Film runner

Film Runner

aka: production runner, production assistant, PA

The film runner or production assistant is an entry-level job role in the film industry. Some of the biggest names in the movie business started their careers as film runners.

Film runners play a vital role in ensuring a film shoot runs smoothly. Working as a film runner will help you understand how to make a film and introduce you to initial industry contacts. So, if you want to work on film sets, you will likely start in this position.

On this page, you can find a complete film runner job description. We break down the job role including duties, education, career route, salary, and how to find work.

What is a Film Runner?

A film runner is an entry-level job role in the film industry. The role requires little training, and you don’t need previous experience to apply. Most people start their film careers working entry-level crew positions such as runner. 

The tasks you complete as a film runner will depend on a few factors, like the scale of the project. However, some typical jobs include driving cast to set, handing out call sheets, and making hot drinks for the crew. Easy tasks that help keep the film set running.

What Does a Film Runner Do?

The film runner can work in all departments on a film project. So, you can have an art department runner, accountancy runner, or grip runner. On smaller film sets there might only be floor runners that help the assistant director department.

The job of a film runner will vary every day. But the tasks are often simple such as blocking off a road for filming and keeping the set tidy. It’s also typical for a film runner to have a walkie-talkie and relay information from the AD department to the rest of the crew.

The good part of being a film runner is that you have the opportunity to watch how a film set works. If you are unsure what job you want on set, you can watch people work together and see what type of job appeals to you.

Job Description

The film runner starts work in production. First, the film producer will allocate the runner to a department. There they will take orders from the department head. For example, floor runners work on set and respond to the 1st assistant director. The runner will complete any tasks given throughout the day.

The tasks for runners are simple and require little training. However, more experienced runners will take on more challenging jobs. Such as helping to control crowds and even directing the background artists. People often work as a runner for a year or two before progressing to a higher job role in the film industry.

Production Duties

Film runners on set, take orders directly from the 1st assistant director, and complete any tasks given to them throughout the day. A typical runner task is making tea and coffee for the film crew and keeping the set tidy. The runner is also the first on set and last to leave, as a result, it’s standard for a runner to have a 12-14 hour work day.

  • Driving cast and crew to set
  • Production office admin tasks
  • Making tea and coffee for the crew
  • Keeping the film set clean and tidy

Education and Skills

You don’t need experience or skills before applying for this role. However, having some basic filmmaking knowledge and enthusiasm for working in the industry is helpful.

Depending on your location, you might struggle to find work on professional film sets. If so you could gain some experience on local low-budget films before applying to work on a bigger project. Also, it’s also useful for a runner to have a drivers license and a car.

The work of a runner is simple and easy. However, it does require physical fitness and stamina, as you are on your feet all day. Use this job position as a stepping stone towards a higher paid and skilled job role.  

  • Enthusiasm for filmmaking
  • Communication, teamwork
  • Following instructions  
  • Drivers license and a car

Career Route

The film runner can work across film and TV. You can find runners working in all film departments. For example, if you want to work in the art department, you can be an art runner. Alternatively, some entry-level positions use the job title trainee or PA.

A film runner can move into any film department. It’s possible to work up the career ladder directly, for example, art runner, art assistant, art director, production designer. In this role, you learn by watching others, and it’s a great first job for anyone interested in a film career.

Salary

The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience. 

The film runner is the lowest paid member of a film crew. Most film sets will pay minimum wage, however, some union projects will pay more. For reference, the IATSE union has a starting day rate of $170. So, for the average 6-day work week, you will make $1020.                                          

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. A film runner is also known as a production assistant. However, you might need some work experience before you find work as a runner on major film sets. 

The easiest way to gain work experience is to work on low-budget film sets. That way, you can learn the job role without the pressure of a high budget. Another route is to work full-time as PA for a media company to gain experience before applying to work on film sets.  

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UTA Jobs ListScreenSkills Jobs
ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training, and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.

Wrapping Up

To Sum up, the film runner is a general assistant on a film set. They complete various tasks throughout production, which helps the workday run smoother. It’s important for a runner to have enthusiasm for the film industry and an interest in making films.

This job role is a great first step for anyone wanting a film industry career. It can sometimes be challenging as the work days are long. However, you can use your experience in this role to step up into any department position.

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