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Tagging Your Screenplay

What Does an Assistant Director do?

The Roll of the A.D.

The Most Important Person on the Set

We all know there are usually hundreds of very talented people who work on a film -- from the director to the hair and make-up artists, the special effects guys to the caterers who feed the cast and crew, the electricians who light the set to the drivers and production assistants. But no one gives one of the most important jobs on a film set the credit they truly deserve, and that role is very clearly the Assistant Director.

The Assistant Director is NOT an assistant to the director. There is a separate job for that role. The duties and responsibilities of the Assistant Director are completely different.

The Assistant Director (or A.D.) must be the intermediary between the director and the crew, they are the ones that get things done, and most importantly, they are responsible to get the day’s schedule completed. In essence, they “manage” the entire film.

The Real Head Honcho

Some responsibilities an Assistant Director has are:
• Track daily Progress against the film production schedule
• Preparing Daily Call Sheets
• Maintain order on the set
• Breakdown the script into a Shot-by-Shot Storyboard
• Work with the Director and the Director of Photography to determine the shoot order and how long each scene will take to shoot.

Assistant Director on Set

Assistant Director on Dr. Ded Bug (directed by Aaton Cohen-Sitt)

In addition, they must make sure that the set is safe, the crew is safe and must make sure that union breaks are taken according to union rules and guidelines.

In general, they take care of everything on the set so that the Director can concentrate on his or her job.

If you want to be an Assistant Director, note that this is usually not a stepping stone to being a Director. Not to say that you can’t move from an Assistant Director to the role of a Director, but usually A.D.’s are made up of different personalities.

So, is this role for you?

In order to be an Assistant Director you must be:

• A leader
• A team player
• A negotiator
• Multi-task
• Be diplomatic
• Ability to solve problems quickly
• Ability to deal with emergency situations
• Work very long hours
• Keep up moral on the set
• A-type personality

Assistant Director’s are the ones who yell at the top of their lungs “Quiet on the Set!”

They are usually the first ones on the set with a shot list in hand. They are also in charge of other Assistant Directors and Runners.

At the end of each day, Assistant Directors fill out the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) reports, production reports, and prepare the Call Sheet for the next day.

Koala Call Sheets (software to create Call Sheets)

The roll of the Assistant Director is broken down into the following roles:

First Assistant Director (First or 1st A.D.):

This person is in charge. He or she supervises the Second Assistant Director. The First A.D. is directly responsible to the director. He or she works hand-in-hand another very important crew member on the set, called the Unit Production Manager, or UPM. These two roles are the two most important ones in the “Below-the-Line” section (as opposed to “Above-the-Line”roles, which are the creative roles, such as Writer and Director). The First Assistant Director also must estimate how long a scene will take to shoot and must adjust the schedule accordingly if a shot is not finished on the scheduled shoot date (hence create the next day’s Call Sheets).

Second Assistant Director (Second or 2nd A.D.):

If a production has a Second Assistant Director (smaller productions will only have a First Assistant Director), he or she will create the daily call sheets for the production schedule. The Second A.D. usually works directly with the Hair and Makeup department, the Costume and Wardrobe department, and the Prop and Set Dressing departments to ensure that everything is working smoothly and on-time.

Second Second Assistant Director (Second Second or 2nd 2nd A.D.):

Larger productions will have a Second Second Assistant Director to take over heavier workloads and larger cast and crew.

Third Assistant Director (Third or 3rd A.D.):

Productions with large crowd scenes or multiple set locations on the same day will require a Third Assistant Director. They will be in charge of moving a production from one set to another.

Additional Assistant Director (Fourth or 4th A.D.):

Also, sometimes called the Key Production Assistant (or Key PA), they can handle the Extras, or the Stunt scenes if these scenes require a lot of Stunt work, for example.

Production Assistant:

The Production Assistants work directly under the AD’s. Usually PA’s will follow an Assistant Director from production to production until they can move up to being a lower level Assistant Director.

Check with the DGA (Directors Guild of America) for guidelines and guild rules.

Jungle Software has some excellent tools to help you if you are or are planning to be an Assistant Director.

Some forms you will need are:
• Call Sheet Template or software to create a Call Sheet
• Daily Production Report

You can download a Call Sheet Template and a Daily Production Report here.

The Gorilla Ratebook can give you up-to-date guild rates for Assistant Directors and all other Crew Titles in the Director Guild of America (DGA).

For a complete working demo of Gorilla Scheduling click here for Macintosh or here for Windows.



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