Television production assistants carve out a career in the world of television through providing practical support and assistance to production teams. But before you get too excited about the role, you should bear in mind that it mainly involves administrative and organisational skills. Nonetheless, the role is an excellent springboard into a fulfilling career in television.
When we say you’ll be handling administrative tasks, we really mean it. A typical day as a production assistant might involve hiring studios and equipment, distributing and researching scripts, booking hotels and making travel arrangements, dealing with accounts and expenses, timing shows, keeping records of shorts and tracking continuity between shots.
They might cue pre-recorded material, assist on location, clear copyright and get permission for music and other materials and complete post-production paper work. In short, production assistants are extremely busy and hardworking folk.
Salary & benefits
People don’t go into television for the pay. Starting out, production assistants might earn as little as £14,000 to £16,000 a year. With experience, this might rise to between £20,000 and £25,000 a year.
Working freelance, the daily rates might be between £138 and £155, but more experienced freelance production assistants command higher fees.
Working hours are unlikely to be regular and you should be aware that it might involve long hours and evening and weekend work.
Most of it is contract work, although larger organisations like the BBC might offer longer renewable contracts.
Television production assistants need to be organised, proactive, show initiative, good I.T. skills and communication skills. They should have a keen eye for detail, be happy to work under pressure and to strict deadlines, as well as numerate and very flexible.
Many production assistants are graduates, but those without university qualifications are also welcome, as experience is valued above everything else. You don’t necessarily have to study media qualifications, but some people might take up media courses in order to improve practical skills and build up contacts.
It’s very important to amass practical experience, which you can gain through work experience and volunteering for student-run or community media. Most people don’t waltz into production assistant roles straight away but work their way up from runner or junior assistant roles first.
Training & progression
Television production assistants tend to learn on the job, although they might take short courses to brush up on production skills. Some broadcasters and media companies run entrant schemes with structured training, although these can be very competitive.
Production assistants might work their way up the career ladder to take on production manager roles, or look to become researchers or producers.