Assistant Film Director Careers

How to become an Assistant Film Director

What does a Assistant Film Director do?

Assistant directors are the organisers, planners and negotiaters on a film set, and are usually subdivided into a hierarchy of 1st, 2nd and 3rd assistant directors. The most important supporting role to the director is played by the 1st assistant director (1st AD).

1st ADs run the set, organise other assistant directors and floor runners, and prepare the shooting schedule. They motivate the crew to work as hard as possible, and make sure that all the elements of a film, eg actors, sound, camera, costume, props are in the right place at the right time. They drive the production forward ensuring that resources, eg locations are used effectively.

Their main priority is to keep to the shooting schedule, ie. how long each scene should take, which they have agreed with the director and production manager. The shooting schedule is created in pre- production, and is a balance between the aspirations of the director and the budget of the producer. With all the practical management of the set taken care of, the director has more freedom to concentrate on the creative side of the film, eg encouraging the best performances from the actors.

The 2nd assistant director has responsibility for creating the call sheet, ie a full list of requirements for the next day's shooting presented in one document. They also liaise between the set and the production office, and keep key personnel informed of changes and developments. For each individual scene, they make sure that all the artists and crowd know exactly what they are doing and when.

The 3rd assistant director stays with the actors making sure they are happy and able to get to the set on cue.

It is the responsibility of the assistant directors to ensure health and safety regulations and directives for working with children and animals are adhered to. In this sense, their role is similar to a production manager (see Production Manager profile) but is based on set. 1st ADs support directors by establishing clear timings and discussing the availability of resources with the production manager, whose focus is on the business, finance and employment issues associated with the film.

What's the working environment like working as a Assistant Film Director?

Working hours will vary, and usually include evenings and weekends. Assistant directors usually work long days of up to 12 hours or more, depending on the needs of the production.

The work can be carried out in studios or on location. The working environment will therefore vary depending on the venue chosen for the production. A driving licence is an asset.

What does it take to become a Assistant Film Director?

To be a assistant director, you should:

  • 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 very well organised and flexible
  • be able to motivate others
  • have a responsible attitude to health and safety
  • have an understanding of budgeting and scheduling
  • have good computer skills
  • be able to keep calm in a pressurised environment.

Assistant Film Director Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Assistant Film Director that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

FT2 Film and Television Freelance Training
4th Floor
Warwick House
Warwick Street

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
373-377 Clapham Road

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  • Filming for an episode of Eastenders normally starts six weeks before its transmission.
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