how to become a production assistant

Ep89: How to Become a Production Assistant (and Keep Getting Hired) | with Aaron Schmidt

Building a fulfilling and lasting career in Hollywood definitely isn’t easy, but when you’re starting from the bottom rung of the ladder with zero contacts and just breaking in it can seem downright IMPOSSIBLE. But no matter who you are, where you come from, or who you do or don’t know, anyone can get their foot in the door using the right strategy. As today’s guest says,

“It’s all about getting into people’s inboxes to make things happen.”

My guest, Aaron Schmidt, is currently the Post Production Assistant on Cobra Kai who managed to land his position on a hit studio television show just months after graduating from college (which by the way is extremely unusual). Glancing at his resume as an Arizona State University cum laude graduate with Dean’s List honors and several credits on high profile studio projects while still in college, you’d probably never guess that Aaron began his education being placed in special ed because he was dyslexic. But Aaron has learned there’s a lot more to being successful and forging a path in Hollywood than just “getting lucky.”

In today’s episode Aaron and I break down his experience on Cobra Kai, how he landed the gig in the first place, what his duties are as the post-production assistant (post PA), what he’s learned, and most importantly how he can improve so he lands his next gig (which by the way he already has..sorry, spoiler alert).

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • On breaking into Hollywood: How Aaron found no answers in film school and the intuitive insights that led him to chart his own path.
  • Why Aaron thinks is a “blackhole”.
  • How he set himself up for a “lucky break” that led to his Post PA position on Cobra Kai.
  • The 8 magic words that landed Aaron his first Post PA job after multiple failed interviews.
  • Zack’s Interviewing Mindset Tip: “Demonstrate you have a very clear understanding of all of the challenges of the person interviewing you, why you are the best solution to those challenges, and why you are the person who is going to make their life easier.”
  • What a Post PA actually does in studio television.
  • How Aaron earned more responsibility for himself than his position required, making himself a more valuable member of the team and increased his chances of getting hired on the next project.
  • KEY INSIGHT: Know what you want/where you want to be. Make it clear how people can help you. People are more willing to help than you’d expect – they just need clarity on HOW.
  • How Aaron’s dyslexia actually helped him be more resourceful and attentive to detail.
  • The importance of “crawling into the brain” of those you work with to anticipate their needs.
  • Why “Leave your ego at the door” is sage advice, no matter your position.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

The Insider’s Guide to Writing Great Outreach Emails

Ep87: [CASE STUDY] Why People Don’t Respond to Your Cold Outreach (and How to Get a Response) | with Scott Davis

Why Writing Cold Emails Is the Most Important ‘Soft Skill’ You Must Master (Especially If You’re An Introvert)

The 5 Most Common Mistakes You’re Making With Your Cold Emails (and How to Fix Them)

Want a Response to Your Cold Emails? Then Every Message MUST Do These 5 Things

Ep69: Cobra Kai…Inside the Edit Suite | with Jon Hurtwitz, Josh Heald, and Hayden Schlossberg

Ep12: The Right Way to Network In Hollywood | with Chris Visser

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:

Aaron Schimdt photoAaron Schmidt is a Chicago native who attended Arizona State University where he studied Film and Media Production. He graduated cum laude with Dean’s List honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Aaron has worked within many film and TV realms, stretching from his work with HBO’s television show Camping to Sony Pictures’s Cobra Kai and now working in development for TBS’s new show Obliterated. Aaron also has worked with independent film producers at Indy Entertainment on the films The Au Pair and Model Citizen. There he helped online and deliver final cuts of the films.

When Aaron is not in the office helping make characters come to life, he is advocating for the Learn Disability community. Aaron has spoken at many Hyde Park Day School conferences, helping parents understand what it is like to be dyslexic. He has also been a sounding board for teachers trying to update their curriculums to better suit their dyslexic students. Aaron will continue to help students set themselves up for success.

Aaron on Instagram

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Glen McNiel. Special thanks to Krystle Penhall and Sarah Furie for helping to spread the love!

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”