The first assistant director is directly in charge of overseeing all department heads and ensuring that the entire cast and crew is working on schedule. From pre-production through post-production, the first AD plans both the daily schedule and long-term production timeline while also serving as a liaison between the director and the rest of the cast and crew.
During preproduction, the first AD concentrates on logistics and planning so that the director can focus most of their energy on creative decisions. Once filming starts, the first AD’s primary responsibility is executing the production schedule and keeping the set working efficiently.
- The 1st AD first breaks the script down into storyboards that reflect how each scene will be shot.
- Shooting schedule. Once the director signs off on the storyboards, the first AD creates an overall shooting schedule. The 1st AD clears the shooting schedule with the production manager, line producer, and crew department heads. The AD must ensure that all scenes are appropriately scheduled for when the applicable location, props, and cast are available.
- Call sheets. Before each day of shooting, a call sheet is drawn up by the second AD in conjunction with the first AD. During production, it’s the first AD’s job to make sure that everyone is making their call times and the filming is progressing on schedule.
- Calling the roll. During filming, one of the first assistant director’s primary responsibilities is what’s known as “calling the roll”. Calling the roll is when the 1st AD cues the various department heads (including camera operator, key grip, and sound mixer) to prepare for filming to start.
- Liaise with the crew. The 1st AD serves as the go-between for the director and the rest of the crew. If something needs to be communicated in either direction, it generally goes through the first AD.
- On-set diplomat. The first AD is also responsible for controlling discipline on the set. If someone is not doing their job effectively or there are conflicts on set, it is the first AD’s job to resolve the situation. This may require taking disciplinary action or changing personnel when appropriate.
Safety. Safety is a priority on any film set and the first AD must also ensure that all health and safety standards are met. Each department has different precautions to ensure that cast and crew members aren’t in danger. The first AD oversees each department and is ultimately responsible for ensuring that each department head is maintaining a safe workspace.