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Individuals who work as production assistants are typically employed in the television or film industries. Production assistants often have a long list of duties and responsibilities that could range from answering phones in a production office setting to making coffee runs for the cast and crew. While they are sometimes viewed as worker bees, responsible for a production’s smaller everyday tasks, the role of product assistants can vary greatly depending on the budget allotment and needs of a production.
A few common duties and responsibilities of a production assistant include operating faxes, copiers, and other office equipment. Production assistants may also be asked to have a quality understanding of computers and use Microsoft Office products. They may be required to answer office phones or even manage the cell phone of one of their superiors. Production assistants could also be required to lift up to 50 pounds since they may have to pick up or deliver large items to various set locations.
As a production assistant, you may be required to run errands or transport individuals associated with the production using your vehicle or one provided to you. Most TV and film sets have food catered to ensure the cast and crew have plenty to eat for workdays that could last up to 16 hours. The production assistant might be in charge of having the food catered several times per day. An assistant might also help supply the craft service – or food and snacks usually available all day to individuals involved in crafts (camera and lighting crews, makeup artists, grips, etc.) since they may not have time to sit and eat during the times catered meals are served. Production assistants might also be responsible for booking meetings and setting agendas for the production.
In addition to managing tasks for their direct superiors and meeting the needs of the set, production assistants might be required to respond to requests from any member of the production. It’s quite common for production assistants to make coffee or food runs for the actors on set, particularly if their own assistants are not on hand. It’s also well known that production assistants are tasked with jobs that other cast and crew members don’t want to do, but the benefit of doing so is the ability to gain intimate insight into the world of film and TV production.
One of the most challenging aspects of working as a production assistant is the long hours. The job sometimes requires production assistants to meet the needs of the set for 10 to 14 hours in a day. They might also have to work nights and weekends. During work hours, production assistants are expected to be alert, attentive, highly reliable, willing to learn quickly, and able to listen effectively so instructions are not repeated multiple times.
Since the production assistant is considered an entry-level position, entering this field does not require vast training. In fact, production assistants typically don’t need specific educational or training backgrounds. However, it’s good to note that while many have received at least a high school diploma or GED, others may have studied TV or film production, communications, costume design, or graphic design in college.
While some freelance jobs have a variety of billing formats to choose from, including flat fees for an entire project and performance-based pay, it is most common for production assistants to be paid at hourly, daily, or weekly rates.
If you opt for hourly billing, you want to consider the state you live in and how that could impact your pay. For instance, in California, which is considered one of the main hubs for the TV and film industries, you are required to receive straight pay for the first eight hours of each workday. After that first eight hours, you are to receive time and a half. This means, if you work five 12-hour days on set, you will receive 40 hours of straight pay and 20 hours of time and a half.
You might work with a client that wants to bill you by the day. In this case, be sure to find out the average number of hours you will be expected to work. On one hand, a daily rate could undervalue you if you are required to work 12 hours per day at what breaks down to a low hourly rate. But if there are days where you will only be asked to work four hours on a slow day, the overall pay for the week might balance out or even benefit you.
While it’s known that production assistants generally work at the entry-level, this is not always the case. You might have years of experience in your role and great references from previous productions for which you worked, making it easier to bill a higher rate for your services. It’s also good to ask about the expectations of the job, because they might be slightly different from your previous gigs. All of this can be considered when setting your rate.
The process of creating an invoice for your production assistant work involves noting the work you’ve completed, your pay rate, and specific details that make contacting you and your client simple. Here is a checklist to consider when creating a production assistant invoice:
Full Name and Contact Information
At the top of your invoice, you’ll want to add your full name and contact information, including your address, phone number and/or email address. This can make it easier for your client to reach you for questions.
Your invoices should also include the business name and contact details for your client. This is not only important for payment and questions/concerns, but also for your tax purposes.
Each of your invoices should have a unique invoice number. Invoice numbers often have a “00001” format, but you can choose any number system that works for you. It’s also important to include the date you are invoicing your client for recordkeeping purposes.
Project Name and Description
You will want to name the project you worked on and offer a short, clear description so both you and your client are clear on why they’re being billed.
It’s important to list each day you worked as a production assistant for your client, the number of hours (if you’re being paid hourly or want to account for overtime), and a description of the work performed each day. You’ll also want to specify your hourly, daily, or weekly rate to justify the total amount you’re seeking.
Be sure to include the invoice payment date, which reflects the date by which you want to receive payment. You can alternately use “NET30” or “NET60” if you want to receive payments within 30 or 60 days, respectively. You will also want to include payment options you will accept. It’s often encouraged to allow your client to pay in multiple ways (i.e. check, PayPal, wire transfer, etc.) to ensure there are no payment delays.
It’s easy to create your own invoice from scratch and send it to your client via email. But if you’re not sure where to start, you can also choose one of Indy’s downloadable invoice templates, which are easy to customize to your personal preferences.
We also offer an invoice generator to create professional invoices that allow you to quickly add clients, track your project time, invoice multiple recipients online, and receive online payments via several trusted payment systems. If you select Indy to manage your invoices, you can get paid quickly and easily online.
Some estimate the average annual pay for production assistants at between $30,000 and $33,000 while others give higher estimates of between $31,000 and $43,000. As a freelancer who works at a day rate, production assistants often bill clients at between $150 and $250 per day. If you break this estimate into the average number of 10 to 14 hours on set, production assistants might earn $10 to $25 per hour. Individuals who have reported their own experiences as production assistants say it’s much more common to earn $125 to $150 for a 14-hour day.
How much you choose to bill your client depends on a variety of factors. First, it’s good to consider the type of production you plan to work for. Some estimate that commercial productions typically pay production assistants better rates than TV and film productions, but every experience can vary. Also, are you planning to work for a company with a big budget or serve as a production assistant for a smaller indie project? The smaller production might not have the budget to accommodate a higher rate.
It’s also good to consider the market in which you plan to work. If you work in a city that offers a lot of production assistant jobs, you might be in competition with a lot of skilled and reputable production assistants. On the other hand, a mid-level market might actually offer more opportunities simply because there may be fewer individuals with your level of experience seeking these types of jobs.
Keep in mind that production assistants don’t have their own union or professional association. This means, there generally is no standard rate of pay or protection for this type of work. So, while the overtime for production assistants might generally kick in when exceeding 40 hours per week, some have reported receiving overtime after working 14 hours per day. It’s good to speak with production assistants who work in your chosen city to gauge the average rate of pay since many production companies like to pay a set amount and might not budge unless the production assistant is well experienced and comes highly recommended – or the company is feeling generous.
Unfortunately, production assistants are often viewed as more easily attainable than some other jobs in the production industry making it a bit more difficult to name a price that falls far outside the average rate of pay. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push for the best rate possible. It’s good to keep track of the average pay and overtime in your area and negotiate accordingly. Let’s say your area requires time and a half pay after eight hours. If you work 14 hours, you should receive eight hours of straight pay and six hours of time and a half. That equals 17 hours of straight pay. If you work for $125 at 17 hours’ worth of straight pay, you’ve essentially worked for only $7.35 per hour and may need to negotiate for more. Making these types of calculations can help you decide how to price your work.
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