Learn how to get a job and survive your first week as a production assistant (P.A.) in the film and television industry.
- News: Handbook now on Amazon | University of Central Florida buys 500 for film program. Used at a workshop by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. My second book No Sh*t: The History of Wiping is done.
The Production Assistant's Pocket Handbook is designed to help you:
Get your first job in the film/TV industry
Survive your first week
Get promoted as soon as possible
Written by Caleb Clark (See personal site), while he was a Hollywood P.A. Read a review and interview on Double7Film, or hear an interview with Caleb on the Digital Production Buzz radio show.
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From the Introduction: Think of it, to try and make movie. What a crazy idea! This popular handbook has been freshly revised and designed to give new Production Assistants (P.A.s) an edge in the insane world of movie making. Topics include how to get your first job, the basics, lock-downs, radio communication, running talent, what to bring to a set, driving, etc. Written by a P.A. while working on major studio and independent features, commercials, TV shows, and low-budget films, this handbook is full of advice and stories from the trenches. This 3rd edition has been expanded and checked by industry professionals and instructors at film schools. P.A.s do everything nobody else wants to do. It is an entry-level job, in other words, you’re in the proverbial mailroom, digging ditches, washing dishes, making copies, and entering data. So don’t kid yourself, you’re at the bottom, baby! But the good thing about the bottom is that there’s only one way to go from there: UP! Like all entry-level jobs, the object of being a P.A. is to work yourself out of the job by making yourself too valuable to be kept in the entry-level position. Being a P.A. is also a weird test with only one question; Are you willing to become the best P.A. you can, even though you know that you won’t be a P.A. for long? The logic behind this is that the people above you have paid their dues and proved their passion (to themselves, not just to others) and they expect you to do the same. The other side of the coin is that a good P.A. is very valuable because there is nobody else to do the job. Therefore, take pride in all the little demeaning tasks you will have to do. Take the job seriously. Be honored and happy to get coffee, and remember who prefers three sugars. If you are an exceptional P.A., you will get promoted very quickly, and the coffee will come to you.
© 1999-2008 Caleb John Clark
PA Handbook Chapters
• The Basic Idea in Lots of Words
• The Basics in 4 Words
• Set Etiquette 101
• Set Etiquette 102
• Radio Etiquette
• Talking to the Public
• Grips and Gaffers
• Getting a Job
• Film School
• I Really Want to Direct
• What to Have
• Gear Check List
• Tools of the Future
• About the Author
• Set Lingo
PA Pocket Handbook Endorsements and Reader Reviews
Line Producer Alton Walpole recommends it. It is required reading for Lisa Cook 's classes at University of Central Florida's film program. Michael Fischer uses it in his advanced film production classes at Burlington College. The Texas Film Commission also likes the P.A. pocket handbook.
Unsolicited Quotes Sent to Author:
- "My name is Charlee Collins, I am from Northland, New Zealand and am a big fan. Just writing to say thank you. Your 'The Production Assistant's Pocket Handbook' is great. I know when I move over to LA in a few months your book will be with me as I embark on the journey that is hassling every darn production in the country until I get a job. Kind Regards, Charlee."
- "I have been working in Production for many years and had a blast reading this handbook, could relate myself to so many stories. I also find it extremely useful for those who will be working in my team, I wish I had had this book when I started! Thanks for writing it!" - Belen G., Spain
- "I produce photo shoots and have had many production jobs over the past 17 years. How I wish every PA was required to read this. I love this booklet! I loved it in 1992 when it first came out. Nice job!" - Helen, Los Angeles
- Thank you Caleb for this wonderful piece of PA art! I mean it!
It sums up the whole process wonderfully and prepares you be a proud shit-kicker (as they say in Australia). I worked my way up as a runner to production coordinator to UPM in Australia after I finished film school." - Sameer, Australia.
- "I read the free pages and I will purchase the handbook. I want to say thank you, because I am getting started. I have been a production assistant for 3 productions and completed some internships. My situation is unique, I am not a twenty something individual; I will be turning 40 in May; however I don't look my age. Your handbook gives me hope that I can be successful in this field." - Dawn.
- "I found out about this booklet shortly after getting hired for my first set PA job in New Mexico. I didn't have much experience and was a bit nervous, but after reading this great booklet I felt confident that I could do the job without worrying about my shortcomings."- Miguel, Albuquerque, NM
- "I've ordered your book from the writers store and have found it very helpful. I was a production assistant duing my last year in college. That was back in 1996. I have taken a long brake from the business because I needed steady income. After getting this handbook about 3 weeks ago, it has motivated me to get back into the film industry. I have gotten a P.A. gig with BET's "Sundays Best Season 3" in N.O. Louisiana. This will be a month long production but I feel very comfortable with your book to refresh my memory. Thanks, that was a good thing to provide."- Trey Williams.
- "I just bought your book! I was observing a workshop Justin Muller did in the Dominican Republic this week. He made reference to the book. I just got hired as a P.A. I devoured your book before I went into set. Every single piece of information in it is useful and every detail you should keep in mind. I kept repeating to myself STAR. Swift, Tactful, Aware and Resourceful. That is ALL you need. They love it in a set when you are quick and get things done before anyone else does. It someone needs something make sure you bring it first. IF someone else has done it first, then its useless. The levels of stress and concentration managed on a set NEED us PAs to be discreet. Know when you are not interrupting or bothering. No chit chat in the morning transportation while riding with the AD, Director or any cast member. You must always have 20 eyes on everything that moves around set. You must never let a pedestrian walk into set. If you are asked to block a street you BLOCK it. Get to know everybody, specially drivers, gaffers, set medic, and those people that are always out of the SPOTLIGHT but in a second could be needed in case of any emergency on set. It always looks good when you know who is who and where they went while everybody else was paying attention to the scene and the star. That is being aware of everything. Sometimes production forgets certain details. Or maybe there just isn't time for you to run over and get things. Be resourceful. Make a tool out of everything you can. Who said being a PA isn't being creative? No scissors? Try cutting in half that pile of dailies with a knife. It won't look great. But if you're shooting in the middle of the jungle and production forgot those scissors, something must be done. Always bring ALL production phone directories with you. Every paper yo get your hands on. Save it. You never know. There should be a whole part on radios. Some PAs get to do the radio coordination. Giving out radios and keeping the set full on fresh hot batteries. Always carry some of those around." - Marivivita Sin Mar
Submit your review or comment to the Author at "calebjc (at) well (dot) com" or post a review on Amazon.com
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More Production Assistant resources
Getting a PA Job
List of US State Film Commission Sites. State film commissions alphabetically.
List of world wide Film and TV Commission Sites. From the Producers Master guide, in publication since 1979.
Film Commission List By Country. By the web site New Zealand Films.
Media-match.com. Entertainment job site for freelancer and employers.
FilmStaff.com. Crew placement service site for entertainment jobs.
ProductionHub.com. Film, TV, video and digital media job site.
EntertainmentJobs.com. Entertainment job site.
How to get a production internship. From about.com. Internship sites at NBC, Time Warner HBO, ABC
InsideHollywood.info. A site by 25+ year industry vet Alicia Hirsch. Includes "ask a veteran" service and an e-book.
TheFutonCritic.com. Site that tracks TV productions that have been approved for production.
Produciton Assistant Training
PA Bootcamp. Two-day intensive training programs taught in Los Angeles.
How I got that first job in Television. A PA's personal blog. Includes journal from the set, and office PA for a day.
Work as a PA article from Monster.com job site.
So You Wanna Work in Movies? General site by successful cinematographer Oliver Stapleton
So you wanna be a TV Production Assistant? General info from soyouwanna.com.
How to get a job as a TV and/or film extra? From essortment.com.
Film Production IQ Test. Online test by Brian Heath, IFP Chicago member photographer.
Film Crew 101. Lighting tech. Peter Clarson's manual on set etiquette from 30 years in the business.
Short video of a PA talking about what they do. From howstuffworks.com
Wikipedia PA entry.
Wikipedia History of Film. Know from whence we came...
Production Lingo. Old school film talk, but still relevant.
Association of Independent Commercial Producers
The Anonymous Production Assistant blog.
Movies About Making Movies
Hearts of Darkness a filmmakers apocalypse (1991): This is my favorite movie about movie making. It is about one of the most famous location shoots of all time, the making of Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola in the Phillipines in the late 1970s. It is an extreme example of what it can be like on a set to be sure, but all movies have a bit of what you'll see happening here. Movie making is always an adventure and story unto itself with interesting characters, drama, comedy and intrigue. There's not much about PAs directly, but you can see the PAs in the background if you pay attention.
Burden of Dreams (1982). From IMDB.com, "A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo (1982), showing how the film managed to get made despite problems that would have floored a less obsessively driven director. Not only does he have major casting problems, losing both Jason Robards (health) and Mick Jagger (other commitments) halfway through shooting, but the crew gets caught up in a war between Peru and Ecuador, there are problems with the weather and the morale of cast and crew is falling rapidly. Written by Michael Brooke."
State and Main (2000). Nice little comedy about a film crew that goes to Vermont to shoot a movie. Directed by David Mamet.
Hijacking Hollywood (1997): I haven't seen it, but I hear it's about a PA.
The Production Assistant (1994): A funny 1 minute short featuring a PA.
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That's a wrap! Thank you, Caleb