Unlike painting or writing, which are often done in isolation, making a film requires a team effort. Gaffers, Cinematographers, Best Boys, PAs — but who does what and why? There are few roles in film production more valuable than a 1st AD but what is an assistant director and what does an assistant director do? In this post, we’ll detail the role and provide insight into standard assistant director duties to remind you just how important they are. Or, if you’re looking to become an assistant director on set, this is your first step in that direction.


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Assistant Director Job Description

What does an assistant director do?

Defining the role and answering what does an assistant director do are the same thing.

Let’s get to it so we can dive deeper in the details of the job.

Assistant Director Definition

What does an assistant director do?

An assistant director (or 1st AD) handles the logistics of running the set during production. They are the liaison between the director and the rest of the crew. They create and manage the shooting schedule and shot lists, coordinating with all department heads.

This is a brief overview. Let’s get into some of the major responsibilities.

Assistant Director Duties

Detailing the 1st ad’s role

The AD essentially manages the production. They play an enormous role in making sure scenes get shot, and schedules go out on time. Here is a list of their duties, a kind of assistant director job description highlighting the basics. 

Perform script breakdowns

They break down each scene to determine what is needed to execute on that scene. If you’re unfamiliar with script breakdowns, check out our article here. Or see below. We used StudioBinder to show you what a breakdown looks like. 

Script Breakdowns in StudioBinder

And it’s this breakdown will help inform the shot list.

1st ADs create storyboards and shot lists

The information they gather from script breakdowns allow them to organize each scene into shots. This task usually involves the director and director of photography to determine how long each shot will take. For more on shot lists and storyboards, click here

Assistant directors prepare the call sheet

First ads often plan the shooting schedule and therefore have a hand in making the call sheet. If you want to learn more on call sheets, read more here. Also, the production coordinator, or producer may have a hand in creating the call sheet as well. But a lot of the information on the call sheet, usually comes from the AD.  

Here's a quick tutorial on creating a call sheet and adding contacts.

How to add contacts to a call sheet  •  Subscribe to StudioBinder Academy

Track daily progress against entire schedule

It’s not enough to manage the day-to-day schedule. Assistant directors are also acutely aware of the film’s entire schedule. If they have to reshoot scenes, the ad will know if and when they can make that time up somewhere else.

Ultimately, the goal of the AD is to make the director’s life easier, so he or she can do their job more effectively. If you want some extra tips on how to be a better 1st ad, check out our next article.

Up Next

Become a Better 1st AD

Now that you know what an asst director does, you can be more confident taking that job, or being promoted to the position. But this post was just an overview. The next article reveals 13 secrets to becoming a better 1st ad.

Up Next: Become a Better First Assistant Director→
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