1st assistant director

1st Assistant Director

aka: 1st AD

The 1st assistant director is the director’s right-hand person. They manage the crew so the director can focus on the actor’s performance.

Making a film is a lot of work. So, the film director and producer hire people to help keep everything organized and on schedule. One such crew member is the 1st AD, who has a range of supportive tasks throughout prep and filming. 

On this page, you can find a complete 1st assistant director job description. We break down the job role including duties, education, career route, salary, and how to find work.

What is a 1st Assistant Director?

The 1st assistant director leads the AD department on a film set. Their team includes a production manager, coordinator, 3rd AD, 2nd AD, and many production assistants. It’s their job to make sure that the film is organized and running on schedule.

To do this, they create a shooting schedule and assist the producer with any planning. They stay by the director’s side throughout filming and help them direct the film. If anything disrupts filming, the 1st AD will do everything to try and find a solution.

What Does a 1st Assistant Director Do?

The 1st assistant director works alongside the director. One of their main tasks is to create a schedule and keep the film on schedule throughout filming. To do this, they manage the crew and help to solve any problems that might slow down filming.

The 1st AD also “calls the roll” on professional film sets. The calling of the roll is a series of phrases leading up to a scene’s recording. It typically begins with saying ‘quiet please’, ‘final checks’ followed by ‘sound rolling, camera rolling’ and ‘action’.

Another task is to act as a middleman between the director and the crew. So, if people have any problems, they can talk to the 1st AD and not disturb the director. Once filming ends, the 1st AD help to dismantle the production office and organize any final paperwork. 

1st Assistant Director Job Description

The 1st AD begins work in early pre-production. First, they complete a script breakdown and attend meetings with the director. Then they lead location recces and help to organize the film. Their main task is to make the shooting schedule. To do this, they use programs such as Movie Magic Software. They also hire the rest of the ADs with the producer.

During production, the 1st assistant director will always be on set, often standing close to the director. They will watch the scene’s blocking and ensure actors are in hair and makeup. Also, if any problems interrupt the shooting schedule, the 1st AD will help solve these. Above all, their main responsibility is ensuring the film is on time and schedule.

Pre-production Duties

To begin with, the 1st AD reads the screenplay and makes a complete script breakdown. Then, they will have meetings with the director and attend location recces. The 1st AD must also hire the AD team, PA’s and help to fill the production office. During this stage, their main task is to create a script filming schedule.

  • Create a complete script breakdown
  • Attend meetings with director
  • Hire an assistant director team
  • Create a script filming schedule

Production Duties

1st AD speaking to crew on set

The 1st AD is always by the director’s side during filming. They help manage the crew so the director can focus on the actors. On set, they give orders to their team of assistant directors and production assistants. The main task of the 1st AD is to keep the film running on schedule. The producer will often check with them that the filming is going to plan.

  • Works closely with the director
  • Leads the assistant director team
  • Helps to solve any filming problems
  • Keeping the film running on schedule

Education and Skills

As mentioned previously, the 1st AD is the head of the AD department. You don’t need a degree to work in this role, although a filmmaking course can teach you the basics. As a 1st AD, it’s important to have full filmmaking knowledge and understand everyone’s job role.

It’s common to start as a runner or production assistant and learn by watching others. To succeed in this role you need to develop strong leadership and teamwork skills. The 1st AD is a highly social position, and you will work with various personalities.

In addition, you might want to take a short course in film set scheduling. Most professional film sets use movie scheduling software. Another helpful skill is first aid training because if accidents occur on set, the 1st AD is the first to know about it.

  • Full filmmaking knowledge
  • Communication, teamwork
  • Movie scheduling software
  • Creative problem solving
  • First aid trained

1st Assistant Director Career Route

The 1st assistant director can work across film and TV. The entry-level jobs for a 1st AD are runner or PA. It’s typical to start in the office, assisting with admin tasks. With enough experience, you can progress to more responsibilities by becoming a 3rd assistant director.

Another work route is to start as a 1st AD on low-budget film sets and work up to higher budgets. However, you might miss out on learning professional practice and making industry contacts by doing this. Finally, a 1st AD can advance into directing and producing.

1st Assistant Director Salary

person counting money

The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high-end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience. 

The 1st AD is the highest paid member of the AD department, and you will get paid more on union projects. For reference, 1st ADs have a starting day rate of $337. So, for the average 6-day work week, you will make at least $2,022. However, you can still ask for more based on the job and experience.

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. The entry-level job roles for a 1st AD are runner or production assistant. If these job roles are too competitive, you might need to find work experience on a low-budget film set. 

Another route is to start working on low-budget film sets within the role. That way, you can learn the job role through hands on practice and work up to higher budgets. Even so, you must learn all elements of the job role, including using professional scheduling software.

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ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training, and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training, and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, the 1st assistant director helps schedule and organize a film set. Without a 1st AD, the director would have too much work. They lead a team of assistant directors to keep the set running and are always by the director’s side.

This career is a good match for someone who loves to work with people. It is a very social job role requiring you to work under pressure. It is also possible to use your experience and contacts from this role to step up to director and producer positions.

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