Nina Finch has worked as a freelance production assistant on projects ranging from TV programmes to feature films. Her work takes her all over the UK.
Can you describe your role?
It involves helping everyone else on the production team to do their job. Tasks can include anything that doesn't require expert knowledge or training. The idea is to take some of the pressure off more senior members of the team so they can concentrate on their own jobs.
What does the work involve?
The work is very varied. It could involve looking after the cast's personal needs – anything from doing their food shopping to driving them around. In some jobs I've been entirely office-based and did photocopying, filing and other administrative duties. I spend a lot of time on set, getting cups of tea and making sure everyone is happy.
Is there such a thing as a typical day or week?
Not really. A lot of the work is very routine, but suddenly I could be faced with a challenge like finding twelve tractors for the next day's shoot or looking after an actor who has time on their hands because the shoot is behind schedule.
Who else do you work with?
On most shoots there is a team of production assistants, depending on the size of the production. However, I get to work with just about everyone in the team. I could go on errands to the camera department, collect some equipment from the sound department or pick up a wig for the costume department.
What qualities make a good production assistant?
Organisational skills are a must, as is the ability to stay calm under pressure. You have to juggle a lot of different jobs and work to tight deadlines. Listening skills are vital – you must be able to follow instructions to the letter, and with the minimum of fuss, often when you are already under a lot of pressure.
Computer skills and a driving licence are usually essential.
What hours do you work?
On a feature film I could work six days a week for several months, but on a daily TV show, hours could be 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday. I always have to be prepared to work extra hours. At the end of a day, the photocopier could mix up 20 copies of a script that has to be ready for the next morning. I have to stay at work until the problem is sorted out.
What do you like most about your work?
One of the best parts of my job is the variety. There are lots of different challenges and I enjoy the opportunity to work with so many different people.
What ambitions do you have?
I already have my foot on the ladder. I've recently worked as a production co-ordinator with several production assistants responsible to me. My next project will give me my first co-producer credit on a TV show.
Nina's steps to becoming a production assistant
- BA in French.
- Joined film-making societies and made films at university.
- Unpaid work experience at a start-up local TV station.
- Newsroom assistant at an internet TV company.
- Production assistant on various projects.
- Try to find work experience placements during your school or university holidays to find out if the job is for you.
- Experience in office environments will help you to develop organisational and communication skills.
Production assistant related jobs
Salary of a production assistant
- Salaries for trainees are around £15,000.
- Experienced production assistants earn up to £25,000.
- Senior production assistants can earn over £30,000.
- There are no specific educational requirements but entry is very competitive and many entrants have degrees.
- Secretarial skills and a driving licence are often required.
- Skillset offers professional qualifications in production at Levels 2, 3 and 4.
- Many other training providers offer short courses in different aspects of production.
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