Coming into the degree, my main focus was that I would eventually be a floor manager, or something along those lines behind the scenes of a TV production. After being part of that in my first year, I didn’t see myself going down that path. My next thought was to be a cameraman behind the scenes of a film, or still even a TV production. After my second year, mainly focusing on that, I could see myself struggling on the technical side a lot. Working a camera was something that just didn’t come to me over the 2 years I had on the course.
At this point, I was really struggling to find my passion, and the career path I really wanted to go down. I then thought that maybe taking a year out for experience would help broaden my perspective of the different roles out there and that I might actually find something I love doing.
I was very fortunate to be able to do that as I thought about it late. Applying for it late in the summer, I didn’t actually think I would be able to go. The place I did get was at a theatre in Rome working alongside the director on different productions for around 9 months. It was probably the best decision I have ever made.
Everything I worked as, and every production I was part of, I loved equally. It was that year that made me grow a passion for assistant directing, and maybe even directing. Although it was in a theatre, which was very stressful, I can see myself doing going down that path. Whether it is theatre or film.
Some research that I have done for the roles I am interested in are below.
Assistant director in film
On the creative skills set website, Creative Skills Set. (2015), they explain exactly what each roles entails.
First ADs’ main duties are assisting the director, co-ordinating all production activity, and supervising the cast and crew. They are also in charge of a department of other Assistant Directors and runners
Overall, they provide the key link between the Director, cast and crew, whilst also liaising with the production office, and providing regular progress reports about the shoot. Before the shoot, the Firsts’ main task is to create the filming schedule, working in careful consultation with the Director. When drawing up the shooting schedule, First ADs must also be aware of the budget, cast availability and script coverage. Preparing the storyboard, overseeing the hiring of locations, props and equipment and checking weather reports are all key pre-production duties for Firsts. During production, they must ensure that everyone is on standby and ready for the Director’s cue for action. Firsts are also responsible for health and safety on set or location, and must take action to eliminate or minimise hazards.
The Second AD’s main function is to ensure that all of the first AD’s orders and directions are carried out. On each day of a shoot, Seconds must prepare and draw up the next day’s call sheet, (which involves confirming the details of who needs to be on set and at what time, the transport arrangements, extras required etc.). These details must be approved by the production office before the Seconds can distribute the call sheet to the cast and crew. Ensuring that everyone knows their ‘call time’ (the exact time they will have to be on set) is a key responsibility – any delay to filming due to bad time-keeping negatively affects the day’s schedule and budget, and is considered unprofessional and inefficient. Once the day’s filming has begun, Seconds must ensure that all actors are ready for filming, which means co-ordinating any transport requirements, as well as make-up and wardrobe timetables. In some cases, Seconds may also be in charge of finding extras, sometimes in large numbers at short notice, and arranging their transport to, and activities on, the set or location. Seconds work on a freelance basis and the job involves long and unsocial hours.
The main function of the Third Assistant Director is to manage the movement and activities of background artists (extras). Thirds co-ordinate the extras to arrive at the right time and place for filming. Once the extras are on set or location, Thirds prepare and cue them, and sometimes also direct them in any required background action. They must also supervise and look after the extras – they may be on standby on the set or location all day, despite only being needed for a short period. Thirds may have to keep members of the public out of shot and off the set or location, so that they don’t interrupt filming, cast or crew. Thirds may also liaise with the location manager and may be given responsibilities with regard to the security and locking up of studios or locations after filming has taken place. Thirds work on a freelance basis and the work involves long and unsocial hours.
Assistant director in theatre
Theatre directors hold auditions to select the acting cast members. They collaborate with the technical crew, which may consist of lighting, sound, set and costume designers. Working with producers on large productions, there may be other supporting staff such as artistic directors and music directors to collaborate on extensive production designs.
The director blocks the play by adapting the actor movements to workable floor plans on the set. Leading rehearsals, he or she collaborates creatively with the actors and technical crew to make the blocking natural, changing it when necessary and allowing inspiration.
Actors draw out character motivations and relationships under the watchful eye of the director, who strives to develop these expressions over the performance’s required transitions. Directors finish their work when they determine the final pacing of the play reverberates with the life of an artistic vision that is satisfying and complete.
According to Causey, T. (2011), the basic roles of a stage manager include:
- Assist the director in rehearsals – If the director has another job to do, the stage manager jumps in and takes care of rehearsals
- Set up/ strike the space – Before every rehearsal, the stage manager sets up the stage and props ready for the actors to start their rehearsals. Once rehearsals are over, they need to strip down the set and put everything how it was.
- Maintain the schedule / Begin and end rehearsals on time – The schedule comes from the director and so the stage manager needs to make sure these are met. Everything is communicated accordingly and everyone knows what they are doing and when.
- Keep notes about rehearsals – This includes blocking scenes, props, choreography and anything else that is important to be noted.
- Run tech rehearsals – Here is where the stage manager would take control of rehearsals involving sound and light. This can be stressful and at times very slow. This rehearsal is mainly for the tech crew to know when their cues are and also for the actors to get familiar with what will be used on stage on the day.
- Call the show and maintain the ‘bible’ – here is where it all comes together. The stage manager calls the show times and makes sure people are where they should be. The ‘bible’ includes the script where all the blocking and important notes for the show. This needs to be followed throughout the show.
Causey, T. (2011). Basic Stage Manager Duties. Available: http://www.theatreface.com/profiles/blogs/basic-stage-managing-duties. Last accessed 17/10/2015.
Creative Skills Set. (2015). First Assistant Director. Available: <http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles_and_stories/job_roles/2937_first_assistant_director_first_ad> Last accessed 17/10/2015.
Creative Skills Set. (2015). Second Assistant Director. Available: <http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles/2938_second_assistant_director_second_ad> Last accessed 17/10/2015.
Creative Skills Set. (2015). Third Assistant Director. Available: <http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles/2939_third_assistant_director_third_ad> Last accessed 17/10/2015.