The Thrills of Being a 1st A.D. (Assistant Director)

Director and First Assistant Director (1st A.D.) on film set

Being on a film or television set means that there is an abundance of situations that will provide both exciting thrills and challenges. Depending on your role, you may experience more excitement than others.

One position that sees more than their fair share is that of the 1st assistant director, or 1st A.D. The 1st A.D. is charged with making sure the entire production runs smoothly in addition to assisting the director. Let’s take a closer look at what a 1st A.D. can expect on the job.

Body of Skills and Expertise: 1st A.D.

To begin with, a 1st A.D. needs to equip themselves with the skills and expertise to handle the rigors of the position. Those that pursue a college education have the opportunity to work under media professionals in courses that lead up to attaining a bachelor’s degree in media production.

Start With the Right Education

These days, there are many video production colleges to choose from. In dedicated program, you’ll learn about camera operation, sound recording and lighting. Many do recommend diving right in and working on a set in different capacities. This hands-on experience may help to reinforce materials that are only taught at some educational institutions, and help build their personal film reels.

Most film professionals also encourage taking some time to watch each person at work while on set and asking questions. By shadowing other professionals in the film industry, you can learn how each role impacts one another. Networking in this way can help someone build their skill set further.

Where Does the 1st A.D. Fit In?

A 1st A.D. is usually the first person hired for a production at the outset. The director generally chooses who the 1st A.D. will be, and usually happens before principal photography takes place.

Once hired and under contract, the hard work begins as the director and the unit assistant manager organize and initiate tasks. For example, at this point it is important to hire different crew members and create a shooting schedule. This procedure requires an attentive eye and consideration for the project’s budget.

Relationships: The 1st A.D. and 2nd A.D.

The 1st A.D. may also receive help from the 2nd assistant director throughout this phase. Once shooting starts, the 1st A.D. takes care of the director, but they also care for daily duties. The 1st A.D. makes sure the day starts off right with the crew and prepares the stand-up, makes sure what needs to be blocked off on set is taken care of, and makes sure the 2nd A.D. has call sheets.

Traits Needed for the 1st A.D. Role

To be a successful 1st A.D., one also has to have particular traits that aren’t necessarily taught. Success as a 1st A.D. begins with being a strategic thinker. Having great interpersonal skills with crew members while under pressure is a prized quality that the best 1st A.D. possess. Being quick on your feet will also be very helpful to fix on-set issues.

With a shoot, there’s always something that can come up and the 1st A.D. is usually the one who comes to the rescue. That can run from an issue with the location to having to perform a bit of first aid if necessary. Most importantly, a good 1st A.D. is a professional at managing their time. Efficiency is key to make sure that everything runs smoothly on set.

Final Thoughts

The job of a 1st A.D. comes with a lot of challenges, but having the right eager attitude and a robust skill set as the result of training and experience can turn those challenges into career-enhancing thrills while one is on set.

Want to Learn More?

The experiences that a 1st A.D. can have contain an immeasurable amount of achievement for those who seek to have a firm foothold in the world of film & television. If these kinds of experiences are what you’d be interested, find out more about the Digital Video and Media Production program and what it takes to become one by looking at what IPR has to offer today.

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video and media production associate and bachelor’s degree. Starting a rewarding career as a video editor is closer than you may think!