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TV or film assistant director AD

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Assistant directors support directors by organising and planning everything on TV or film sets.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need experience of the production process and a network of contacts in the industry. Employers are usually more interested in your experience than your qualifications.

You’ll usually need to start as a runner or production assistant on set and work your way up to 3rd or 2nd assistant director (AD).
You may find it easier to get a job as a runner if you do a film, video or media production course that includes practical skills and work placements.
Creative Skillset has information on careers and courses in TV and film, 

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to lead and motivate others
  • excellent organisational and planning skills
  • problem-solving ability
  • a flexible and adaptable attitude
  • good administrative skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll support directors by organising and planning everything on set.

Most productions use a team of ADs, with a 1st AD, at least one 2nd AD and sometimes one or more 3rd ADs, all with different jobs to do.

If you’re a 1st AD, you'll do much of the planning before a production, and manage the set during filming.

You might:

  • work with the director to break down the script into a shot-by-shot ‘storyboard’ and decide the order of shooting
  • plan a filming schedule, taking into account the director’s ideas and the budget
  • oversee the hire of locations, props and equipment
  • recruit the cast and crew
  • make sure filming stays on schedule
  • supervise a team of 2nd and 3rd ADs and runners
  • motivate the cast and crew 

If you’re a 2nd AD, you might:

  • produce each day’s 'call sheet' (schedule)
  • be the link between the set and the production office
  • deal with paperwork
  • organise transport and hotels
  • make sure cast members are on set at the right times
  • find and supervise extras on productions where there’s no 3rd AD

As a 3rd AD, you’ll make sure extras are on set at the right times, and give them their cues. You might also direct the action in background crowd scenes, and act as a messenger on set.

4. Salary

You’ll usually be paid a fee for each project. Rates can vary widely. The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) has information on current pay guidelines.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours could be long and irregular, depending on the demands of a production, and will often include evenings and weekends.

You’ll work in TV and film studios, or on location. Work can be anywhere in the UK or abroad, so a driving licence is usually required.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to be a director, production manager or producer.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018