The New PA: Working In Online Video Production
Published on Sep 23, 2014 by Stephanie Rizzo
In the nine years since its debut, YouTube has grown to include some of the most dynamic original content on the web. What was once a community of hobbyists is now a viable career option for many of the site’s popular users. Some of YouTube’s more prolific content creators have even brought on production assistants to offset the amount of work necessary keep a channel running.
“Most YouTubers start out as a one man show,” says Dan Dobi, a 2005 Entertainment Business grad and producer of the YouTube documentary Please Subscribe. “For people who become really massive, it’s totally normal to scale production needs and start hiring staff."
The reality of a production staff is something viewers might not initially consider when clicking the subscribe button. Much of what makes YouTube special is the relationship between stars and their audiences. Since content is delivered directly, viewers feel connected to their favorite YouTubers in a way that’s different from any other type of celebrity. While bringing on additional help is a hallmark of runaway success, Dan doesn’t see it as hindering a YouTuber's accessibility.
“I think that hiring staff changes the value of what viewers are getting for the better,” he says. “Bringing on help allows content creators to do what they do best—create. Without help, a YouTuber can easily burn out under the stress of doing everything themselves. It’s the evolution of the business.”
As more of these types of production jobs become available, they provide opportunities for people who might share the average YouTuber’s enthusiasm for the medium.
“Work ethic is as important as background experience,” says Dan. ”Personally, when I hire people for jobs, I want them to bring the right attitude. Those best suited for this type of work are people who are willing to learn and see this as a passion more than a job.”
To avoid competing interests, that passion should extend to work behind the camera. If your goal is to work in front of the camera, you’ll be better off starting your own channel than attempting to crash someone else’s. It also helps to keep in mind the unique nature of the content.
“The skills needed to work one of these production assistant jobs is really dependent on the situation. I don’t think we can lump all YouTubers together. Essentially, these are individuals, and they all have different needs,” says Dan.
Ultimately, a willingness to embrace the work as a passion project is key when you consider that most YouTubers might not be able to offer benefits or other perks associated with more traditional jobs. However, many YouTube PA’s enjoy the challenge of working on a small team to help build something from the ground up. This, along with the excitement of working in a field that’s experiencing exponential growth, is often incentive enough for production assistants to stick around.
For those interested in pursuing this line of work, Dan suggests reaching out to content creators directly and offering to work for them on a trial basis. “If you get that far, it’s time to prove yourself. Full Sail students are trained to be on time and go the extra mile. You might be in class up to eight or 12 hours a day. Bring that restlessness to the workplace and show you’re ready to do whatever it takes.”