If you’re an Assistant Director., especially on the East Coast, you’ve probably heard of Joe Reidy. He’s like The Godfather A.D.s, having worked with most of the top directors in the industry on films like Gangs of New York with Martin Scorcese, Black Swan with Darren Aronofsky, or JFK with Oliver Stone.
In today’s post we’re talking about what I bring to set with me on a day-to-day basis as an Assistant Director in Film and Television. Although an Assistant Director’s most powerful tool is usually their demeanor, on set presence, and passion for communication and coordination, a good set bag will do wonders.
Unlike most technicians, Assistant Director’s don’t have “ditty bags” or “kits”, like…
It has never been more important to talk about safety in this business, especially after the results of the ongoing trial concerning the death of Sarah Jones, and the charges placed against 1st AD Hillary Schwartz, and the Producers and Director of Midnight Rider. In this video, some of the biggest names in entertainment in regards to safety talk about safety protocols, and the general sentiments of the industry.
A CONVERSATION ON SET SAFETY
Whether you work in fiction, non-fiction, live events or news, safety in our production environment is paramount. As producers, providing a working environment that provides for the well-being of all employees is a top priority. This event is not a training program, how-to, or emergency management program, but a gathering of professionals to hear and discuss protocols on a set. The conversation will take a three-fold approach:
We will discuss the many laws in place that address production safety and the many studio and production companies “codes of best practices.” We will also talk about the moral and “common sense” standards that should be standard behavior for all.
The discussion continues with reviewing the producer’s role and the various persons on staff who are in place to ensure a productive, safe work environment.
What is the proper way to alert employers and employees if there is a questionable situation on set? The conversation will cover situations and ideas on how to recognize hazards and the proper way to “question authority.”
Jacob Charney - Manager, Television Production: Environmental, Health & Safety, NBC Universal
Gahan Haskins - Location Manager/Scout: “W.E.,” “Margin Call,” “The Fugitive Chronicles,” “Sensing Murder”
Scott Mirkin - Producer, 2012, 2013 & 2014 JAY Z’s Budweiser Made In America Music Festival; Executive Producer, 2012, 2013, & 2014 VH1 Philly Fourth of July Jam, The Largest Free Concert in America; Executive Producer, 2013 CBS A New York Christmas ft. Regis Philbin; Producer, 2012 JAY Z Live in Brooklyn
Joe Reidy - First Assistant Director: “White House Down,” “The Dictator,” “Black Swan,” “Shutter Island,” “Revolutionary Road,” “The Departed,” “The Aviator,” “Gangs of New York,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Sleepers,” “Casino,” “Goodfellas,” “Born on the Fourth of July”
Lesley Young-Pavia - Director of Production, Stephen David Entertainment; Line Producer, “Redrum” (Stephen David Entertainment); Operations Producer, ABC News; Production Manager, NBC Sports
Kevin Moriarty - Kevin is Executive in Charge of Production for the “Rachael Ray” syndicated series. Over his career he has been a line producer and production manager for series including “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” for Travel Channel, “Roker on the Road” for Food Network, as well as series and specials for several other networks, and public television.
Edited by: Anika Maxwell
We all know the stereotype. A “bulldog” 1st A.D. barking orders and commands on set. They’re trying to move the set along the best way they know how, which unfortunately is quite detrimental to the crew morale and the overall spirit of the set.
Like most of my fellow ADs, coming up in the ranks we had the opportunity to work with and for a myriad of Assistant Directors; male, female, young,…
EXCLUSIVE: Criminal charges have been filed against Midnight Rider first assistant director Hillary Schwartz in the February 20 death of camera assistantSarah Jones. Schwartz was charged September 10 with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, the same two counts filed against director Randall Miller and producers Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish. Under Georgia law, a manslaughter conviction would carry a sentence of 10 years in prison. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries a potential sentence of one year.
My heart is heavy once again regarding the incident involving Sarah Jones’ death on the set of Midnight Rider. My original post right after the incident, AN OPEN LETTER TO SARAH JONES, was a clear indication on how strongly I felt about the subject.
Now it feels different.
This case has just set a precedent. It’s not just the producers and production company that are liable. 1st ADs are charged with the safety and security of the set, and this case is a thunderclap ringing through the industry, echoing the sentiments of so many.
However awful the circumstances surrounding the Sarah Jones’ death are, let this also serve as a sobering wake-up call to all Assistant Directors, Producers, Production Companies, and Directors in the Industry, that we are all in this together. We are all responsible.
A gut-wrenching reminder of the burden that is carried by Assistant Directors, this case should only strengthen the weight of responsibility of Assistant Directors in the Industry. The cast and crew’s safety and security is of paramount importance, and if you take the job, you must readily carry out your charge with unflinching resolve, even if it means making tough decisions that may jeopardize your paycheck. There is nothing that is worth risking the safety of the people that you are responsible to protect. If it’s not going to be the producers or director, it has to be you.
‘Midnight Rider’ 1st A.D. Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter EXCLUSIVE: Criminal charges have been filed against Midnight Rider first assistant director Hillary Schwartz in the February 20 death of camera assistant…
In this in depth video, produced by the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) for the applicants of the DGA Training Program, various ADs talk about what an AD does, and what the DGA Training Program entails.
In this clip, Michael Lerman talks about his role on large budget action movies, such as James Bond: Quantum of Solace. I think it’s important to note that he emphasizes that the AD’s job is not one of control, but rather, or communication and coordination.
In this video, veteran Producer, Production Manager, and Assistant Director Tom Kane talks about what it means to be an Assistant Director in the film and television industry. In one minute he’s able to simplify it. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing his entire lecture series, and it’s strongly recommended for anyone that wants to know that ins and outs of UPM’ing, AD’ing, and Producing, and how…
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the question—“What is an AD and what do they do?”, by either people new to the industry..r my friends and family.
Well first, let us just clarify–an AD, the short term used for Assistant Director (not to be confused with Associate Director, a term commonly used in live event, and media firms), is a key member of the directorial team on a film shoot. There are different types of ADs which we will cover later in this article, among them being the First Assistant Director, Second Assistant Director, and Second Second Assistant Director. Other key members of the directorial team on a film or TV production are Unit Production Managers, Associate Directors, Production Associates, and obviously, the Director.
The origins of an AD can be found in the theatre, where there was a director, and the director usually had an assistant, their assistant director, that helped to direct, stage, and research a theatrical production. Although the stage AD still exists today, and is quite an important role where many broadway directors got their start, it is vastly different from what a film AD does. In fact, a film AD is more like the stage manager for a theatrical production, calling the plays as the production goes along, keeping everything on track, and making sure the shoot day or production goes off with efficiency.
So, a film AD–what they do…?
An Assistant Director for film is usually broken down into two main jobs, of which are usually filled by two different people. The First Assistant Director (1st AD), and the Second Assistant Director (2nd AD). In short, the 1st AD runs the set, and the 2nd AD supports the 1st AD. There’s also sometimes a 2nd Second AD, a Third AD, and other subsets of the AD department…that’s usually on larger shoots with lots of cast, lots of extras, lots of money, and differs depending on what country you’re in. In the United States, the standard for a regular show is a 1st AD, a 2nd AD, and a 2nd 2nd AD, however on smaller shows, the 2nd 2nd AD does not work on every single shoot day.
First Assistant Director: The First Assistant Director is a key member of any film crew. The director’s right hand, the First is responsible for a myriad of things, from preproduction and moving into production and principal photography. In essence, it is the 1st AD’s job to “run the show” or set. Don’t mistake this for thinking that the 1st AD is the boss of a film set, as there are many many people “above” the 1st AD, technically, but I like to think of everyone on a set as an equal contributor to the process. However…to give you an example…the Unit Production Manager is the 1st AD’s direct superior. There are many things that fall under the jurisdiction of the 1st AD in pre-production as well as production, including, but not limited to:
- CREATING THE SHOOTING SCHEDULE
- BREAKING DOWN THE SCRIPT
- EXTRAS CASTING
- SCHEDULING THE DIRECTOR (Director’s schedule and meetings)
- SCHEDULING AND RUNNING MEETINGS (Between director and department heads)
- RUNNING SCOUTS (Location Scouts, Tech Scouts)
- SAFETY PROTOCOLS AND IMPLEMENTATION (Safety Plans for all shooting environments)
- HIRING OF CREW (along with UPM)
- LOCATION SCOUTING (not on all shows, but on some)
- COMMUNICATION BETWEEN ALL DEPARTMENTS
- OVERSEEING DAILY SCHEDULE (Call Sheet)
- KEEPING ACCURATE RECORDS OF SHOOT DAY (Production Reports)
- RUNNING THE SET
- DIRECTING BACKGROUND ACTORS
- IMPLEMENTING DIRECTOR’S VISION
- DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION
- SETTING THE TONE ON SET
- ON SET WORKFLOW AND ETIQUETTE
So there you have it, a quick and dirty description of what an AD does, and all the different things, along with many others, that are topics of discussion on this site.
Thanks for reading, now get back to set.
~Movin’ On, New Deal
SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE: So…what is an Assistant Director?
I’ve never had more fun on a shoot. Check out this epic spot I got to work on with…
Had a great time working on this slick little commercial with PLUS + Agency and Starwood Hotels.
With technology changing every second, it’s hard to keep up with all the things that can make your life easier on set. Here’s a list of some of my favorite iPhone and iPad apps that I use on a pretty consistent basis to help move the show forward.
BIG NOTE/DISCLAIMER: There is absolutely NOTHING that can take place of the people that have your back every day on set; your hired AD and PA team, and the rest of the crew working beside you. There will never be an app, program, super-computer, machine, humanoid robot, overly-paid producer…NOTHING, that can ever take the place of these amazing people. There…I said that.
Now… The following Apps cover a wide-range of uses, and depending on the show, you may not need all of them. Take what’s useful, discard the rest.
WHAT? YOU NEED TO GET AN ACTOR CONTRACT SIGNED AND SENT TO THE OFFICE ASAP BEFORE THEY CAN SHOW UP ON SCREEN? OH SURE, NO BIG DEAL, I’LL JUST GENIUS SCAN IT.
Genius Scan turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner. It enables you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF.
This app is absolutely fantastic, easy-to-use, and comes in handy for a variety of reasons. You can take a picture of a document, and this app “scans” it, and converts it to a replica of a scanned document of sorts–say you have to send a signed copy of a deal memo or an actor contract ASAP to an agent, SAG, or the production office, and you have zero access to a scanner, fax machine, printer, or wifi…this app will fill the gap.
Oh, your 2nd AD is at Base Camp a mile away, and your production staff is another mile in the opposite direction? Just DROPBOX it and we can get that call sheet approved.
I consider this one to be an ABSOLUTE MUST for the AD department.
Dropbox lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Access any file you save to your Dropbox from all your computers, iPhone, iPad, and the web. With Dropbox you’ll always have your important memories and work with you.
There are other services that are similar, such as Google Drive, Box, etc, and I suppose they are all about the same. I just prefer Dropbox because it has a catchier name. This one is very helpful, especially when me and my 2nd AD are spread apart, we can keep a constant connection with our paperwork. I can instantly look at any prelim call sheets or prelim PRs that he/she puts up, I can make annotated notes on my iPad, and they’re saved automatically, etc. Just a great great tool, and recently, Dropbox has become integrated with so many apps, that it’s hard not to use.
Need to make quick on the fly notes to a call sheet or sides for the next day?
Notability is the one place to create, share, and manage your notes. It combines handwriting, typing, audio recordings, and photos so you can create notes that fit your needs. And with iCloud support, your notes are always available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Anytime. Anywhere.
I love this app for numerous reasons. It’s used mostly in educational settings, but the advantages it can have on a film set are plain to see. Firstly you can make annotations straight onto PDF documents. This is invaluable for me as an AD working with my 2nd AD. Another great thing about this app is that it organizes all of your PDFs as well with its “subject” and “divider” feature, and you can share with your co-workers. The most exciting way I use this app is I make subject/divider folders for all of my daily files (digital sides for the day, call sheet, shot lists/over head plots, skins, etc) and they are all stored on my iPad in an organized fashion for quick reference, and able to be easily annotated on. It also syncs with a variety of other apps. LOVE this app.
IMPRESS THE HELL OUT OF EVERYONE ON A TECH SCOUT.
MagicPlan creates inside maps. It measures your rooms and draws your floor plan just by taking pictures. Simply add objects, annotations, and attributes to create an inside map.
I can’t talk enough about this app and how amazing it is. The first time I was introduced to is I was a little speechless…I saw my director make a floor plan an entire ground floor in about 3 minutes…it really is that easy. I’ll use this app on location or tech scouts to make quick floor plans, make quote notes about blocking, set dressing, holding and off set support, etc…and it’s all by just taking pictures of a room. I can then take these floor plans afterwards and use them to make overhead plots and shot lists. Just essential.
STANDBY FOR PICTURE, THE RAIN WILL BE STOPPING IN 37 SECONDS
A New Kind Of Weather App
Dark Sky uses state-of-the-art technology to predict when it will rain or snow — down to the minute — at your exact location, and presents it to you alongside the most beautiful weather visualizations you’ve ever seen.
I consider this app a nice little secret that I have up my sleeve. Dark Sky is EERILY ACCURATE on how it can predict precipitation down to the minute. Absolutely great for days when you have to shoot a scene rain or shine, or for when you’re trying to time a shot out with or without rain. I can’t tell you how useful this technology is, and how many times it has saved my ass on a shoot. BUY IT NOW.
NO NO NO, I SAID THE PORTA POTTIES ARE OUT OF PICTURE HERE!
See something that sparks an idea? Use Skitch to snap it, mark it up with simple tools, and send it on in an instant. Your bold ideas stand out even brighter with Skitch.
This handy little app is fairly new, but it has great potential. I use it to snap a picture of something (a scene’s wide master shot angle for instance) and quickly annotate straight onto the picture. It also integrates with iOS and you can draw directly on maps, web pages, etc.
I recently used it on a show where there was some emergency location scouting that had to be done, and we walked around and snapped pictures of street corners and drew in the placement of the picture cars for the scene (there was very specific placement required by the script, and it was essential for the director and DoP to have a frame of reference). I see this app becoming a main staple for my on set workflow.
These apps won’t get a full write up, but I feel like they should still be mentioned, and I definitely use them from time to time.
(especially when shooting in Los Angeles)
I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list in the coming months, but I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you have any apps you feel should be on this list.
Thanks for reading, now get back to set.
~Movin’ On, New Deal.
Had an amazing time in L.A. and NYC with this cast and crew of DEAN Such a pleasure working with them all, and a pleasure working with Demetri on his directorial debut.
#tbt to the set of @goodolboyofficial with director @franklotito producer @dmichellec82 script supervisor @erikasanz and best intern ever @jujutrain11 #setlife #1stADlife #bts #film #35mm #kodakfilm #videovillage
Ever wonder what it’s like to do script breakdowns for hire? Here’s a timelapse of that process boiled down to 15 seconds.