackmagic, Red and the others. For lights, start getting to know Arrisun, CMC, Kino Lights, Xenon 1K-7K and such. Knowing these things will help you book/rent the right equipment and if the best option is not available, then you would always know some good alternatives as well. Anyway, DOPs and directors would also have their preferred equipment.

  1. Tick tock tick tock, mind the time!

Getting the job done on schedule is one of the best work attitude you could have. This is an extremely fast paced job so you would not want to be left behind. Be time conscious all the time, people are depending on it!

  1. Be a talk show host if you must

You don’t need to take this tip seriously if you’re not the type to but dude I’m telling you, being a good conversant will open doors for you. Of course, don’t do this during serious work hours. Find the right time to talk to people. It may be a client, an ad agency member, your producer or even the service drivers or caterers! Learn from people through this and also try to impart something to them. This will help you work easily with them and will be like building good relationships that could help your future in this career.

  1. Think ahead

You should always be ahead of everyone. Think whatever it is that you will need before people ask for it. During shoots, you should already be setting up the next scene even before everyone finishes shooting the current one. This will save a lot of time I swear.

  1. Take a dose of patience

Why buy water or make coffee for anyone? Why should I be opening doors for people? Why do I have to clean stuffs? These questions would often times cross your mind and will eventually make you pity yourself. Let’s be honest here, you will really experience these things as a PA but if this is really the career you want to pursue, be patient my friend, someday it will all just be funny memories!

Do you also have any experience as a PA? I want to hear it. Let me know by commenting there below! Thank you!