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An assistant director manages the practicalities of film and television production. This allows the director to focus specifically on aesthetic concerns without having to worry about scheduling and related matters. People may work their way into assistant director positions or they can pursue formal education in film and television production and use it as a qualification to enter the field. From this position, people may move into roles as producers or directors, depending on their interests.
Once production is approved, the assistant director goes over the script to storyboard it and develop a schedule. Rather than shooting sequentially, film crews typically shoot in the order that is most efficient, using the schedule created by the assistant director. To coordinate production, it may be necessary to work with other personnel to make sure facilities will be available when they are needed; if the crew is scheduled to shoot in a park, for example, they need permits, transportation, mobile units, and support staff.
Assistant directors may have their own staff, including second and third assistants who handle individual tasks. Their department is responsible for making sure production runs smoothly and on schedule. Delays can be expensive, and may cause problems with producers and sponsors. To facilitate scheduling, the assistant director may be present at shoots to keep people focused, and can also keep the director apprised of scheduling needs.
In the event of a problem, the assistant director swings into action to adjust the schedule. Poor weather may create delays, for instance, in which case filming may need to be shuffled around quickly to accommodate it. The crew could move indoors to shoot different scenes, relocate to a different area, or use other tactics to avoid running behind. Maintaining a tight schedule can help keep budgets under control while also addressing concerns like limits on working hours set by unions or regulatory authorities.
Working in this field requires a high level of organization and communication skills. The assistant director needs to be able to easily and quickly break down and review information to extract relevant data. In addition, it’s critical to be able to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, and to encourage people to cooperate to complete projects safely and in a timely fashion. This may require communicating with personnel from props supervisors to agents representing actors, all of whom have specific concerns about the production that may conflict with scheduling and other practical needs.