In film production, the crew list often gets extremely long with many job titles. With that many people, you can be left wondering what all those people do. Today, we are starting a new article series describing film jobs on set. One of the jobs you may see, and a job that is very important is the job of the assistant director.
The assistant director is the timekeeper and problem solver on set. They relay information from the director to the team, while balancing the time constraints along with health and safety. Below, we describe the tasks involved in the typical day of an assistant director.
What Does the Assistant Director Do?
The assistant director is the liaison between the director, cast, and crew. It is up to the assistant director to realize the vision of the director, through communication with other people working on the movie. They can be responsible for logistics and time management on a set.
[box] Not to be mistaken with the director’s assistant, as they do less of the administrative work for the director. The director’s assistant will be filling in forms, making notes, and discussing finances during the shooting and production process. The assistant director will be organizing the crew, managing the shooting schedule, shot lists, and liaising with the heads of departments.[/box]
The assistant director must make the vision of the director come to life. Larger sets may often have first and second assistant directors, and possibly even go to a third. Together they must piece together the logistics of the shoot.
1st Assistant Director
The main job of the first assistant director will be to break down the script. They will explain to everyone what will happen in each scene and how they will execute it.
Once broken down, the scene will be organized into shots. Here, they will need to meet with the director and director of photography to get their views and needs.
Once complete, they will flesh out a shooting schedule and call sheet. This will also involve the production coordinator and producer. A decision will be taken on principle actors needed, background actors needed, and how many, and what props or staging they will require.
Before the director calls for action, the assistant director will call a role. This will bring in the required sound and camera crew members. After the cast will either be reset or the crew will set up for the next shot.
While doing this, they must also keep track of the overall schedule. For reshoots, it will be the assistant director who will notify everyone when and where they can make up the time.
The Call Sheet
The call sheet is one of the most important items on a set. It is basically a blueprint and guideline for the whole day of shooting. It is imperative it is read by everyone working that day.
The call sheet will include what scenes are going to be shot and who is allowed on set. It also includes the advance schedule for upcoming days. There should be enough print outs of this for everyone, or the assistant director will become overwhelmed with questions.
The call sheet will often be modified due to problems, inclement weather, or cut scenes. However, having the blueprint allows for greater flexibility on the set.
2nd Assistant Director
The 2nd assistant director has a very similar role to the 1st but with some diminished responsibility. It is up to them to help create the call sheets and roll call in conjunction with the first. They will also deal with paperwork, such as payment vouchers and timesheets.
A lot of their job is making sure background actors know what is expected from them. They will show them where and went to move in a scene. They will also brief any stand-in actors.
On larger sets, you may even have a key PA as part of this team. The key PA aids the 1st assistant director and manages the personal assistant team. They ensure the PA team does their job and is responsible for lock-ups.
Health and Safety
One of the most important jobs of the assistant director is to monitor health and safety on set. This includes any stunt work, special effects, and pyrotechnics. They have the last say on what and what is not safe to do on the production.
This is a very serious situation. Many people have died on set as a result of negligence, and members of the crew including directors and producers have been taken to court to face charges regarding this.
How To Be a Great Assistant Director
To be a great assistant director, you must constantly be watching the clock. They are sometimes referred to as the “time police” on set. Without them keeping track, shoots would just run on.
They must also have great communication skills. Shouting at people and telling them to work is not the best way for them to function. Instead, they must be open to any problems and work around this, maximizing the best use of time.
All information must go to them and be given out from them. For example, if a problem occurs with the lead actress wardrobe, it would be a great assistant director who thinks of something else to shoot while the problem is being fixed.
Organizing a Crew
As you can see, the assistant director balances a lot of plates. However, their job is extremely essential and inevitably, rewarding.
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