What Does An Assistant Director Do?

Even though movies can take hundreds of people to make, most would consider the director to be the most important crew member of a film. Directors take a script and mold it into their vision, inspiring the actors and collaborating with the cinematographer to create visuals to match the story of a movie. Yet the actual duties of a director are much less hands-on than most people suspect; a lot of that comes down to the first assistant director (AD).

According to ScreenSkills, a first AD's responsibilities are varied and plentiful. They act as the right hand to the director, along with assisting the cinematographer (AKA the director of photography). Before a single scene is filmed, first ADs will analyze a script and determine the locations, crews, and equipment needed for every scene. They work out the scene schedule and estimate how long every part of the movie will take to film. When filming begins, they manage the set, leaving the director to focus on their own responsibilities. It's an exhaustive yet vital job, and without a good first AD, a movie is likely to be a disaster.

First ADs are relevant to every part of production

First ADs act as intermediaries between the director and the crew and are the fulcrum of the movie throughout. Along with the script breakdowns that determine the who, what, and where of each scene, ADs are responsible for creating some of the most important documents of a film — including the storyboards and the call sheets (via StudioBinder).

What about the other levels of Assistant Directors? According to ScreenSkills, second and third ADs are also vital crew members. Second ADs are the main point of contact off-set. They arrange for transportation, hire extras, draw up daily call sheets, and communicate with talent, make-up, and wardrobe departments. Third ADs are like assistants to the Firsts, dealing with extras or members of the public if the shoot is in a public location. Assistant Directors are definitely some of the unsung heroes of the movie world. The vision of a good director can make a movie great but assistant directors truly make the movie happen.