A Day in the Life as a PA on Renovation Shows

Posted on: Mar 19, 2024

Photo Credit: Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock

By Benjamin Hickson

In the reality TV industry, I have found myself working as a production assistant for several renovation-style shows. Working on these renovation shows has simultaneously been the hardest and most labor intensive, but also the most rewarding.

As a PA on these sets, I found myself having to wear many different hats and learn skills I would have never known I needed on the spot. Going into these shows, one may think it is just another day on-set, but in the fast-paced environment of renovation TV, a stringent budget and tight deadline may have the PA taking on a lot more responsibility than the average PA job description. 

Be Prepared to Get Dirty

The biggest thing I was not aware of on my first day as a PA on a renovation show was the amount of physical labor required. As a PA, I was often tasked with moving old, dusty furniture, cleaning rooms that had not been cleaned in years and assisting in painting. I learned after that first day to dress appropriately and wear clothes I did not mind getting ruined.

These shows often travel all over the country, so they have a smaller crew than your average show. Therefore, the local PAs are often required to assist in the actual renovation by helping the design department with these small dirty tasks so the designers can focus on the big picture.

You’ll Build Furniture

If you are handy with a screwdriver and an Allen wrench, you will almost certainly be tasked with building whatever new furniture gets placed in the renovation. Once the renovation begins, the design team is often only given a few days to renovate an entire property, so the PA must assist in anything they need. Building furniture is usually very time-consuming, so if they can pass that task on to a few PAs that are handy, then it will greatly help speed up the renovation process. 

Decor Shopping

One of my favorite things about working on these types of shows is that I often get tasked with shopping for and returning decor items. It can be quite time-consuming for a designer to have to buy everything they need at once, and even then they will end up forgetting things. That is where the PAs come in. If you show that you have a keen eye for design, then you will likely be tasked with assisting them in going for runs to buy last-minute decor items for the project. 

New Skillset Acquired

These shows are always a whirlwind of activity, where chaos meets creativity and deadlines loom around every corner. The reality is that PAs working on renovation shows are tasked with juggling multiple responsibilities and are often asked to do things they may have never done before.

It’s a great way to step up and prove they are adept at wearing many hats. One moment they might find themselves coordinating deliveries of construction materials, and the next they may be required to call local landscapers to schedule an immediate stump removal because a producer suddenly wants it gone (Yes, that actually happened).

The Big Reveal

Behind every successful renovation lies a carefully guarded secret: the big reveal. PAs play a crucial role in maintaining the element of surprise, guarding the details of the finished project with utmost discretion. From orchestrating the logistics of the reveal day to ensuring that curious onlookers are kept at bay, they are entrusted with safeguarding the magic of the big reveal until the moment of truth arrives. This often requires assisting in covering windows and redirecting the subjects of the renovation to other parts of the set.

Working as a production assistant for a renovation show is not for the faint of heart, and hopefully this article will prepare you for the firestorm of tasks that will be thrown your way. It requires a lot of resilience, resourcefulness and a willingness to embrace the unexpected. At the end of it all, you will get to see your handy work on screen, and that itself makes it worth it.

On renovation shows you are not just the PA, but also the landscaper, painter, furniture builder and much more. This wide array of tasks will help your career in the long run, as it will make you more well-rounded and you will be able to add these new skills to your resume.

Benjamin Hickson is an aspiring producer and production coordinator who has 4+ years experience working on various Film and TV projects. He has a background in Public Relations and served for six years in the military. He also has passion for travel and aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry.

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