Essential Skills for Moving from PA to APOC

Posted on: Nov 30, 2023

Photo Credit: Pavel L Photo and Video // Shutterstock

By Benjamin Hickson

Being a production assistant (PA) is a crucial role on any set. However, let’s be real—no one aspires to be a PA indefinitely. Whether you dream of becoming a production designer, director of photography, or the next Steven Spielberg, everyone must begin somewhere.

The skills outlined here will help you excel as a PA and prepare you for the next big step in your career, such as becoming an assistant production office coordinator (APOC). Bear in mind, every set is unique, necessitating a varied skill set, and this list provides an excellent starting point for making an impression and differentiating yourself from your colleagues. 

Maintain a Positive Attitude

As a PA, your responsibility is to ensure the set operates smoothly and everyone has what they need. This could involve running countless errands for supplies or guarding a door to prevent disruptions.

No matter how fatigued or frustrated you may feel, it’s essential to remain positive. Your optimism can be contagious, improving the morale of the entire crew. Your enthusiasm could lead to more responsibility and opportunities to focus on your areas of interest.

Listen and Ask Questions

To be the best PA on-set, actively listen and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Your role is to facilitate everyone else’s job, and by listening, you can anticipate who needs help and with what. As a newcomer to production, use this opportunity to learn. Showing an interest in a particular field can help guide your career trajectory.

Take Initiative

You can stand out as a PA by taking the initiative. Completing tasks before being asked, anticipating needs and staying one step ahead can make a lasting impression. By displaying initiative, you show your superiors that you’re prepared and hardworking, possibly leading to more significant responsibilities.

For instance, on my first day as a PA, I created a Google Form for the crew’s daily lunch orders. This proactive step allowed the crew to focus on their jobs the next day and ensured I had enough time to fulfill my other duties.

Speak Up

Although it can be intimidating as a PA, don’t be afraid to share your opinions. A fresh perspective is always appreciated. If you have a more efficient way of doing something, your feedback is valuable. As long as you communicate respectfully, your superiors will likely welcome your input.

Be Friendly and Show Your Personality

Joining a set full of experienced professionals can be daunting. However, this is an opportunity for networking and getting to know your crew. Knowing your crew’s preferences can help you perform your job better. To advance in this industry, it’s essential to make friends and make a personal impression.

As an APOC, the production manager has made me the primary point of contact for the cast and crew for daily operations on-set. It was hard to imagine when I started as a PA that I would become an APOC in less than a year. However, my diligent work and positive attitude demonstrated my potential.

The transition from PA to APOC has been rewarding both professionally and personally. The promotion reaffirmed that I’m on the right path, and my hope is that these skills will help you continue to climb the call sheet to reach your dreams.

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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