Filmmaking / Directing : Assistant Directors!!! I need some tips by Ryan L. Williams

Ryan L. Williams

Assistant Directors!!! I need some tips

Hello all, I am a film student and I am working on a couple student projects as an assistant director. I have knowledge on this already. But I was wondering about your experiences. Did you guys have any challenges? and tips for an aspiring AD? This is just me being curious, you can never learn too much.

David Trotti

The most important aspect of the job is being your director's biggest ally and supporter. The director needs to focus on performances and telling the story. Your job is listening to the director, understanding what she wants and communicating that to the appropriate departments and then following up and making sure all the cogs are meshing and logistical needs are being met. The set is where the action is. But Prep is where the war is won. It's your responsibility to insure that every prop, location, costume, actor, extra, picture car... everything is discussed, budgeted, planned, executed and arrives on time. Lists, memos, schedules and meetings are your friends. You are the hub of information. Get people into the habit of making you aware of pertinent information and changes. Be quick about disseminating new information, but judicious as well. Never be a pessimist. But always be a realist. And have a backup plan. Help the creative team be decisive. And once a decision is made, act to put it into motion and keep the crew moving toward that goal. Indecision and inactivity are deadly on a film set. Better to change the plan after putting it into motion than letting everyone sit idle and second guess themselves. Use your assets. Don't try to do everything yourself. If you have 2nd AD's or PA's trust them, empower them and use them. Praise them when they deserve it - especially in front of people you know they want to impress. Don't abuse your assets. Don't yell or lose your cool. AD's who yell or get angry generally are doing it because they feel they have lost control of the situation. Yelling does not get you back in control. Knowing the real situation and making creative choices to move forward gets you back in control. If you are having problems with anyone, take them aside for a quiet conversation. Try to work through issues and don't let them blow up into unnecessary drama. Most important of all is SAFETY. When you're starting out, use common sense. Download the industry safety bulletins and read them. Post them or add the pertinent ones to the call sheet. Be the voice of reason. And if you feel it's too dangerous, speak up. And if they proceed against your advice, have the moral courage to walk away. Finally, remember the goal is to help the director capture information in a two dimensional frame that will be compelling and interesting to an audience. Every technician and actor on the shoot has shown up to service that magical frame. As they say, "if it ain't in the box, it ain't in the movie." Make sure the director has everything she needs to make the contents of that box the best it can be. Oh... and have fun too. It's just a movie.

Ryan L. Williams

thanks so much :)

Paul Walker

First AD tips: (Contains bad language, please avoid if easily offended...)

Mark S. Jenkins

David Trotti has it covered! I've only worked on a few films as Production Sound Mixer, but I can say a confident AD who is calm and prepared helps the crew work so much smoother, and the opposite is just a nightmare!

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