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1st AD - Assistant Director (Film-TV)

What you do in the job?

The primary role of a 1st Assistant Director is to help the Director in the making of the film in the time allowed, dictated by the Producer/budget - but assisting the director in such a way as to allow them as much time as possible to concentrate on the creative process rather than on all the practical/organizational elements involved.

1st AD's have two main responsibilities:
Pre-production (the period before filming starts) where they prepare the 'schedule', (a filming timetable that shows which scene is to be shot on which day and what needs to pre-booked/hired to achieve that) and

Production (during the shoot) where their main task is to ensure that the production sticks to the schedule.


The work

The main task in Pre-production is to break down the script into a production schedule. This involves gathering info from the script and discussing the schedule with the Director to see which scenes they want to spend the most time on. The 1st AD has to then weigh up the Director's artistic ambitions against the constraints of budget and time.
The 1st A.D. will also be liaising with all other Head of Departments (Cameras, costume, make-up design etc), gathering up as much info as possible that will have an affect on the schedule.
They would also be working very closely with the Production Manager/Line Producer, whose focus is on the business, finance and employment issues associated with the film.

Scheduling also depends on the availability of actors and whether there are any child actors required (they can only work during certain times of the day depending on their age). Scheduling also depends on location restrictions, whether scenes take place during night or day, whether specially hired equipment is required or there are any stunts / vehicle movement / explosions / SFX / Animals / special Make-up for the actors, etc, etc.
The 1st AD ends up with a shooting schedule that tells all departments what is happening on any given day.
They also manage the technical recces, keeping Heads of Dept's up-to-date with any changes in the shooting order and also collating new information from any new locations that will affect the schedule.

JUDE CAMPBELL 1st Assistant Director

What qualities are required?

The ability to get on with people is crucial. You will be required to work with a whole range of people - and the 1st AD must know what everyone does.
Problems can easily arise when, for example, the Director is pushing for shots and the schedule is 'slipping' - The 1st AD has to know how much 'space' to give and when to 'move on'. Much of the job is down to timing especially as stress levels tend to rise towards the end of the day. It's very hard, fast, pressurized work and the 1st AD must be able to remain calm, authoritative, and in control at all times.

Key skills include:

be assertive and have good leadership skills
have good interpersonal skills to liaise with a range of people
be able to plan, think ahead and respond effectively to problems
be able to motivate others
have a responsible attitude towards & excellent knowledge of health and safety
have good computer skills
have an understanding of budgeting and scheduling
be very well organised and flexible
be able to keep calm in a pressurised environment.

How you start and where you can go with it?

TO FOLLOW - Here's more on What you do!

The 1st AD also manages & hires the 2nd AD, 3rd AD and Floor Runners.
The 2nd AD is responsible for organising the daily 'call sheet' which gives the crew and actors key details about the next day's shooting such as who needs to be on set, when they're required and which scenes are being shot.
The 3rd AD is answerable to the 1st and 2nd AD on set and may be required to direct extras during crowd scenes - along with a handful of other responsibilities. In short -they're effectively the 1st A.D.'s 'right-hand man'.

The 1st AD is responsible for driving the production forward and making sure the film is on schedule. At the start of the shooting day they might spend time looking at the set with the Director, DOP & other key HOD's. The 1st AD will hopefully agree timings with the Director, working out the key story elements or camera set-ups that have to be covered by a certain point in the day.

By lunch time, 1st AD expects to see a call sheet from the 2nd AD for the following day. After lunch, the 1st AD has to get everything moving again.
'Turning over' (meaning the camera is rolling..) on shots - the actual filming - can come in fits and starts, with bursts of very rapid action and the 1st AD has to ensure that everybody is ready for the Director's cue for action.
There is little room for manoeuvre in a schedule once you start filming and a key task for the 1st AD is to pace things so that the crew can 'make the day' - i.e. achieve everything that has been planned for that particular day's schedule.
Adapting to people and resolving conflicts is also very much part of the job. The 1st AD is essentially managing the entire crew for the day's shooting and is responsible for general organisation and discipline on set.
Other key responsibilities include looking after the crew's health and safety and answering to the Producer, who has overall responsibility. 1st ADs must be aware of health and safety legislation, give clear instructions and, if necessary, stop the action if anything becomes unsafe.
It is also the responsibility of the Assistant Director to ensure health and safety regulations and directives for working with children and animals are adhered to.


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