How To Become a First Assistant Director

How To Become a First Assistant Director

What is a First Assistant Director?

First Assistant Directors (1st ADs) act as the intermediary between the Director and the cast and crew, but they are also responsible for coordinating the whole production activity and providing the production office with regular updates from the shoot.

After going through the script, together with the Director, the First Assistant Director is in charge of creating the filming schedule, which has to take into account the availability of cast and crew involved, script coverage, budget and all other details of the production, making the 1st AD a key person in any production. For the rest of pre-production, Firsts oversee and check that all the necessary duties and tasks to prepare and organise shoots have been carried out.

During production, it is their responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly and on time. This involves making sure that every cast and crew member is on standby and ready during shoots, driving forward the team to ensure that deadlines are respected, control discipline on set and prepare the so-called “call sheet”, which includes all the details for each day’s shoot, such as locations, time schedule, cast, scenes etc.

Finally, 1st ADs are responsible for health and safety on set, and are supposed to make sure that any possible hazard or risk is either avoided or minimised as much as possible.

Key Skills
Being the go-to person for logistics on set, a First Assistant Director must combine exceptional planning and organisational skills with the capacity to manage crisis situations and solve problems, even and especially while under pressure and within a tight schedule.

Multi-tasking is needed to address all the different aspects of a production for which they are responsible, as well as being able to prioritise them.

In terms of people skills, 1st ADs must be exceptional communicators and negotiators, being able to deal effectively with everyone involved in a film production.

This job can be very demanding in terms of both effort and working hours. Long working days are the norm and First ADs need to keep focused and attentive to even the smallest details throughout the shoot.

How to get to work as a First Assistant Director
This job requires significant experience in film production. Most 1st ADs start their career as Runners or Trainees, before undertaking the directorial path progressing to Third and then Second Assistant Director, and only then they are able to be promoted to 1st AD.

Education and training
There is no formal qualification requirement for this role, being mostly experience-based. However, for someone looking to start their career in the film industry with their main interest being directing, a film-making, photography or performing arts-related education can be beneficial.

Where can it take you?
As a role involving many organisational responsibilities, many skilled 1st ADs stay in the same position throughout most of their careers, aiming at big-budget productions. However, as the role connects the Director to the Production Office, career advancement can be pursued towards either the former and the latter if desired.

Become a First Assistant Director today

If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest First Assistant Director vacancies on our jobs board? You can view our latest vacancies here.