As the 2nd Assistant Director, your first responsibility is to report to the 1st AD. The 1st will be the person you always report to and help directly. The 2nd Assistant Director is more of a behind the scenes person, you don’t spend much time on the actual floor unless you are checking in with your 1st, stepping in for them so they can take a moment to themselves or if they have to speak with someone in a private manner, which cannot be done over the walkie-talkie.
Skills Required of a 2nd Assistant Director
- Organization. Much like the 1st AD, you need to be highly organized. You are taking care of call sheets, schedule changes, talent and background talent as well as communicating with your 1st and 3rd. Prioritize your tasks and keep focused, you may be asked to do multiple things at once. Know when you need to ask for help, production assistants are there to help.
- Good Understanding of Scheduling. As the 2nd assistant director you will be making changes to the daily schedule for the 1st AD as changes arise, you need to have a firm understanding of the way that your 1st works and you need to be able to make the necessary changes. This also means that you should have a good understanding of Movie Magic Scheduling, which is the leading software in film scheduling. If you are not using MMS then you need to be comfortable using Word and Excel, as they are commonly used for scheduling as well. Movie Magic Scheduling is available from Amazon.com
- Strong Communication Skills. As the 2nd assistant director you are the main source of communication between the office and the set. You need to be in communication with hair and makeup, wardrobe, your 1st and your third, as well as anyone else who may need something from you. You need to clearly let people know when talent is in hair and makeup, you need to announce when talent is traveling and you need to keep any background talent together and organized. You may be in communication with several departments at once, so keep focused and relay the appropriate information to the right people.
- Delegate.Some sets won’t have a production coordinator, they may have a production manager but they may also be acting as the producer. There are many kinds of scenarios where people may be wearing many hats on one production. If you are the 2nd assistant director don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities to the production assistants and interns if there are any. If people are wearing multiple hats then that means you will probably need extra help. If you see people not doing anything try to find them a task.
Tools Needed for a 2nd Assistant Director
- First Aid Training: It is standard for the 1st AD to have First Aid training but if you are looking to work as a 1st in the future or can afford to take the course it does not hurt to have your training as well.
- Computer. In my experience, getting a laptop was the best thing I could have done. Some productions may have an office set up and provide you with a computer, but this will most likely be a rare case. I have needed to have a computer for 95% of the jobs I have done over the years. As the 2nd most of the work that you do will be on a computer and the more mobile you can be the better.
- Printer. It is always good to have a printer, you will want one that is small enough to travel. Production should cover the costs of paper and ink but you may need to print out revised schedules and call sheets at any time. I find it best to have my own printer, it is best to have all the tools you need to do the job, relying on other people usually ends in things being forgotten.
- Office Supplies. I like to have pens, pencils, markers and highlighters on me. It is also good to have a stapler with extra staples. Post-It notes are a must have as well. Paper clips and thumb tacks are always nice to have too. And a good clipboard can make a good day better!
- Scheduling Software. This one is a bit tricky because not everyone can afford Movie Magic Scheduling, but if the production is willing to provide it for you then make sure to have a good understanding of it. If you won’t be using MMS, make sure that you can confidently create a schedule and call sheet in a program such as Word that will be an acceptable production document. Movie Magic Scheduling is available from Amazon.com
- Smartphone. We all have an opinion on which cell phone is best. I personally love my iPhone but no matter your preference it is important to have a phone that has internet access. If your phone allows you to tether to your computer, even better! You never know where you might be shooting, you may not have internet access, you still have to send out that call sheet. Being able to tether your phone to your computer and use its internet is a huge life saver at times. Also make sure to have a good long distance plan and have plenty of minutes. You will be making a lot of phone calls, try to work out a deal with production to cover all costs associated with calls made for the production.
2nd Assistant Director Responsibilities Include:
- Creating the Call Sheet. Using the schedule given to you by the 1st, you will create the daily call sheet to be distributed to all cast and crew. Call sheets can be created ahead of time but they are subject to change on a daily basis. Once you have created the call sheet for the day you need to bring it to the 1st Assistant Director before it is distributed. In some cases the producer will want to oversee it as well. Once it is approved by the 1st you will want to bring it to the department keys and make sure that they have no issues with it.
- Get a Sign Off on the Call Sheet. Once you have made any changes that arose, get one last check from your 1st and then distribute the call sheet. Email of a .PDF file is the standard form of distribution but having printed copies for everyone is very helpful, it will also save your 1st from getting annoyed with questions that can be answered by reading the call sheet.
- Email the Call Sheet. Be sure to email cast and crew separately. BCC anyone who might not want their email address shared with others. Double and triple check the list of people that you emailed the call sheet to, you do not want to forget anyone. If it is the day before the first day of a shoot it is best to call all of the keys and make sure that they and their team have received the call sheet. The last thing you want is to have someone not show up on the first day of shooting.
- Communicate with the 1st AD. You should be in communication with the 1st and the 3rd over walkie, give estimated times on when the talent will be ready and let them know when you are traveling.
- Take Care of the Talent. As the 2nd assistant director you are also responsible for the talent, it is your responsibility to get the talent from their base camp position to set. Walk the talent right to set; don’t allow talent to wander off alone. You need to make sure that talent is in makeup and wardrobe when necessary and get the timing needs of your makeup artist and wardrobe stylist to the 1st Assistant Director.
- Manage Background Talent. You are also responsible for the background talent, there are days on set when you may have hundreds of extras or background performers. You need to be responsible for keeping them together and organized. Make sure that you get all necessary paperwork signed by the talent before any shooting begins. If you are working on a union set this is very important.
As the 2nd AD assistant director you need to be available to the 1st at anytime, you are the voice between the production office and the set. You are the communicator; make sure that everyone knows what is going on and when and where he or she needs to be. Sometimes you won’t be lucky enough to have a 3rd AD and you may need to have a larger presence on set. Make sure to use your time effectively and keep on top of things, ask a Production Assistant for help if you need it.