If you have read our guide to all the different types of production assistants and responsibilities, you’ve learned that in addition to Set PAs, there are also office production assistants.
Today we’re going to be breaking down that role to try to teach you everything you need to know as an office production assistant. Afterwards, we discuss what makes a good office PA, how you can find a job as one, and what kind of career path you can come to expect.
- 1 What Does An Office Production Assistant Do?
- 2 What Makes A Good Office PA?
- 3 How To Get A Job As An Office Production Assistant
- 4 Office Production Assistant Career Path
What Does An Office Production Assistant Do?
While the job title might be somewhat similar, the responsibilities of an office PA are much different than that of a Set PA. It is, after all, an “office job”.
It’s widely considered to be easier work (by Set PA’s), but the workload can sometimes be quite intense!
Here’s a definitive list of all the tasks you may encounter as an office PA.
Making Copies / Managing Distro
This will be what you end up doing the most during your career as an office production assistant. A LOT of paperwork flows in and out of a film production office – and most of the higher level employees are too busy tackling logistical challenges to deal with any of it.
The bulk of these will be script revisions. On a near daily basis there will likely be changes in the script that will come in from the higher-ups that will need to be distributed to set.
In addition to scripts, you will also perform a similar process with other documents like one-liners, shooting schedules, and sometimes call sheets. It will be your job to aid in the print label and copy them, then hand them off to the on-set distro PA to make sure they get in the right hands.
Note: A lot of these documents can be very exclusive and sensitive, so be careful! You could end up getting yourself, or worse – someone else, fired.
You shouldn’t have to do anything to tech-y, but you’ll often find yourself doing things to maintain the office workplace.
This could mean restocking the office crafty (and doing the shopping), replacing ink and toner, cleaning up messes, and other clerical tasks.
While you will be instructed to perform many of these, it’s a good habit to maintain things without being asked. If you see that the copier is running low, refill it! If someone spills something, rush in to clean it up. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make yourself stand out by doing this.
Reading And Writing Emails
The office is all about e-mails, and as the first line of defense, you can bet you’ll be processing a lot of them. You’ll relay messages between crew, type up memos, and reach out to the vendors that the production staff researches.
You will likely be in contact with some pretty high-profile people from time to time, so make sure you practice your manners and communication skills.
Going On Runs
A big part of working in the office means going on runs. Sometimes this can be much more important than getting the morning coffee.
I’ve seen office PA’s sent to go pick up expensive camera gear or walkie talkies from equipment houses. Carrying all that expensive gear is pretty nerve-racking. Just drive safely.
Note: The best part about this is that you get paid mileage! Just don’t forget to fill out the appropriate forms.
While some shows might have dedicated catering, if you’re working in the office, chances are there will be a point where lunch orders will need to be taken. You will likely also be responsible for ordering them and picking them up. This could be from an in-house caterer, or you could find yourself driving out to a local restaurant.
Don’t worry. Taking lunch orders in the office is much easier than taking lunch orders on set. Think 10-30 people instead of 100-300.
Hope you like being held liable for any mistakes the cooks make.
Whatever Your Supservisors Tell You
Like any job in the film industry, ultimately your responsibilities boil down to whatever your superiors tell you to do. It’s perfectly normal for the production coordinator to have you go clean out her car, or to pick up the director’s dogs from the groomer.
You have to be prepared for anything, and try your best not to hesitate when you’re given important tasks. Even if that important task is planning a birthday party for the producer.
Depending on how lazy you are, this may be your most, or least favorite part of the job. Some days are just slow and there’s not much that needs to be done. In these times, you’ll just have to wait. Try to avoid getting distracted, and remain alert ready to solve any problem as soon as it arises.
Although… When I worked as an office PA, there were some days where my production coordinator literally would tell me to “go chill on facebook”.
Now, not everyone is going to be this relaxed, but if you’re lucky, each show will have a few days where you’re paid to do next to nothing.
What Makes A Good Office PA?
We interviewed a few office PA’s and industry production coordinators to get their take on what really sets office production assistants apart. Here’s some brief pointers.
- Be Attentive – As we said before, nobody likes a PA that isn’t alert and ready to work at any moment. They don’t want to have to wake you up.
- Be Resourceful – Production Coordinators do not like to hold your hand through every task you do. You should have some confidence in your ability to solve problems on your own.
- Have A Good Attitude – This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how easily you can slip into negativity in this industry unless you are specifically trying not to.
How To Get A Job As An Office Production Assistant
In my personal experience, office PA jobs are less sought after – despite arguably being much less grueling. People want to get on set where the action is, and dread the thought of being cooped up at a desk all day.
Your first step should be to put together a solid production assistant resume. This will likely be the first thing you’re asked for when you catch the attention of a coordinator or AD. Next, you’ll need to meet the right people. We have another entire guide dedicated to showing you the most efficient way of doing that.
The coordinator will be the one hiring you, but the film industry is pretty close-knit, and most production departments workers will find themselves handing out recommendations at one point or another.
Finally, we recommend reading our guide to essential gear for production assistants. As you won’t be on set, you’re not going to need everything on this list, but we think you’ll find a couple of our selections very handy.
Office Production Assistant Career Path
So, if you’re offered a job as an office production assistant, where exactly could that take you anyways?
Well, after working as an office PA for awhile, if you do a good job, you’ll likely be recommended as a production secretary. We wrote an article all about them.
In that article, you’ll see that becoming a production secretary is the next step towards working as an APOC or full fledged production coordinator.
In addition to having potential as a production secretary, the office is often working very closely with several other departments. Working daily in the office, you will be in close contact with the art department, writers, casting, and even some of the higher up executives. This means that it will be somewhat easier to branch off into one of them through the connections you make.
Just do your best every day, get good at remembering people’s names, and you’ll be climbing the office ladder in no time!