I’ve gotten many production assistant jobs without ever needing to interview or present a resume. If you know the right people usually you’re hired on the spot. However, there have been several instances where I needed to submit a production assistant resume, usually when applying for a job with an unfamiliar production team.
Unless you’re still in High School, chances are you’ve already got a standard resume for when you apply to “regular” jobs. You could definitely submit that when applying for a PA gig. Just remember that your resume detailing your high school GPA and pizza parlor job is going to be compared to resumes specifically tailored to the film industry.
It’s common knowledge that in Hollywood, your script will often get immediately thrown in the trash if it doesn’t hook the studio rep in the first few pages. Try to view your resume from a similar perspective. If it’s too long, ugly, difficult to read, or filled with excessive unimportant details, chances are your resume will immediately get tossed in the trash.
There are tons of PAs looking for work, and you don’t need a whole lot of technical knowledge to do the job. All you really need is a good attitude and preferably some experience. So, it follows that your resume should be very simple. Standard resumes are like a Facebook profile, whereas film resumes are more like an IMDB profile. A simple list of the best things you’ve done that lets your work speak for itself.
Your potential employer is not meticulously investigating every single applicant to find THE BEST PA IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. They want to pick up a resume, make sure you’ve done the job before, and hire you so they can move along to their more important tasks.
With that knowledge, you may conclude that the purposes of a film resume are the following:
- Present your experience in a concise, easy to read format.
- Differentiate yourself from the competition.
- Avoid raising any red flags or suggesting you are inexperienced.
This article will address each of these purposes so that you can craft a kick-ass resume that presents your personal experience in the most effective manner. Let’s start with some basic guidelines for design.
Simple Production Assistant Resume Design Guidelines
Before we discuss what should go on your resume, it’s important that you understand some guidelines you should follow when trying to find the best format for a production assistant resume.
- Format matters, but is not set in stone. There’s no official template for a PA resume. However, there is a general ordering most effective for the purposes discussed above.
- Obviously, your name, phone number, email address and website are at the very top. Make your contact information and name a larger size than everything else. You want your name to stand out and for it to be very easy to reach out and hire you.
- Lead with your job experience. The best work you’ve done should be front and center, the first thing they read.
- Follow up with smaller jobs or student films. There is a specific criteria we have established for which student films to include. We will discuss it at the bottom of this guide. If you have enough film industry work to fill up your page, remove these jobs from your list.
- If you have a college degree, leave it at the bottom of the page. Honestly out of all the industries I can think of, film cares the least about your education. At the very least it shows you can finish the things you start.
- Keep it organized when listing your jobs. Feature length films, commercials, TV Series and web series should be grouped together. EXTRA TIP: Put whatever type of job you are applying for first each time you send in an application. If you’re applying to PA for a television show, place the television shows first this time around. Same goes for movies and the rest of them.
- Stick with only one single-sided page. Nobody will want to read more than that. If you’ve done a ton of work that won’t fit, great. Now you get to choose the best ones.
- Use a legible font. I personally would avoid boring fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, but definitely don’t choose anything over-styled. Boring is a lot better than distracting. I’d say 14-16pt font is a good range to keep your print legible, and it fills up the page without looking like a scary wall of text.
- Be careful with your usage of color. A little color in the right place helps demonstrate that you put effort in your application. However, too much color or distracting colors will make you look unprofessional. Play it safe, keep your text black or grey, and make sure to pick colors that won’t look weird if your potential employer prints in black and white.
- Here’s a really cool tip. At the top of your page where you have your name, include the position you are applying for. Like this: “Stanley Kubrick – Production Assistant“. You can do this with any film position even if you have very limited experience. It definitely helps to reinforce the idea that you already have the skills they are looking for.
- In essence, you want to make it scannable. Often times the person hiring the PA’s will have dozens or even hundreds of resumes to sort through. Most of these resumes are perfectly fine choices too, so if you want to have the greatest chance of being picked, your resume needs to be scannable. People in general are just very impatient. They take one look at a giant block of text and move on to another paper that’s easier to digest.
You might even notice me implementing this “Scannable” technique in this very article. Take a look at it and use it as a lesson. I’m trying my best to provide you with valuable, in depth information, but I have bolded important ideas and divided the article into easy to digest sections. Try to implement this concept in your resume.
So What Should I Put On My Production Assistant Resume?
Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring producer or AD. What kind of stuff do you think you are looking for when hiring a Set PA?
- YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO. DUH. WE TALKED ABOUT THIS ALREADY.
- The best thing you could possibly have on your PA resume is, you guessed it, PA Experience. If you’ve been an AD on a smaller indie project you can include that too, but pretty much all that an employer will care about is how much experience you have as a PA. Make sure you credit it properly with accurate information. We will talk about how to properly list movie credits in a bit.
- If you’ve done unpaid internships, I would not consider it unethical for you to just list it as a regular job IF you truly can make an argument that your tasks and responsibilities are the same. Still having internships on your resume makes you look new, but if the job is the same, you should be using it to your advantage!
- A skills section. This is not very important compared to your work experience. Many other articles have even suggested removing the section entirely. However, I believe you can leverage certain skills to give yourself an edge. Leave off obvious things like getting coffee or walkie etiquette, but include some things that are not typically asked of PAs. General computer skills and knowledge of products like Microsoft excel will help greatly in office PA jobs. Adobe Creative Suite is used a ton in the industry and will give you an edge, and skills like driving large trucks/vans are always a plus too. Just make sure you’re not including anything obvious or silly for padding. Including skills that everyone has will only highlight how few unique skills you actually do have.
- Your education. Like we said before, typically the people hiring you don’t care, but it definitely doesn’t hurt you to include it.
How To List Movie Credits On A Resume
When listing your film credits on your resume, it’s important that you strike the middle ground of too much and too little information. You don’t want to just have a list of titles by itself, but you also don’t want to go overboard and list every fact you can think of about that film. Nobody needs to know the plot of any of your work. All you did was stand in front of a door.
First, most importantly, make sure you’re crediting yourself properly. Make sure the credits you are sighting are accurate. Your chances are gone if someone decides to do a little research and is unable to find you as credited. This is uncommon, but it happens.
Here’s a list of everything you should include. DO NOT include anything else.
- The Title
- Production Company (This can give your resume a huge boost if you’ve done work with large companies.)
- Producer/Director’s Name
That’s it. That’s all you need. If the film is a small indie film that isn’t very well known but has a major actor, you could include their name to indicate it’s not just some worthless indie film.
Things You Should Leave Out Of Your PA Resume
The key difference between a normal resume and a great production assistant resume is not what you include, but rather, what you leave out.
- References. It’s a waste of space. If they want some references they’ll ask.
- Non-film work if the responsibilities are not similar. Being able to flip burgers at Wendy’s doesn’t say anything about your ability to PA or AD. However, there are non-film jobs that are beneficial to include on your resume. Managing a restaurant has many things in common with working as an AD. Working as a personal assistant or receptionist has many skills that translate well to being a PA. However, aim to remove the non-film work as you accumulate credits. Having non-film work will suggest you don’t have much film experience to show. If it doesn’t add to your on-set experience in any meaningful way, cut it.
- Hobbies / Interests / Biography – This doesn’t do anything to help you. They don’t care. Therefore these things are just taking up valuable real estate on your resume, cluttering it and further illustrating how little experience you have. Anything important can be included in the skills section
- Student films you wrote/directed/produced. It’s not impressive, the people hiring will see right through this and it will just be an indicator that you don’t have very much real industry experience. However, there are some student film jobs that might be worth including.
- Job Descriptions. Sort of. Let’s put it this way, the coordinator hiring you does not need to know what the duties of a PA are. However, if you’ve ever been a specialized PA (Walkie, Background, First Team, ETC), it will benefit you to include this information. This will help you stand out from people who have never worked in film and don’t even know what those terms mean. It will also make you a more valuable pick if the employer is looking for someone to specifically handle walkies or something.
- A list of too many jobs. Okay, earlier we told you to keep your resume to one single sided page. It’s really great that you have a lot of experience, but a cluttered resume will hurt you badly and possibly even prevent it from even getting read. If you find yourself having to shrink the font size to fit everything,
An extra tip if you have too many jobs to list: Remove some and include a line at the bottom that says, “Full credit list available on request”. It suggests you are very experienced and you’ll find that people rarely investigate further.
Should I Include Student Films In My Film Resume?
While writing this guide, I ended up reading through every single production assistant resume guide I could find. In this process, I noticed that one of the most common points of contention was the whether or not it is beneficial to include student films in your P.A. resume.
Student films aren’t totally worthless. They can teach you the basics of all the different departments on set as well as pad out your resume if it’s looking a little thin. You probably want to kick these films off as soon as you have enough real credits to replace them however. As a rule of thumb, it’s important that if you choose to include anything we’re about to discuss, you leave it at the bottom of your credit list. Your paid work is what people actually care about and it should remain front and center.
The general consensus, (And my opinion, based on common sense), is that your student film director credits are worthless and make you look silly. If you directed anything noteworthy, why are you wasting your time applying for a PA job?
However, if you happened to work in any specialized departments, this is where you have an opportunity to help yourself out. If you’ve worked as a production designer, grip, wardrobe, or in another department, it may be in your favor to include this in your resume if you have larger career goals in that department.
In the past, I’ve been brought on as a Production Assistant and found out on my first day that I would be working with a specific department other than production. If you’re lucky you’ll get to choose, but usually you’ll just be assigned. If you’ve done some art/props work on some student films, including it on your resume could help attract art PA jobs. Plus, in my opinion, department PA work is highly preferable to production PA work unless you’re trying to become an AD.
In the long run, simplicity and experience will beat everyone else. All you really need to do is demonstrate that you know what you are doing without being confusing or difficult to read. Cut the filler crap, shine a spotlight on the things you’ve done that best highlight your abilities, and make yourself easy to reach, and you’ll be landing jobs in no time.
If you have any additional tips or advice to PA’s trying to perfect their resume, please leave a comment and I’ll try to incorporate your advice so we can keep this guide growing!