Reel Opportunities

1st Assistant Director

Also known as: 1st AD, First, First AD, Assistant director, AD

What does a 1st Assistant Director do?

The 1st Assistant Director (AD) is the director’s right hand. They are directly responsible for running the set during production, and most of the main crew report to the 1st AD. 1st ADs plan the filming schedule, working with the Director, Production Manager, Director of Photography and other heads of department to ensure an efficient shoot.

In pre-production, 1st ADs break down the script, analysing it for what will be needed in terms of cast, locations, equipment and crew. Along with the Director, the 1st AD prepares the shooting script which identifies all the specific shots that will be taken during the shoot. Then they input the scripts into computer programs such as Movie Magic software, which helps them work out what to film and when, depending on the availability of cast and locations. They write the shooting schedule and work out how long each scene will take to film. Along with the 2nd AD, the 1st AD helps to prepare the daily “call sheet” and makes sure everyone stays on a schedule in accordance.

On many sets, at crew call, the 1st AD will prepare a safety and logistics meeting with the main crew. During filming 1st ADs manage the set, which leaves the Director free to focus on the actors and framing the shots. A 1st AD must have general knowledge of every department on a production and know how to delegate tasks to each department on behalf of the Director. Another task of the 1st AD during filming is to “call roll” which is when the 1st AD cues the heads of departments to ready themselves for filming. In many cases, the 1st AD may even call “action!” for the Director.

What’s a 1st Assistant Director good at?
  • Visualizing the script

    Read the script and know what this means in terms of cameras, locations and cast, understand the Director’s vision

  • Planning and Organization

    Analyze what is needed for a shoot, and co-ordinate the schedules of various departments including camera, make-up, hair, costume, design and visual effects, think ahead

  • Multi-tasking

    Pay close attention to what is happening in one shot while getting ready for the next one

  • Innovation

    Think of creative solutions under pressure when the unexpected happens

  • Communication

    Able to let a wide range of people know exactly what is required of them and get them to work together, ability to listen to the Director

Who does a 1st Assistant Director work with?

1st Assistant Directors work closely with the Production Manager, who supervises the production expenditures and arrangements as a whole. They also work closely with the 2nd Assistant Director, who is the main off-set contact with other departments and prepares the call sheet, as well as the 3rd Assistant Director, who is the 1st Assistant Director’s right-hand on set.

How do I become a 1st Assistant Director?

This is a senior role that requires many years of experience. Most 1st Assistant Directors start out as PA’s and work their way up. Here are some more tips:

Network online: Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making films or TV in your area. There might even be groups for Production Assistants and other entry-level roles… join them. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialize in the areas in which you’re interested.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Professional Organizations Associated With This Role

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