While the 1st AD (First Assistant Director) is often seen as the person who controls the schedule and logistics on set, the 2nd AD (Second Assistant Director) is just as essential in ensuring a well operated set.
As a 2nd AD, it is your responsibility to make sure the personnel involved in the production have all the information they need to do their job well. Here are 7 hacks to make your pre-production process a bit more efficient.
It might seem obvious, but more often than not, below-the-line crew members don’t read the scripts of what they’re shooting. Some could argue that it isn’t necessary, but this should be part of a diligent crew member’s preparation. The screenplay provides abundant information about what you’re going to be filming. If a 2nd AD is unfamiliar with the material, oversights will occur.
Read the script, and you’ll also be able to reference scenes in shorthand, and understand what is being worked on at all times.
2. Proof your cast list and crew list for accuracy
Before shooting begins, make sure you have inputted contact details (phone, email, role) for your cast and crew into a spreadsheet, list contact management system, or film production software like StudioBinder.
If at any point you are writing someone’s name, double-check that it’s spelled correctly. You won’t find a quicker way to soil the egos of talent or directors than misspelling their name. It indicates a sense of carelessness which is the last thing you want people to associate with the 2nd AD.
3. Check with your 1st AD and production unit what paperwork they need you to collect
Talent paperwork is usually handled by the AD department. Paperwork varies shoot to shoot. Check with production on paperwork preferences and which paperwork they expect you to take point on.
Paperwork examples: timecards, w-9s, w-4, crew deal memos, talent release, liability waivers, Exhibit G’s, minor release, studio teachers paperwork, etc.
4. Create maps and signage for off-the-grid locations
Sometimes you will be shooting at locations that are off-the-grid or “un-mappable” for navigation apps. In these cases include a marked up map to accompany the call sheet. On the map, outline turning points with clear arrows and instructions. Additionally, place signage on the road leading to your location to mitigate a lot of frustrated phone calls from lost cast and crew.
No matter how clear your directions are, you need to be prepared for people to still get lost. Have your phone ready, and be prepared to guide people to set.
Click image to enlarge.
5. Designate yourself as the production contact on the call sheet
List yourself as the ‘production contact’ on the call sheet and other communications. Don’t be afraid to make this text prominent. The best place to enter this information when using StudioBinder is in the General Note field as it will also show up in the email body for every recipient.
6. Send Out Call Sheets at Least 12 Hours in Advance
The 2nd AD is usually the individual that distributes the call sheet. If a production does not have a 2nd AD, call sheets are approved (and sometimes created) by the 1st AD and sent out by the production unit.
Prior to the advent of email, hard copies of the next day’s call sheet were handed out on set. With digital call sheets, there is a lot more leeway on exactly when a call sheet is sent out. Sometimes it can get pushed back too far. Some of this is out their control, such as last minute cancellations or switches. Most of the time though, a 2nd AD should distribute the call sheet no later than 12 hours before the next shoot day .
When you’re caught up in the thick of a production, services like StudioBinder can speed up the workflow of queuing up future call sheets, and tracking when they’re viewed and confirmed.
7. Memorize cast & crew names
No matter the position, from lead actress to PA, in order to build a strong working relationship with people, you should learn their names. People form a connection with those who take the time to learn their name. For actors, you should learn their character names as well.
As the creator of the call sheet you have a head start with names. If you’re using film production software like StudioBinder, the interface will display profile photos so by the time you arrive on set, you’ll see familiar faces.
Pro Tip: Save production contacts in your phone
On longer shoots, we recommend saving cast and crew phone numbers in your phone so you know the person’s name once calls come in. This is a sign of respect to the caller and helps build rapport.
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