The first assistant director on a movie set is often called the 1st AD. These important film crew members manage the film scheduling, the production budget for the film, and also act as a manager on the film set, so that the film director can focus on the creative duties of that job. Often the first AD on a film crew will call the shots before each take as well.
- One of the most important people on set is the First Assistant Director, usually abbreviated as First AD or even just AD. Unlike the name might suggest, the First AD does not assist in any of the directing duties, nor is the First AD like a Dwight Schrute-style assistant to the director. The role of First AD is almost like the boss on set. They run the production so the director can focus on the creative aspects of making the film. They usually know more about the production than anybody else on set and are keenly aware of the schedule and the budget.
As we were setting up for shots, our AD would stay on me about the schedule and give me reminders like this. - [Gevin] So, hey, Chad. Chad, it's 4:30. - Trade. - It's 4:30. Let's try to shoot this at 4:45. - Okay. For the role of First AD on The Assurance, I hired Gevin Booth who I've worked with on several short films over several years. He has the perfect personality to be an AD. - Alright, we're gonna do it again. - [Chad] Yep. - [Gevin] Bam! - If ADs are too flexible and easygoing, then everything will get behind and everyone will walk all over them. But if they're too strict, they can talk you out of getting really important shots, and they could make the entire crew miserable which can stifle creativity and make for an unpleasant work experience.
The AD really sets the tone for the whole production, and Gevin is one of the best I've ever seen at that. He's also there to encourage me when I need it. - Hey Chad, we got this. No, no, no, seriously. - Also, Gevin was the bad guy when I needed him to be. When everyone got to set on our biggest day, Gevin welcomed everyone but also laid down some ground rules. - Chad really needs to focus as the director on the action and everything. So if you have a, if you observe something, you have a question or anything, come up to me or Bry. Bry's the Second AD. Please just ask us, and we can tell Chad what we need or we can take care of the problem.
If you have any other questions, come to us. We can answer them. - That probably seems really rude that he would tell people to leave me alone, but that's one of the purposes of a First AD, to be like a defensive blocker so the director can focus. Cause if I were to have said, "Everybody, leave me alone," that sounds terrible. If the crew resents the director, then they just don't give as much creatively. So there has to be this good cop, bad cop dynamic for the sake of the production. Also, Gevin is kind of more likable than I am. So even when he's being really tough, he never really upsets anybody.
And that's another great attribute of the First AD that Gevin has. That being said, Gevin was super-busy when I hired him. He was working on a feature film and also as a supervisor on the hit TV show Hoarders on A&E. He warned me that he wouldn't have much time to work on The Assurance but I begged him to join our team anyway. In retrospect, I wonder if I should have hired maybe a less talented First AD that would have had more time and resources to give to our production. I met only once with Gevin in pre-production, very briefly to go over a rough budget.
Ideally we would have had a lot more time. There were several days of production where he just wasn't able to be there, and we didn't have any AD at all. And as you'll see later in this training series, that could have helped us a lot. Also, when I showed up to the set on the big shoot days, I was the only one that knew the schedule, and I was the only one who was familiar with the shot list and the setups and everything. That means that if anybody on set had any questions, they had to come to me and only me about it. So I couldn't focus on being the director. Now, Gevin did an amazing job, and when he was on set, he absolutely gave 100%.
But typically, the role of the First AD is to know everything about the mechanics of the shoot day so they are the ones that answer all the questions so the director can focus on the creative nature of that job. Now, a few other things about the First AD. They're kind of like the face of the production. So they usually make the announcements as we saw with the welcome. As we'll look at later, when we had to cancel the night shoot, it was Gevin that announced it to everyone. Gevin would call attention to safety announcements. - Everyone, silence please. - It's also customary to applaud for key cast members once they've wrapped, or in other words, once they've finished shooting all their scenes for the film.
And Gevin led that, as we can see here for the extras. - Thank you so much. (clapping) You guys did so good. - And later, when Andrew Tribolini had finished all his scenes. - [Gevin] Hey everyone, that's a wrap for Andrew! - [Everyone] Yeah! (clapping) - Another role of the First AD is to send out call sheets the day before a shoot. We'll talk more about call sheets in the next chapter. The First AD will also usually be the one literally calling shots before each take which we'll also look at in the next chapter. - Quiet, please! Roll sound. - But this isn't a hard and fast rule.
On the film set, everyone is always trying to get the director's attention. Even on a small little short film like this, people have questions, comments, jokes. People have suggestions of how to do things better. You know, a director can get overwhelmed with all the choices as it is. So they need a little help. Gevin did a phenomenal job of fielding those as much as possible. He filtered what I really needed to know and passed that on to me. And that's the role of a First AD in a nutshell: someone that can manage the entire production so that the director can focus on the creative tasks at hand.
Find the rest of the courses in the series—on everything from script writing to directing—on Chad's author page.
- Understanding the role of different crew members
- Sending out call sheets
- Using a slate
- Keeping continuity with a script supervisor and production photographer
- Keeping the crew fed, happy, and safe
- Rescheduling shoots
- Dealing with wardrobe for a large cast
- Using special effects makeup