So if you’ve never been part of a film crew before you might be surprised to find out just how many roles there are. I’m here to help you learn about the roles you’ve never heard of! Today we’re going to talk about the First A.D.
The first A.D or the First Assistant Director is like a stage manager of the production. Their job is to help the director come up with a shooting schedule, keep the set on time, put out fires, send out the call sheet, and alleviate any excess responsibility the director has.
When you’re working on a set you never approach the director, you approach the A.D. This isn’t because the director is royalty, but because he/she has enough on their plate already. The position of the A.D frees up the director to spend time with the actors and the director of photography, allowing for a smooth operation.
A misconception of the position is that you need to instill the fear of god into your crew in order to get them to work efficiently. In reality, it’s walking that line between encouraging and stern, one thing to keep in mind is if you’re the A.D then you’re really in charge of morale on set. Yes, it’s true, you’re not there to be everyone’s best friend, and you need people to take you seriously, but creating an encouraging “we’re-on-the-same-team” atmosphere will do wonders for you.
An encouraging couple of words at the beginning or end of the shoot will catapult you miles ahead in the eyes of your crew.
You also have the authority to really speak into people’s lives. Get to know your crew a bit, if you see someone’s struggling ask them about it during lunch, or a lengthy setup. Now I’m not saying become the on-set counselor, but a thoughtful act like that will really inspire your crew.
Also, it’s your job to make sure your director stays sane and on track. This can be intimidating on your first go, after all, you’re on the side of the director’s vision and you want their film to be the best it can. That being said there’s no better feeling than getting to cut shots for the day.
Encourage your director to get a need and a wish list if you’re pretty strapped for time, that way you’ll be fighting to get the essentials instead of just yapping about how short on time you are. Also, it’s your job to magically find time in the schedule when — not if — you run behind.
This can easily be solved by creating a schedule that has more time than you need, not by much, mind you, but an extra hour can really make a difference, that way you look like a magician and the director has enough time to bring their full vision to life.
At the end of the day that’s the best way to look at the position, not a power trip, but a role where you do everything you can in service of the story and encourage your film crew.