The Film Set Time Keeper

This semester at Hofstra University, I got into first assistant directing on student film sets. I had never done it before but I was asked to a few months ago and accepted the position.  Up until I assistant directed, I thought I wanted to just be a film producer when I graduate.  But after assistant directing, I realized I like doing both producing and assistant directing.

The first assistant director is a really important job that sometimes college students overlook, mostly because they don’t know much about the position.  But in reality, without a first assistant director, film sets do not run as smoothly as they could and often people get impatient and tired from a long day, and film sets become rushed and the films do not turn out how they were intended to.

The first assistant director manages the director’s time.  But, also manages the set’s time. They work closely with the director and director of photography planning the shot timing to make sure that all the shots can be finished on schedule.  Cast and crew members on set go to the first assistant director for direction with questions and what they need to be doing and setting up for.  They make sure that the director can stay focused on their vision and creative tasks, rather then worrying about the time and what people need to be doing.  The first assistant director understands the director’s vision and helps to execute it efficiently and perfectly the best they can.  If timing starts slipping and the filming starts running behind, they negotiate shots with the director and director of photography to see if there are any that they can cut to keep the set on track.  But, when doing this, the first assistant director makes sure to respect both of them and their vision.

film-slate

Without a first assistant director on set, the director and director of photography could go on and on with shots, losing track of time and ultimately not being able to stay on schedule.  When the director and director of photography are working on their vision, this happens.  The first assistant director is the person that keeps tabs on time and lets them know the timing on the set, based on how often the director of photography wants them to notify them.  I usually let the director of photography know when it has been fifteen minutes every fifteen minutes.  But, it all depends on how many shots need to get done in one day and how many shots per location there are.

When there are multiple locations, the first assistant director has to figure in setting up and breaking down equipment, and transportation timing.  They also have to keep track of everyone and make sure everyone got to the new location safely.  If someone is running behind or not there, the first assistant director calls them and sees what is going on.  This goes for even if there is only one location being filmed on.

sample call sheet
This is a sample call sheet.  I use a similar one.  Click here for this one.

The first assistant director is the person who makes the call sheet and sends it out, the person who manages the rides for the actors and actresses, and the rides for the crew members.  On the call sheet, they make sure to put other important information.  The information that they must know is: when sunrise and sunset are, the nearest hospital incase something happens on set, what scenes/locations are happening each day of filming, the positions of every cast and crew member, and everyone’s contact information.  The first assistant director is the all knowing person on set, the center of information.  Without a first assistant director, a set would crumble and not easily succeed.