3 Essential Strategies for Production Assistants Working with Talent

Posted on: May 02, 2024

Photo Credit: KinoMasterskaya // Shutterstock

By Benjamin Hickson

Production assistants (PAs) are often tasked with a wide array of responsibilities on-set, and handling cast and talent is often the most intimidating of these responsibilities. Throughout my years in the industry, I have learned a few tips for mastering the art of handling cast. Whether it’s an A-list actor or your average home buyer on House Hunters, being able to maintain harmony on-set by anticipating their needs, fostering a positive atmosphere and diffusing tensions is essential to creating an environment conducive to creativity and productivity.

From communication techniques to problem-solving skills, these insights will equip PAs with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of working alongside actors, ensuring a successful production from start to finish.

Be Professional

As a PA, it can be very exciting to get tasked with working directly with the cast. Many of us that work in the industry do so because we love TV and movies, so getting the opportunity to work alongside your favorite actor or reality TV personality can be exhilarating and even intimidating. However, it is very important to remember that you are at work and so are they, so treat them with the same respect and professionalism as everyone else on the crew.

Actors often spend their entire lives being watched and scrutinized by the public and their fans, so when they are on-set, more often than not, they just want to be treated like everyone else. It may be tempting to ask for a photo or an autograph, but that can be seen as unprofessional to many. In my experience, treating the cast with respect can help get them on your side, and they may even begin to see you as their peer, which could lead to future opportunities.

Anticipate Their Needs

If you want to stand out, it is essential to be able to anticipate the needs of your talent. If you take the time to get to know the cast, along with their habits, likes and dislikes, you will be able to better take care of them. Always being ready with their favorite crafty is a great way to win the cast over.

Everyone knows that working on-set usually means long hours and a lot of waiting around, so anticipating the needs of the cast can help to build rapport and trust. When cast members feel understood and supported, they are more likely to communicate openly and work collaboratively with the crew, leading to smoother production processes and better outcomes. 

Be Friendly and Encouraging

Depending on the type of production you are working on, the talent may often be secluded and separated from the production crew, so by being a recurring friendly face you can assist in making the talent more comfortable on-set. Actors must be able to display a wide array of emotion and do so in front of the entire production staff, and that can be very mentally draining. As a PA, you are able to offer encouragement and make them feel confident in their job. 

I have worked in a lot of reality TV during my five years in production, and I have observed that when the average person is put in front of the camera, they often get nervous. By being a friendly and encouraging face, you can give the talent confidence and the ability to perform and help to create a better product. Shows like House Hunters, Queer Eye and many others rely on the subjects to be entertaining and compelling on-camera, so offering help and friendly advice goes a long way to make them comfortable on-screen. 

Practice Good Time Management

Time management is a necessity when working as a PA. It is even more important when you are tasked with working with the talent. Nothing can be shot without the cast, so ensuring they are where they are needed, when they are needed, is essential for a successful shoot. Actors and reality stars often lead busy lives, so by doing everything possible to ensure they are on-set, on time, allows them to get back to their off-set lives as soon as possible.

By effectively managing your, and the talent’s time, you play a pivotal role in the success of a production. Schedules on-set are essential to maintaining order and morale, but sometimes they fluctuate and can change on a whim. As a talent PA, it is your job to help explain these schedule changes to the cast and ensure they are not stuck wasting their time on a set that is running behind, or late to a scene that got pushed up. 

The ability to effectively manage interactions with the cast is a skill that can elevate your role as a production assistant from merely functional to indispensable. It is essential to establish clear communication channels and demonstrate empathy and adaptability when handling the talent. 

Remember, each interaction with the cast is an opportunity to showcase your competence and professionalism, potentially paving the way for future opportunities and advancement in the industry. By continuously honing your skills and refining your approach, you’ll not only excel in your role as a production assistant, but also leave a lasting impression as an invaluable asset to any production team.

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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