Assistant Director

What does an Assistant Director do?

Assistant Directors are usually second in command to the Director, however there are several levels of Assistant Directors.

First Assistant Directors will work with the Director and department heads to break down the script and work out the requirements for each scene – cast, crew, locations and equipment. From there, they’ll input the script into software suites that outputs a production schedule to work out what needs to be film when and where. During the filming stage, the Directors will focus maximising the acting talent’s potential, while the First Assistant Director will manage the set and its workings.

Second Assistant Directors will typically be based off-set and serve as the key point of contact between production, facilities and locations. They’ll handle day-to-day admin tasks including devising the next day’s call sheets, managing daily timetables and organising transport.

Some larger productions will have a Third Assistant Director who will work closely with the First Assistant Director on set, often coordinating with extras or locations and facilities.

For grand productions with hundreds of extras, they’ll hire a Second or Third Assistant Director who specifically coordinate crowds of extras and handle the logistics associated with it. They may also manage the public and keep them out of shot and off set.

What skills does an Assistant Director need?

Planning: A good Assistant Director is extremely organised and can analyse a script to identify how to break it down into the necessary scenes.

Visualising the script: Being able to analyse a script and developing an efficient schedule for filming. Nowadays, special software is available to maximise efficiency, so admin skills are important too.

Multi-tasking: During the filming stage, the Assistant Director will manage the set alongside the Production team. Being able to juggle multiple tasks at once is vital.

Who does an Assistant Director work with?

Reporting to the Director, they will work with them and other heads of department to determine the filming schedule. Assistant Directors will often be supported by a number of other Assistant Directors (typically Second or Third Assistant Directors) who take on day-to-day responsibilities of running the set or second filming units. They may also oversee Runners too.

How much does an Assistant Director earn?

In 2021, BECTU announced a new ratecard for Assistant Directors, indicating the minimum and recommended rates that Assistant Directors can charge for their time. It’s broken down into two primary categories – feature film and TV – plus further classification by production budget.

First Assistant Directors can expect £40 per hour up to £90 per hour at the recommended rate. Second Assistant Directors will earn anything from £32 to £50.91 per hour, though if they are responsible for crowds, they may earn a little less. Finally Third ADs can expect in the region of £20 to £24.55 an hour.

For a detailed breakdown of the rates, including by production budget, take a look at the BECTU ratecard.

How to become an Assistant Director?

Assistant Directors command seniority on a production and they’ve achieved that through many years of experience working on set. Many Assistant Directors start out as Runners or trainees, assisting the production in any way possible, eventually climbing the ladder as a Third AD, then a 2nd AD and so forth.