Television Producers’ Assistants: Job Description
This remarkable document gives a detailed insight into the varied job of a television production assistant during the 1960s and 1970s.
Dating from 1973, the 10,000 word job description covers every facet of a PA’s work from the beginning of a programme’s production right through to its transmission.
This job description was created after 45 production assistants – 10 per cent of those working for BBC Television at the time – were interviewed about their jobs as part of an effort to standardise job descriptions within the Corporation.
Production assistants’ duties were diverse. Under the broad heading of “assisting the producer or director in the planning, execution and accounting associated with a programme”, PAs were expected to be a central hub for communication throughout a programme’s production. They were also expected to provide a “high class secretarial service” to their senior colleagues.
At this time, nearly all production assistants were women. In some working environments, such as outside broadcast, the PA would be the only female member of a crew. This is evident in the gendered language found within this job description, which uses feminine pronouns (“she”, “her”) to describe the assistant’s job while using “he” to describe the director.
As the job description makes clear, producers’ assistants were vital members of the television production team. Responsible directly to a show’s director or producer, they were among the first to be appointed to a team and often the last remaining after a production had concluded.
A PA was expected to do the job of an office manager, secretary, and production accountant. They carried out a wide range of research tasks prior to programme production, including specialist research and film, photography, and music archives. They assisted during casting – including by shielding the director from “unnecessary or unwanted intrusions from importuning agents or individuals”.
During programme production, PAs took vital records of what was being shot and recorded, and kept track of programme timings. In live television production this work was essential in ensuring that programmes went on air and came off air at the correct times. On top of these responsibilities, the PA had a “central role” in continuity, with an obligation to keep track of the consistent use of settings, props, costumes and camera shots.
Television Producers’ Assistants: Job Description (PDF, 1.8MB)
Video: the work of producers’ assistants in 16mm television film production
In this video, retired BBC producers’ assistant Alex Branson discusses her former role with camera operator David Whitson and camera assistant John Adderley.