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Assistant director

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Assistant director

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The Assistant director (AD) is a filmmaking role. The duties include: setting the shooting schedule, tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, rounding up cast and crew by preparing daily call sheets, checking they have all arrived, maintaining order on the set, rehearsing cast and directing background artists (extras). In Australia, the first assistant director may carry a legal responsibility for health and safety as the "responsible person" and representative to the producer on set.

Historically this role as an assistant to the director was a stepping stone to directing work; Alfred Hitchcock was an AD, as was James McTeigue (director of V for Vendetta). This transition into film directing is no longer common in feature films but remains an avenue for television work, particularly in Australia and Britain. Now, it is more common for ADs to transition to production management and producer roles than to directing and the role of AD has become a separate technical profession.

The role of Assistant Director differs between nations. For example, the distinction between 22AD and 3AD is more common in North America. British and Australian productions, rather than having a 22AD, will hire a "second" 2AD to fulfill the same duties. 3ADs in both Britain and Australia have different duties to a 22AD and the terms are not synonymous.

The AD Department

Often the role of assistant director is broken down into the following sub-roles:

  • The First Assistant Director (1AD or "First") has overall AD responsibilities outlined above and also supervises the 2AD. The "first" is directly responsible to the producer and "runs" the floor or set. The 1AD, together with the production manager, are two of the highest "below the line" technical roles in filmmaking (as opposed to creative or "above the line" roles) and so, in this strict sense, the role of 1AD is non-creative.
  • The Second Assistant Director (2AD or "Second") creates the daily call sheets from the production schedule, in cooperation with the production coordinator. The "second" also serves as the "backstage manager" liaising with actors and putting cast through make up and wardrobe and relieving the "first" of these duties. Supervision of the second second assistant director, third assistant director, assistant director trainees, and the setting of background (extras) are parts of the "second's" duties.
  • The Second Second Assistant Director (22AD or "Second Second") is strictly different to a third assistant director as they can be an experienced second AD whose role is to deal with the increased workload of a large or complicated production. For example, a production with a large number of cast may require the division of the "backstage manager" aspects and the call sheet production work to too separate people. There is no clear distinction as to when a 2AD becomes a 3AD or vice versa. Although some industry bodies (American DGA) may have defined the roles in a objective way, really it is a subjective distinction.
  • The Third Assistant Director (3AD or "Third") works on set with the "First" and may liaise with the "Second" to move actors from "base camp" (the area where all the production, cast, and hair and makeup trailers are), or organize crowd scenes and supervise one or more production assistants (PA).
  • The Additional Assistant Director (AAD or "Additional") or Fourth Assistant Director (4AD or "Fourth") or "Key Production Assistant" ("Key PA") may have a number of duties but, most commonly, has two broad job functions. One is the contraction of the duties of an AD where the AD acts as both 2AD and 3AD simultaneously. For example, a production with a large number of cast may pass the 2AD call sheet production work to that of the AAD, especially when the 2AD is already performing the addtional work of a 3AD. The other main use of an AAD is as an adjunct to the 3AD and 1AD for logistically large scenes where more "ADs" are needed to control large numbers of extras. The "Additional" may also serve where the complexity of the scene or specialized elements within it (stunts, period work) require or are best served by a dedicated AD in most respects equal to a 1AD - directing and controlling a number of other ADs to direct action to the satisfaction of the 1AD and the director.
  • A production assistant is the lowest person on the crew's hierarchy in terms of salary and the ability to deliver orders to others. They are the "worker bees" that do as the other ADs tell them in order to make things run as smoothly and comfortably as possible on the set.

Calling the Roll

One of the 1AD's responsibilities is to "call the roll", which means that when all of the above the line people seem ready to perform a take, the 1AD initiates the take. Over the years, a special procedure has been developed for this task in order to achieve the maximum economy and efficiency during shooting.


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Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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