So you’re getting ready for a job as a Production Assistant. Hopefully you’ve done your research, learned set etiquette, and perhaps even undergone P.A. Training. Now you just have to get load yourself up with some production assistant gear so you don’t look like a bumbling idiot when the A.D. is calling for something to get done and you don’t have what you need.
It’s basically impossible to just walk onto set empty handed and do your job well. While I was a PA, I was very surprised at how many things people were recommending me to buy.
FilmToolKit has put together this guide to make you the most prepared PA on your crew. Not only have we compiled a list of everything you need, we have taken the time to research all the available products so that we can save you time by recommending the best possible gear!
Full disclosure, this post will contain a lot of affiliate links, but we have done tons of research and would never recommend these products if we didn’t think they were great!
- 1 Multi-Tool
- 2 Gaffers Tape
- 3 Walkie Headset
- 4 Carrying Pouch
- 5 Personal Lights
- 6 Sun Protective Hat
- 7 Waterproof Footwear
- 8 Waterproof Clothing
- 9 Work Gloves
- 10 Battery Bank
- 11 Other Misc. Important Gear
- 12 Conclusion
Arguably the most versatile piece of equipment for any crew member is a multi-tool. The film industry is notorious for its ability to manufacture very odd specific problems you will need to solve. Almost every crew member likely carries some form of multi-tool at all times, and uses them daily.
Repairing gear, opening packages, cutting things, and many other activities are all commonplace. You need a tool that is small enough to carry on you, and has a diverse range of tools for many situations.
We’re recommending the Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier, an extremely affordable yet effective multi tool that is compact and perfect for your P.A. kit.
There are 12 tools integrated into an extremely high quality compact factor. Out of these, we think you will get the most use out of the pliers, blade, screwdriver, and scissors.
It even has a bottle opener for after wrap (shh!).
As a production assistant it is unlikely you will need to carry this around on your belt. But it’s important for you to keep it in your on-set kit for many reasons. Gaffer’s Tape has hundreds of potential applications, including labeling walkies and possessions, securing wires, and protecting equipment. As a P.A. you would constantly find yourself borrowing this from other workers, so it’s a good idea to just carry your own!
Our recommendation to you as a P.A. would be to go with Gaffer Power. Gaffer Power is definitively the industry standard for Gaffer’s Tape. It is the strongest, most consistent product of the other brands we reviewed, and is pretty affordable considering its quality.
We wrote a guide to the best Gaffer’s Tape Brands if you would like some more in depth information or other options.
Of course, you are going to be needing a Headset for your walkie talkie. Some film sets will have headsets available for you, but most of the time, these are low quality “burger king” headsets. You don’t want to wear one of those. They’re always half broken, they make you look super green, and lets not forget they are unsanitary.
It was tough to make a proper recommendation with these. Almost everything on the market sucks. On Amazon it seems like theres a hundred different options but really they’re all the exact same thing with slightly different branding. Although, it is understandable that they break easily; Working as a P.A. means 70-80 hour weeks. So even if it only lasts a couple of weeks, you’re kind of getting your money’s worth.
As we’ve said, all the offerings are pretty identical, so we recommend the link above because it allows you to buy a pack of 5 for only $30. That will definitely be enough to get you through one or two full length shows. I’ve tried several different brands as a PA and the results are always the same. I’m able to go about 1-2 months with one before it starts to break down. The trick is, I always keep 3 of them in my car in case any of mine break down!
This is easily the most important thing on this list. As you can tell by the amount of products on this list, you won’t exactly be able to fit all of it in your pockets.
A carrying bag in the form of a tool pouch, fanny pack, or AD vest is absolutely necessary to carry the following items:
- Most of the other tools on this list
- Multiple copies of the call sheet, one for you and some to share
- Potentially shooting schedules and other papers
- Extra Walkie Batteries or “Hot Bricks” (Clipped on to your carrying pouch of choice)
- All of the writing utensils we mentioned earlier.
There are many different ways to accomplish this. The three options that are the most popular among PAs and film crew are as follows.
Probably the most Casual Solution.
We recommend this Fanny pack from SoJourner Bags. It has 3 different pockets, it is incredibly durable, fits all sizes, and it’s water resistant! Pretty much as everything you could ask for with a fanny pack.
Plus it comes in many colors so you can look as fabulous as you want.
Wear it with pride. It’s functional, lightweight, and it gets the job done.
This is what I see is most common amongst PAs. There are many different variations, but we will give you the quick recommendation of the Seibertron waterproof tactical drop leg utility pouch.
Originally intended for airsoft, this tool pouch straps conveniently on to your leg and is big enough to hold everything you could possibly need.
There are hundreds of variations of tool pouches on the market that might be more to your liking. If you don’t care for our recommendation, take a look for yourself!
Not the most lightweight, or common, but this solution is by far the most extensive. These are popular across all the Key Set PAs and ADs that I know. They’re often referred to as AD vests, and may be overkill depending on how demanding your PA gig is. In any case, they make you look super badass.
This Yakeda Tactical Field Vest is ultra light, durable, and has pockets for you to quickly everything you need from. It is incredibly durable and adjustable, and is the ultimate solution for carrying all your tools.
There are several other options available on amazon if this particular one is too bulky for you!
If you would prefer not to purchase any of these, a backpack will suffice to carry your stuff. However, these items will keep you much more agile and allow you to have your tools at hand quickly.
It is standard for all crew members to carry a flashlight and or headlamp. Almost all shows will at one point or another perform night shoots. That means instead of shooting from 6am-6pm, you’re shooting from 6pm-6am. Chances are, you’ll be completely in the dark. Okay, you can always use your smartphone, but wouldn’t it be nice to not lose $700 if you dropped your light?
We recommend the Outlite A100 flashlight, which usually runs under $15, but offers exceptional quality.
The LED inside is ultra bright, has 5 different lighting modes, adjustable focus, and a water resistant design. Reviewers are very satisfied with its performance, and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket or any carrying pouch.
During night shoots the majority of the crew busts out their headlamps for perfect vision in the dark. This will allow you to do paperwork, set up tents, and move equipment with your hands free!
Our quick recommendation is the SmarterLife Headlamp, a highly acclaimed functioning headlamp at an extremely low price.
At less than $20, this headlamp features 6 different light modes, an IPX6 water resistance rating, multiple colorways, and a lightweight design weighing in at only 35 grams!
Just remember to turn your light off when walking near the shot. We’d hate to see you get fired cause you ruined a shot with your awesome headlamp.
Sunblock is always available at the medic to keep yourself from burning to a crisp. But what about just blocking the sun entirely? If you know you’re going to be shooting out in the sun, you’ll be the coolest PA on set (literally) with a sun protective hat!
The best part is, you don’t even need to wear one of the lame grandma sun-hats! Many surf brands like Quicksilver and O’Neill make straw hats that are pretty much guaranteed to land you a few compliments. If you’ve never tried one of these on in a hot day they’ll straight up blow your mind.
And they’re unisex!
This one isn’t as obvious as some of the other items on our list. You don’t really realize you need waterproof shoes until you’ve been walking around for 12 hours with soaked socks. You don’t need to wear these every single day, but it’s a great idea to keep them in your car or near the set. My personal pair of boots isn’t as comfortable for me as my converse, so I only choose to wear them on days where there is a high probability of rain.
Im sure you guys are familiar with the quality of the Timberland brand. We’re recommending their White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot. We’ve written an in-depth review on these boots if you’d like to know everything there is to know about these boots.
They’re super fashionable, completely waterproof and very durable. I’ve read that several consumers are convinced they’re going to last over a decade. Plus they’re super comfortable.
They boots are really cheap in certain sizes and colors, so make sure you check them all out to get the best deal for your budget!
For Women we are recommending the Ahnu Sugarpine hiking boots. I know a couple of PAs who have this shoe and they love it. We’ve actually written an in-depth review on them if you’re interested in more information!
The region I work in has many wet marshy or jungle-y conditions, so good boots are a must. These boots are completely water proof. They can be submerged pretty deep in mud or puddles and your feet will be completely dry. They’re a little on the pricey side but they are extremely high quality and will last you quite a long time. Consumer reviews suggest buying a size up, but others have reported that they ordered their size and it fit just fine.
There’s also a pretty good selection in terms of colors.
Alright so we’ve shown you some gear to help keep your feet dry, but what about the rest of your body? Some film sets may have ponchos available, and every film set definitely has a black trash bag you can throw over yourself. But you definitely shouldn’t rely on those things.
Plus, you look pretty silly wearing a trash bag.
Our Waterproof Jacket recommendation is the Columbia Pouration Jacket. It’s not just water resistant, it’s completely waterproof. It features underarm venting, zippered pockets, a stow away hood and comes in over a dozen beautiful colors. The price range depending on color, but it is very affordable and downright cheap if you get one of the less desired colors. Plus, the same jacket is available for both men and women! So make sure to check out the right link.
Waterproof Pants (Unisex)
You definitely knew about rain resistant jackets, but there’s a good chance you didn’t even realize they also made waterproof pants! If there is a relentless downpour that you find yourself unable to get out of, you can throw these over whatever bottoms you have on and you’ll be bone dry!
For waterproof pants, we recommend The Storm Surge pants, also from Columbia. These pants are pretty baggy, work with both genders, and are very strongly reviewed. I knew a few people on set that would bust these out of their backpacks every time it started raining and it always made me really jealous. They are completely waterproof, so you can say goodbye to having a wet butt during lunchtime.
Keep in mind they do run a tiny bit big so don’t be afraid to buy a smaller size! They’re meant to be worn with stuff underneath, as they don’t have any pockets and they have a mesh netting on the inside
These are typically one of the less vital items on this list, but if you end up PAing in departments other than production, you’ll definitely find yourself wanting a high quality pair of work gloves.
This pair of CLC Handyman Flex Grip Work Gloves should do the trick. They’re not amazing but they are super cheap and will do just fine.
Manual labor, picking up trash, and working with wood or abrasive materials will make you very glad you had a pair of these.
Well, this list ended up being a bit longer than I expected. The last item is the only item that I actually found myself using every single day without fail. Except my trusty fanny pack of course.
Film shoot days are 14-16 hours long. It is pretty much impossible to find a smartphone that has a battery capable of lasting that entire time.
We recommend this 22000mAh Power Bank by RavPower. It features speed charging, and has enough battery power to fully charge an iPhone 7. 8 Times. So really you’ll only need to refill it once a week
It’s lightweight and small enough to fit into your carrying pouch. And there is 3 USB ports so you can share your charge with other crew members who need some!
Depending on what responsibilities you are given, you may need to make phone calls every day. If you’re sent on runs or need to call missing background actors, you will absolutely need a charged cell phone.
Not to mention, if a producer’s phone dies and they need a charge, you might prove yourself very useful to them.
Other Misc. Important Gear
We’ve listed all the most critical big ticket gear. But, there are several other things that you’ll probably want to bring to set. A lot of these are smaller items that don’t really require product recommendations, but we’re gonna try to help you anyways!
These are used more frequently with crew members that work heavily with documents, like the background PA or key set PA. These are important for carrying important documents without folding or wrinkling, and protecting them from undesirable weather conditions. Plus it works as a clipboard to write on!
The SteelClip Aluminum Storage Clipboard is an excellent, well reviewed option that should satisfy your needs.
Pens, Pencils, Sharpies, Highlighters
You’re going to want multiple sharpies, in both red and black, as well as pens, pencils, and highlighters. Many of these items are often readily available in your production or A.D. office, but you shouldn’t count on it. Bring some of your own anyways.
Pens and pencils are very important, not just for jotting things down, but for letting more important crew members borrow them. Keep a stockpile in your backpack or car, cause if you give the producer a pen or pencil, it’s probably not the best move to ask for it back.
Notepads and Post-it Notes
Do we really have to explain this one? Unless you have a photographic memory, way too many things are going to be thrown at you to remember them without writing them down. Plus post it notes are useful for leaving these notes for other people or adhering them where you need them.
You might not smoke yourself, but pretty much every single other person on the crew likely does. At one point or another someone will ask you for a lighter. If you carry one it’ll be an easy way to earn some brownie points!
Bonus: if you buy a really cool or unique one it’ll be a great conversation starter!
Several Extra Pairs of Clothing
Leave these in your car or somewhere else semi-accessible. Even if you buy all the waterproof gear we’ve mentioned above, sometimes you wont be able to put it on in time, or you’ll soak through. Or maybe you’ll be drenched in sweat and want to change to avoid a rash.
Maybe you’ll poop your pants.
It’s never a bad idea to keep 2 or 3 extra pairs of clothing in your car. I’m glad I did. If you get cold one day you can even put them on as extra layers!
Not every job is going to require all of these tools. But if you are planning on working in the film industry for an extended period of time, you will definitely find yourself needing ALL of the things on this list at one time or another.
Feel free to leave a comment below and get in touch if you think there is anything we’re missing! We would be very happy to add it to help you future PAs as much as possible.