What it takes to be a production secretary (plus steps)
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Production secretaries provide the administrative and organisational support that keeps film and television productions running smoothly. This entry-level role provides many opportunities to build a career in production, progressing to jobs such as production assistant, researcher or production coordinator. If you're considering a career in production, knowing what it takes to be a production secretary can help you find your first job in film and television production. In this article, we share what a production secretary is and what it takes to become one, including the skills, knowledge and training for this role and what the work involves.
What it takes to be a production secretary
Managing long days, extensive tasks and sharp deadlines is part of what it takes to be a production secretary. Succeeding as a production assistant imparts important skills and experience for more senior roles in film and television production. The following are some of the skills and abilities that can help you thrive as a production secretary:
Production secretaries require strong verbal and written communication skills to work effectively as part of a production team. Active listening skills can help them field queries and follow instructions, and soft skills can be useful on a busy and time-pressured set. Production secretaries work with the director, cast and crew, plus their employers require them to field outside enquiries and interact with contractors, journalists and members of the public.
The administrative work of a production secretary keeps a production company running smoothly. Film production involves a lot of paperwork and filing, including film licences, DBS checks, invoices, music clearance and bookkeeping of petty cash. The senior members of a production team rely on the production secretary to have key information and regulatory paperwork available when they require it.
Production secretaries are responsible for setting up and maintaining a wide range of logs. They may create and complete hard-copy and digital logs that span the duration of a project, updating the logs to keep a concurrent record of key activities, processes and transactions. Logs maintained by production secretaries include the following:
child actor time sheets
Employers require production secretaries and assistants to be able to think quickly and solve problems independently. Work on a film set can be unpredictable, with long waiting periods and sudden urgent activities. If problems arise on set, it may fall to the production assistant to quickly research and source solutions.
The size of the production company can affect the scope of a production secretary's role. In small teams, the production secretary may also function as an assistant to the director, which greatly increases the level of responsibility and demands on their time. Key skills for production secretaries are flexibility and working effectively, particularly if deadlines are short.
What is a production secretary?
Production secretaries, or production assistants, are professionals that complete the administrative duties of a film or television production. They're a key part of the production management department and may run a production office or work with the team out on location. A production secretary's work can be highly variable with wide-ranging responsibilities and proximity to cast and crew. But their work is primarily administrative, focusing on clerical and organisational tasks.
How to become a production secretary
If you want to work in production, understanding what it takes to become a production secretary can help you break into the film and television industry. Gaining the right qualifications and experience can make you a competitive candidate for production secretary jobs. The following are steps you can take to find your first role as a production secretary and progress in your career:
1. Complete secondary education
Because the film industry is competitive, completing your basic educational qualifications can help you make the shortlist for an administrative role. Passes in English and maths at GCSE level, along with other required subjects, can help you progress in your education towards college entry. You can then study for higher qualifications that apply to a career in production.
2. Consider further or higher education
Many candidates apply for a production secretary role as an entry point for other jobs in production. Having a degree or vocational qualifications related to film and television can help your job application get noticed. The following are some National Film and Television School courses and degree subjects that relate to a career in production:
Production Management for Film and Television
Media and Communication
Film and Television Production
Directing and Producing Television Entertainment
Location Sound Recording for Film and Television
Assistant Directing and Floor Managing
3. Build strong administrative skills
Though production secretaries work in the film and television industry, their secretarial skills are the priority. Ensure that you have current computer, word-processing and note-taking skills to assist a film crew competently. You can learn or improve your secretarial skills by taking courses online or at your local college.
4. Demonstrate interest in film and television production
Employers are keen to hire production secretaries interested in how film production works. Beyond qualifications and experience, employers often look for a candidate who can show an authentic passion for a career in film and television. The following are some ways in which you can show employers you would like to work in this industry:
Join or run a film club.
Visit museums and exhibitions related to film and television, such as the National Science and Media Museum.
Share relevant hobbies and interests on your CV, such as acting or filming.
Create a portfolio of your own films or animations.
Complete work experience placements or internships with production companies.
5. Undertake an apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are an effective way of obtaining real experience in production that you can include on your CV. Many apprenticeships in film, television and media production involve work as a production secretary or assistant. You can apply to film and television companies that are hiring apprentices, earning level three and level four vocational qualifications that you can use to further your career.
6. Apply for internships
Completing an internship is also an effective way of gaining the experience you can use to get production secretary jobs. Many production companies use interns for the type of administrative work that a production secretary does. Even with a short, unpaid internship, you can use this opportunity to make valuable contacts and learn about job opportunities in the industry.
7. Create a CV
Prepare a concise and well-targeted CV that you can use to apply for production secretary jobs. Reading job descriptions for production secretary roles can help you include relevant information in your CV that clearly shows your suitability for the job. Highlight your interest and experience in the role, including your work experience in film and television and your administrative skills.
8. Search for a job
You can find production secretary jobs by undertaking an online job search, attending film and television industry career fairs or contacting the human resources departments of film and television companies with your CV. Consideration for this role may take many applications, as there's high demand for this type of position. Perseverance and patience can help you when applying for available job opportunities.
9. Build industry experience
Once you find your ideal production secretary role, you can look for opportunities to perform well and develop your career in film and television. Aside from developing new administrative skills, a production secretary role provides invaluable networking opportunities and exposure to the technical side of filmmaking. It also opens a career progression to roles in production management and directing.
What does a production secretary's work involve?
Production secretaries may work alone or as part of a team that includes other secretaries, production coordinators and managers. The work can be on a full-time, part-time or contract basis. The following lists typical duties of a production assistant:
answering and fielding phone calls
writing and responding to emails
organising paperwork, including film licences, invoices, release forms and contracts
arranging on-set catering
coordinating transport and accommodation
coordinating the arrangement of costumes and props
managing time sheets and logs
entering data into spreadsheets
booking meeting rooms
writing minutes for meetings
replenishing stationery and other consumables
managing and recording inventory
arranging equipment repair or replacement
filing relevant regulatory paperwork
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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