Being a successful Assistant Director takes strong organizational skills and people skills.
With a commercial – the main goal is to capture the Product – in its best selling moments – while keeping the ad agency comfortable with the operation.
As the Assistant Director – on the set – you are the 1st mate to the Director who is the captain, making sure the director gets all the shots he/she needs. It’s a big responsibility…so take it serious.
Meeting the Director and the Producer
KNOW YOUR DIRECTOR
- The Director – will have a certain flair, of how he or she sees capturing shots.
- Get the treatment and storyboards and study them thoroughly. Know what’s expected to be captured.
- The ad agency will provide the storyboards they want to follow. Be aware each storyboard may have different shots and angles in them, so there may be more footage to capture within each drawing.
- Discuss how you see the flow of the set running. A seasoned director will understand and appreciate your approach.
- The director is relying on you keeping the set moving even when he/she is being constantly questioned by the ad agency.
- On commercials the product is the main attention. Conform everything around the ad agency’s needs and blend the director’s needs – into that.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCER
- Get your pay clarified immediately. Don’t be greedy with your pay desire. You should get paid for pre-production meetings, location scouting, running the actual set of the shoot day, and any post-production needs that arises.
- A fair price is $300 a day for pre-production stuff and $500 for the shoot day.
- In the producer’s eyes you are the running man/woman who is going to insure the director gets his shots, crew is moving and setting up, talent is been used as need and lunch and dinners are called on time to prevent any meal penalties.
- Are there children involved? With children there are sensitive issues that need to be addressed. When working with children – there are filming schedules that need to be regulated and followed. Always make sure the parent or guardian is always present.
- Find out if your 2nd Assistant Director is handling talent or is the casting director handling that area of production.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
- A fully completed production booklet with all names and numbers of people working on the project. Get it from the producer.
- The complete ad agency’s visual request.
- Your shooting Schedule.
- An AD kit – full of all production forms.
- A working phone for the entirety of the production.
- Never be late.
- Your job is on right here. Get all respected parties into the cars or what ever transportation there is. Have a check list here.
- Make a mental note of who is late – and keep that information in your head as a possible future problem.
- The key people for a location scout are – the Director, the Producer, the Assistant Director, the Director of Photography, the Gaffer, the Key Grip, and the Art Director.
The Producer tells the Director “Here’s the location you got”.
The Director tells the DP “Here’s what I want to shoot.”
The DP tells the Gaffer “This is how I want to light this.”
The Gaffer tells the Key Grip “This is how I need to rig the lighting.”
The Art Director tells the Director “This is how I see the art working.”
Everyone tells the Producer “This is what I need – to do this.”
And the Assistant Director is to make sure all of this happens – on set.
- At the location look for: holding area for production, holding area for ad agency, a area for product set up, a area set up for hair/make-up and wardrobe, camera area, craft service area, an area for lunch, the area for the actual filming, and a area for crew to store equipment and still operate without interfering with the filming.
- Draw a diagram of the entire area and place these groups in them.
- Check out power supply. This is important for the Gaffer because a generator may be required if there is no power supply to tie into.
- And lastly – make sure everything looks safe and will be safe. The Assistant Director is totally responsible for all the crew and talents safety on the set.
ASSISTANT DIRECTING PROCEDURE
- Once you have established all information with the director and the producer – start your Assistant Director set up.
- Take the storyboards and the treatment and cut them up in the order they can be shot. Elements that help you design your Shooting Order are: the environment the Director needs to be in, the product’s readiness, estimation of crews set up speed, the props needed, and how close to meal time you will be.
- If there are going to be many vehicles and Winnebago’s – do diagram of the streets and place all production vehicles in their respected areas, and in order of importance – to keep the set running smoothly.
- Make a booklet based on all of this information with the storyboards and treatment – cut up to your operating method. Also paste this information on a large piece of foam core to be used on set.
DAY BEFORE THE SHOOT
- Call crew and talent for there call times needed on set. When I first started in this business I was so nervous calling people but as you go along you will realize how much respect and trust you gain for giving people their official call times.
- Check off their names – which ones you talked to and which ones you left a message with.
- Even remind the Director and the Producer of their call times.
- Check with Production if the ad agency and client have call times for shoot.
- Make sure product and all elements the ad agency required – are scheduled for the appropriate call times on set.
- Decide which Production Assistants are going to be your point people.
- Make sure your fore core board is being delivered to the set.
- Never be late. Have the crew and talent move to your pace and have that pace be fast. For commercial’s – you only have a certain amount of time to capture the desired shots so be the driving force to getting those shots.
- As people arrive – walk up to them and introduce yourself and state your position. Shake their hands and find out their position. Do this with every single person. Crew members want to know who’s in charge and that’s you. Send them to their department heads and put a check mark next to their names on your crew sheet.
- Get your PA point people in place. Usually 1, doing runs for the Assistant Director and keeping check ups on the department heads and that the ad agency and client are being catered to.
- If the company has to travel to get to location, make sure everyone who is suppose to ride in the transportation vehicle, are all accounted for and present. Who ever is not there – give them a call and warn them of the time.
- On Set – get craft service set up immediately. Make sure there is coffee for crew first thing in the morning.
- Have grips and electrics load in while setting up for the first filming area – and give them a shooting schedule.
- Make sure Script Supervisor has all material to take good notes and give him/her a shooting schedule.
- Get hair, make up, and wardrobe set up in their holding area, for any live talent needed. Give them a shooting schedule.
- Get all product material ready and in its place of order – of shooting.
- Make sure Production Team is set up and ready to handle all meal calls and any emergencies that may arise and give them a shooting schedule.
- When the ad agency and client arrive – make them feel special. Have a special holding area just for them – not to far from shooting area with monitor. Introduce the PA point person assigned to them.
- Get VTR person set up and warn them of possible print outs of stills of the scenes – for the client and director to view.
- Make sure the camera department is setting up and knowing the first shots that need to be captured – and give them a shooting schedule.
- Make sure sound department is setting up and has all the music and cues need for todays shoot – and give them a shooting schedule.
- Make sure props and set people are setting up and knowing the first shots that are coming up – and give them a shooting schedule.
- Go over the storyboards and shooting schedule with the Director and the Director of Photography and make them feel comfortable and on the same page.
- Once all departments did their part to get the first shooting area ready notify the Director. Make sure all is well and safe.
THIS SHOULD TAKE NO LONGER THAN 2 HOURS TO GET HERE.
- Art Director may need more time to rig product.
- The Director of Photography may need more time to light – to make the product look pretty
- The ad agency maybe making too many tweaks.
- Hair and make up may not be finished because of special look required. I usually give them 1 hour from the time talent sits in their chair.
- Camera may not be totally ready. They have a lot of parts to put together on the camera. I usually give them 1 ½ hours from the time of arrival on set.
- With product and talent in place you’re ready to go. Sometimes the assistant cameraman does the slate action – but here…
- You – the Assistant Director – hold up the time code slate and say “Roll camera.”
- The Assistant cameraman shouts “Speed” once the camera is rolling”You say next – “Roll sound.” The numbers on the slate start to run and you read out the product name, the name of the commercial, and the take number. Make sure the camera picks up the images on the slate.
- Slap the slate close and get out of the way.
- The Director calls action when he/she is ready.
- Mark down the time the first shot is taken.
- REMEMBER – if you want crew people to move – you do not have to shout so much. Use it when you need it – or they will ignore you. Be professional.
- Constantly check with camera department about film or video card supply. You don’t want to run out.
- Make sure lunch is going to be served on time. It’s usually 6 hours from the call time on set.
- If you have the equipment and crew ability, have some crew members break away and start setting up the next location.
- Stay on schedule and stay 4 steps ahead of everyone – in getting the next shot done.
- Call lunch on time and the last crew member on line – to get his meal is when the break really starts. If you see lunch starting to run overtime – notify the Director, the Producer and the Department Heads. Arrange next move but make crew and company comfortable.
- Repeat shooting process until dinner break – if any.
- Make sure to log down any and all times of the events on the shoot.
- If you see shoot running overtime – notify the Director, the Producer and the Department Heads. Arrange next move but make crew and company comfortable.
- Make sure everyone hears “That’s a wrap!” The Director will call it -but make sure it is known to everyone.
- The Assistant Director does not have to stay on the set until everything is packed up. But – the AD must help clean up everything and restore the location to normal.
- Make sure to fill out The Production Report for future references and information.
- Hand in all production forms you have and you’re done and can move onto the next commercial shoot.
While working as an Assistant Director on a commercial – the shooting became slightly delayed because on set the client decided they wanted the talent to do the script in English and in Hindi. Every take became doubled. Make sure ahead of time you know if there is going to be a language change – and work that into your shooting schedule.
Happy A Ding
© 2010 – 2013, Dwayne B. Perryman. All rights reserved.