Assistant Directors: The Important Job You Never Heard of

jon_midlane_first_assistant_director_tv_640x360We all know how insane productions can get; there are so many little cogs and wheels that need to work together in order to get a project done. Someone needs to make sure those pieces stay greased and move smoothly, and that person on set is the Assistant Director. They are in charge of the cast and crew on set, while maintaining communication with the producers, and providing updates on the shooting process among other things.

The Assistant Director’s, or AD’s, key goals are to keep the production on, or under, budget and on time. Other responsibilities of the AD include: breaking down the script, keeping track of the productions progress (compared to where it SHOULD be), and working closely with the director to plan out set days to the minute (shooting schedules especially). But wait…there’s more! The AD also monitors the set to make sure the cast and crew are following safety measures, and that no union, labor, or location agreements are broken.

Assistant Director’s must always be thinking three steps ahead of the rest of the crew. They should have the answers before the questions are even asked. While monitoring the current set, the AD is also responsible for planning the following days shoot and coordinating things for future shoot days.

All of that is just the responsibility of the FIRST AD. The second AD has their own set of responsibilities. Most of it includes paperwork and keeping track of crew/cast hours and organizing production documents. On set, the second AD is primarily in charge of managing the atmosphere movement (background cast/extras), reporting and passing on information to the cast/crew, and notifying cast when they are needed on set. From time to time, the second AD may need to take on the responsibilities of the first AD temporarily, so it is important to understand what they do.

The job of an assistant director (first, second or otherwise) is pretty demanding. AD’s need to have strong leadership qualities as well as diplomatic skills to keep petty arguments on set from blowing up into something that will jeopardize the production. Trouble-shooting, organization, time management, and quick thinking are all valuable skills that an AD needs to have to keep a production running.

With all the stress that comes with the job, sometimes you just need to take a second and laugh about it:


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