A 1st AD has different day to day responsibilities during prep and shooting. During prep, they first break down the script into elements that will be needed for each scene during the shoot. They will then put all of these elements into a one-line schedule. Taking this schedule, a 1st AD will figure out how much time it will take to film each scene. This will aid the 1st AD as they build a shooting schedule, discussing how the Director wants to cover each scene to determine how much time the scene will take to film.
Tech scouting is another important phase of prep. First, there is a Director’s scout. The 1st AD, along with Executive Producers, the Director, the Director of Photography, and the Location Manager, will scout locations for each scene. Once these locations have been chosen, they will then take out all the department heads on a second scout so they can get acquainted with each location and figure out any additional needs. At a production meeting, the 1st AD will discuss the plan for the shoot in scene order with department heads and help answer any last-minute questions. The first AD takes all of the information gathered during the prep phase of production to ensure that everyone is on the same page for shooting.
During shooting, the 1st AD is responsible for managing crew, cast, and background actors, making sure that the shoot stays on schedule while maintaining standards of safety and excellence. The 1st AD will remain on set while the crew prepares for each setup. This can entail coordinating with different departments to problem-solve any unexpected issues that arise. They will communicate with the AD team to guarantee that the 1st team and BG actors are ready to go when the camera team is prepared. They will work closely with the team and producers throughout the shoot.
Attention to Detail: Breaking down a script to make a one-line schedule and shooting schedule requires reading analysis, an ability to ask questions about the text, and a commitment to precision.
Time Management: A 1st AD is responsible for keeping cast and crew on schedule. This requires strategy, understanding how much time it takes to accomplish specific needs on set, and organization.
Multi-tasking: The ability to work towards multiple goals at once will help any 1st AD keep the crew on schedule. This can entail communicating with multiple departments about the shooting schedule, problem-solving with the Director and DP, and delegating tasks to the AD team.
Leadership: The crew often looks to the 1st AD to make the day possible. A good 1st AD will treat everyone with the same level of respect despite their role, focus on their responsibilities, and work well under pressure. Additionally, they must anticipate the needs of the crew as well as any potential problems that may come up. In short, the 1st AD will need to be the person with the answers and must give those answers with confidence and kindness.
Communication: Be able to listen to other people’s ideas, give instructions to other members of the team, and act as a go-between for multiple departments on set. A good 1st AD is able to deliver requests and communicate the needs of the production without yelling. You are the source of information on set, and that information must be given clearly and concisely even though set might be chaotic at times.
Work as a PA to start out and work your way up in the department. Work hard, and don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can do the work correctly.
The salary range for the 1st AD varies according to what type of production they work on (i.e. single cam, multi-cam tv show, or feature film) and what budget tier that production operates within. At the bottom of this range could be a DGA tv show or film operating with a budget of $500k or less that pays a 1st AD minimum wage. On the other hand, a show like "Modern Family" that we watch on network TV could offer a 1st AD $5500-7500 per week.
Please see the following website for DGA rate cards. While the DGA sets a minimum rate, other factors like location, studio, season number, and experience level of the 1st AD can impact the negotiated salary. In addition, a 1st AD's weekly rate will increase according to production fees, kit rentals, golden hours, meal money, or completion of assignment.
DGA Rate Cards: https://www.dga.org/Contracts/
A 1st AD will receive a kit box rental for having a laptop. They will use this laptop constantly in this position and in prep.
On set, a 1st AD will need:
*Productions normally provide the 1st AD with a walkie, call sheets, sides, a safety vest or megaphone, etc. If the production you are working on doesn't provide these items, you may benefit from providing your own.
One-Line Schedule: A document that concisely provides scene number, set descriptions, cast members, and background members in the scene. It is the primary document that the first AD will prepare for the crew.
Shooting Schedule: A plan for each day on set. The shooting schedule dictates what scenes will be shot on each day of filming.
Key: In this context, refers to the Key 2nd AD.
Coverage: The amount and kind of footage needed to film a scene.
Company: Refers to the crew that works to prepare the set for a camera set up.
DP: DP refers to the Director of Photography
DGA QL: The DGA QL is a qualifications list that shows who is eligible to work on DGA projects across the United States. The 1st area of the DGA QL includes LA and NY and the 3rd area includes all other cities. In order to qualify for the DGA QL, one must complete 600 qualified PA days and keep records and documents from every day. Upon turning in all of this documentation, the DGA will access the records of an applicant. If they accept the days an applicant turns in, that applicant will be placed on the DGA QL for 3rd area and also the DGA CQL commercial qualification list (which means the applicant may work on a DGA TV show or film as a 2nd AD anywhere except for LA or NY). The "CQL" means that someone can work on a DGA commercial as a 2nd AD in LA or NY, but not a film or TV show. The CQL is the next step into getting into the 1st area. Once a DGA QL 2nd AD completes 400 qualifying AD days in 3rd area, they turn in records of their days, and if accepted, they can now work in the 1st area (LA or NY) as a 2nd AD. Then, if the applicant wishes to continue to move up the chain, they have to complete 150 qualifying 2nd AD days to become a 1st. For example, an applicant can be on the DGA QL as a 2nd AD 3rd area and a 2nd AD on the DGA CQL if they complete 600 qualifying PA days.
Learn more about Kim Richards: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4637356/?ref_=fn_al_nm_2
Learn more about Alisha East: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5716406/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0
Thank you to the Oklahoma Film and Music Office for sponsoring this episode!
Film Crew 101: Certification is an extension of the free Podcast series "Film Crew 101" (available on apple, spotify, and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts). Each episode pulls back the curtain on all the different roles that go into making a film or TV show from Gaffer's to Best Boy's and First Assistant Director's to Second Second Assistant Director's.
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