1399749216Under the Skin © 2013 Film4 and BFI

First Assistant Director (First AD)

Industries:
Film
Personality type:
Organiser
Departments:
Direction

The lowdown

  • Being the Director's right-hand person, taking responsibility for a number of important practicalities so that the Director is free to concentrate on the creative process
  • Breaking down the script into a shot-by-shot storyboard, working with the Director to determine the shoot order, and how long each scene will take to film
  • Drawing up the shooting schedule (a timetable for the filming) and making sure it’s kept to

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • be an authoritative team-leader and motivator
  • be an approachable team player
  • have exceptional organisational and time-management skills
  • plan ahead
  • trouble-shoot
  • pay close attention to detail
  • be an excellent communicator
  • have tact and diplomacy skills
  • routinely deal with problem or even crisis situations
  • prioritise tasks
  • multi-task
  • work long and often unsocial hours
  • be flexible
  • have a positive approach

What does a First Assistant Director (First AD) do?

First ADs' main duties are assisting the Director, co-ordinating all production activity, and supervising the cast and crew.  They are also in charge of a department of other Assistant Directors and Runners

Overall, they provide the key link between the Director, cast and crew, whilst also liaising with the production office, and providing regular progress reports about the shoot. 

Before the shoot, the Firsts' main task is to create the filming schedule, working in careful consultation with the Director.  When drawing up the shooting schedule, First ADs must also be aware of the budget, cast availability and script coverage. 

Preparing the storyboard, overseeing the hiring of locations, props and equipment and checking weather reports are all key pre-production duties for Firsts. 

During production, they must ensure that everyone is on standby and ready for the Director's cue for action. 

First ADs' main responsibility is to keep filming on schedule by driving it forward, so they make announcements and give directions to co-ordinate the cast and crew.  They also control discipline on the set, supervise the other Assistant Directors and oversee the preparation of the daily 'call sheet' (a document with daily shooting logistics, distributed to all cast and crew). 

Firsts are also responsible for health and safety on set or location, and must take action to eliminate or minimise hazards.

Will I need a qualification?

You don’t need a formal qualification to become a First Assistant Director.

If you are considering taking a film production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the film industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in film: 

Film production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

In particular, you will need specific experience in planning and budgeting (and how this affects scheduling), as well as in-depth knowledge of, and qualifications in, current health and safety legislation and procedures. 

You should take regular health and safety training courses to keep this knowledge up to date.

You will need a full driving licence.

What's the best route in?

You can expect to start your career by getting work experience as a Runner on a film set or in a production office before working your way up through Third Assistant Director and Second Assistant Director.