Like many production roles, First Assistant Directors have a variety of responsibilities on set. While not every production project type requires a 1st AD, if you are working on a narrative project, then this story is for you.
1. ADs ensure you meet your shoot day.
When 1st ADs are hired early, they become experts on the script and schedule, which allows them to make split-second decisions as issues arise.
They understand how to accommodate changes in locations, talent, gear and pick-ups while still prioritizing the scenes and shots that are most critical to the story. This is why it’s important to be as thorough as possible when creating your schedule and shot list (and why we built a robust scheduler into our call sheets at StudioBinder, a call sheet creation and tracking application).
2. ADs keep communication lines open between departments.
1st ADs are the communication liaison between all departments on set. As the hub of information, ADs are only as good as the info they possess, so they need to know everything. Updates, issues and concerns should be brought up directly to the AD team. The 1st AD’s job is to assess the information, determine its importance, solve any immediate problems, then adjust the day to accommodate the changes.
Producers and the production unit can assist this process by sending requests to the 1st AD instead of the Director, DP or other department heads.
3. ADs protect the director from distractions.
Directors need creative space to do their job. On set, they are often lost in thought while everyone has a queue of questions for them. Ideally, the 1st AD should be the only crew member with direct access to both the director and DP.
Mundane requests interrupt the creative process, which in turn, can slow everything else down, particularly when the day is difficult or falling behind schedule. ADs are able to determine what questions need to be brought to the director’s attention immediately and what can wait.
Therefore, all issues, questions and concerns for the director should be brought to the ADs attention.
4. ADs facilitate safety on set.
1st ADs are responsible for the crew and talent’s well-being. This means watching out for potential hazards; everything from gear safety to natural hazards like scorpions, spiders and snakes to avoid. They maintain communication with FSOs, Police, Monitors, SFX Supers, Armorers, Pyrotechs, Stunt Teams, Studio Teachers, Set Medics and Site Reps.
ADs also create all accident reports, and monitor on set injuries. They have the power to veto anything that they deem unsafe at any time.
5. ADs manage paperwork.
Having a proficient AD can also work with the production unit to administer paperwork. Here are some pieces of paperwork you can expect the AD department to handle:
– Call Sheets
– Scene Strips
– Scene Breakdowns
– Talent Releases
– Payroll paperwork
– Exhibit G (time reports)
– DOOD’s (Day out of Days)
– Accident Reports
Your 1st AD should be one of the first hires for any project. Budgeting even one week of prep for the AD department can save you tenfold during production. If money is tight, spread out their prep days over the month preceding production. Also make sure to provide your AD with adequate time to get familiar with the script, scenes, dates, locations, cast and overall production plan.
This is why hiring a skilled AD, and providing them with the prep time needed, is one of the most important decisions the production department can make to ensure a successful project.
Darya Danesh is Cofounder and Content Director at StudioBinder where she is focused on the intersection between entertainment and technology. Find out more about Studio Binder here.
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