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The AD is in charge of safety management and must do everything they can to avoid injuries and accidents to the crew, cast, and public. They are responsible for conducting a safety meeting every day at call time. The AD must be on set for all shooting. 



The First Assistant Director will hold a safety meeting prior to the beginning of each day’s filming. The meeting may be brief and informal, but the following should be discussed: 

  • Emphasize the importance of safety on the set and everyone’s responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace.

  • Remind crew they are allowed to work a maximum of 12 hours. (not including meal breaks)

  • Locate emergency exits. Locate fire extinguisher(s). Locate First Aid Kit. 

  • Inform the crew of the location of the nearest hospital.

  • Review any special issues pertaining to the day’s filming – in particular, any stunts or special effects and refer to any applicable Safety bulletins.

  • If filming on location make crew aware of indigenous critters and plants that may be hazardous.

  • Check that all crew members are wearing appropriate clothing for the weather and climate. (NO open toed shoes, high heels, etc.)

  • Solicit safety concerns from crew members. If there are any, the First AD will address them to the satisfaction of the crew member before any work begins.

  • Add a brief synopsis of the day’s schedule (timelines of scenes, lunch, and wrap estimates).


The AD is responsible for all on-set logistics and for keeping the production on schedule. 


The AD makes it possible for the Director – and everyone else on set – to do their job. A good AD creates an atmosphere that enables creativity and collaboration. They must have good communication and leadership skills. A good AD always has a backup plan, which should be vetted by the Director. 

The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) defines the 1st Assistant Director as follows: 

  • Organizes pre-production, including breaking down the script, preparing the strip board and a shooting schedule. During production, the AD assists the Director with respect toon-set production details, coordinated and supervises crew and cast activities, and facilitates an organized flow of production activity.

  • Check weather reports.

  • Prepare day-to-day schedules for talent employment and determine cast and crew calls.

  • Supervise the preparation of the call sheet for cast and crew.

  • Direct background action and supervise crowd control.

  • May be required to secure minor contracts, extra releases, and on occasion obtain execution of contracts by talent. Supervise the function of the shooting set and crew.


As the AD develops the schedule to find the most efficient way to shoot the film, they check with the Director to make sure their assessment of the script is in sync with the Director’s. The AD tries to balance the Director’s artistic vision with the available money and time. The AD will also keep the Producer updated on any money or schedule issues. 


The 1st AD is responsible for the prep schedule. The importance of prepping cannot be understated. The more time you have to prep, the easier the shoot will be. The AD will schedule location scouting, tech scouting, and then the Production Meeting. 


This is the final step before production begins. It is where the Director, AD, and all the departments meet with the final shooting script to review all the production aspects. It is usually the last opportunity to ask questions before shooting. The AD runs the meeting as they go in script order (sometimes shooting order). You should allow at least a one day buffer between the production meeting and the first day of shooting to allow crew to deal with last minute changes that come up. 


Creating an efficient shooting plan is extremely important. The director, D.P. and A.D. should decide during prep as to the method used to organize your shooting day. Standard practice on almost all sets is a five-step process: 

Step 1) 1st Team Rehearsal (actors) 

The director rehearses the scene with the actors. The D.P., Script Supervisor & A.D. observe. Most other crew stays off the set and “gives the set to the director.” 


Step 2) Marking/blocking rehearsal 

Invite all necessary crew to observe and mark (with tape or other materials) the blocking (where the actors stand and move). The D.P. and director will fine tune as the Gaffer, Key Grip and other department heads take notes. If you can afford stand-ins (second team) they need to watch the rehearsal. 


******It is counter-productive to light the set before you block! ******** (Pre-rigging a location or set is common, but that is for general not specific lighting) 


Step 3) Lighting 

The D.P. and the crew light the set and set up the camera. The stand-ins (usually wearing similar colors to the actors) are used instead of the actors. A “second team rehearsal” is very common to work out any camera moves. During this time, it is very common for the actors to go back to hair and makeup. It is also the time for the A.D, director and D.P. to confirm the shot list and decide the shooting order. 


Step 4) 1st Team Rehearsal 

Once the set is lit and the actors are ready, you want to do another rehearsal to confirm all the elements are correct. In some cases, (stunts, animals and minors) you want to shoot the rehearsal. 


Step 5) Shoot 

If you’ve made a good plan and communicated it to the crew, your efficiency will increase and will allow you to make changes when the director suddenly gets a great idea. 


Here are a few tips for working with the crew: 

  • Be prepared. If you are ready and communicate well, the crew will respond. They love leadership.

  • Stay calm, what can go wrong – will. How you handle adversity – how you solve the countless problems that arise each day on the set is the true test of an AD. Don’t yell or use sarcasm. That’s a quick way to have a crew turn against you.

  • Keep your sense of humor.


Actors are the most vulnerable people on the set. It’s important for the entire crew to do everything they can to put the actor at ease so they are able to focus on performing and to give their best work. 


Extras in a film are those background performers, who don’t have dialogue, but whose presence lend “texture” and an air of reality to the scene. The best way to retain your extras and prevent them from leaving early is to have a good game plan and treat them with respect. 

Don’t bring them in too early and keep them waiting around for hours to work. Make sure they have access to the same food and drink as the crew. On almost all student films – you will find yourself working with “non-professional” atmosphere. If you treat them with care and respect you will get better performances and decrease the odds that they will abandon your set. You’ll need to provide a place for the extras to wait between scenes – a “holding” area. This area needs to be sheltered from the elements, whether it’s rain, sun or cold. You need to provide water and restrooms. 


As the AD reads the script they have to imagine where extras may be needed – a restaurant, for example, would have diners, waiters, bus boys and so on. The amount, ethnicity, age and gender of the extras should be decided on during prep. If you’re shooting a period film, your costumes, props and hair and make-up will be affected. Setting background is one of the AD’s chances to use creativity. Giving the extras a “story” or motivation will inspire them to use their acting skills. Make sure that the atmosphere never distracts from the main action. Watch for distracting movements, gestures and wardrobe and make sure continuity is maintained. 


You have to know the frame you’re trying to fill. Either look through the lens or at the monitors provided. If there’s a camera move in the shot – have the camera operator show it to you. 


Pay attention during the blocking and rehearsal. Know where the cast is going to be. As you set the background watch out for shadows cast by the extras and any blocking of actor’s movement and/or lines. 


Try to get a rehearsal with extras before you shoot whenever possible. You don’t want to ruin a take because your extras were bumping into each other – or the actors. 


Because the need for continuity is important, duplicating movements from take to take is extremely important. You can choreograph the action by having the extras move on specific lines of dialogue or a bit of action. Have the extras take their own cues. 


The Call Sheet is an instrument of communication. It informs your cast and crew of what work will be done; where it will be done; when it will be done and who will do it. 


The Call Sheet is derived from the Shooting Schedule. It is a distillation of all the relevant information regarding the next day’s filming – call time, location and scenes to be shot. 


The Assistant Director is responsible for filling out the Call Sheet and seeing to it that all members of the cast and crew receive a copy. 


The Call Sheet should be neat and legible – after all, the whole point is to inform people and that means they actually have to be able to read the document. 


A map with directions to the location attached to the call sheet is helpful for the crew especially if they are not familiar with the location. 


On this page is an example of a call sheet but you are free to use any call sheet form you find as long as the following information appears on the front of every call sheet: 

  • No Cast or crew member may work more than 12 hours (including drive time to and from set, set and wrap)”

  • Location address.

  • Nearest Hospital Location with the address and phone number.

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