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Issue #177 – October 15, 2017 (The Director/First AD Relationship)

Issue #177 – October 15, 2017
(The Director/First AD Relationship)

NOTE: Always remember our industry politics: Television is a producer’s medium and Feature Films are a director’s medium! This means that Directors interview and hire the First Assistant Director on a feature film while the Production Manager (or Producer) hire the First Assistant Director on a TV Series.

In other words, on a Feature Film, the First Assistant Director works “FOR the Director WITH the Producers” but in Television they work “WITH the Director FOR the Producers.” Big difference!

Directors are not only responsible for interpreting the script visually and getting performances from actors, they are also responsible for finishing the show on time and on budget. In other words, you have to also be “financially responsible” or you may end up having a very short career!

Not only do you need to know how to “shoot the script” you also need to know how to “shoot the schedule” and the two people that share that responsible with you are the First AD and the DOP.

Your working relationship with the First AD is going to be one of the most important relationships you will have with anyone in this business because the First AD is responsible for organizing the Director’s time during prep and running the film set.

The very nature of the First AD’s job always has them “serving two masters” – the Creative (Director, DOP, Actors) and the Budget (Producers, Production Manager, Accountants).

As a matter of fact, on some TV series the First Assistant Director could be called a “First Assistant Producer” based on how much influence they have with the producers over the director.

You will have several meetings with the 1st Assistant Director during pre-production and here’s what you want to achieve during those meetings:

1. Go over the Script scene-by-scene to let them know how you plan to shoot each scene and give them a list of the special equipment you need (crane, steadicam, circle track, special lenses, insert car etc.)

2. A director’s Shot List can be used as a guide to help the First AD better organize and create the shooting schedule. With a good shot list, the First AD can use the number of camera set-ups the Director wants per scene to help them “time” each shooting day rather than just using the page count. Storyboards are also a good way to decide on scene and shooting times.

3. Review the One-Liner to discuss the scene order per day and how much time they think it will take to shoot each scene.

4. The Shooting Times the length of time the 1st AD figures it will take to shoot each scene. They have to decide how long each scene will take to shoot, what time they want to begin a scene and what time they want to finish the scene. This gives the Director and crew a guide of where they need to be at any given moment in the shooting day.

5. Directors are not usually responsible for deciding the Scene Shooting Order. This is essentially the DOP and First AD’s job since the time it takes to complete a scene is based mostly on the specific technical logistics of the scene, how long the lighting will take and how many camera setups you have.

As you discuss the shooting order with the DOP and First AD, always remember this “mantra”: Minimize the number of moves and camera set-ups.

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