In reading Something Like an Autobiography by the great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, 1959, Japanese), I was struck by the attention and praise he lavished on his assistant director, a man who served him in that capacity for many years. Even on a small film, the assistant director (AD) is of paramount importance to the director. Thus, the director must choose with great care the person who occupies this position.
On smaller productions, such as the ones my students undertake at Columbia, the roles of producer and AD differ from the roles filled by these key personnel on larger, professional shoots. In the student film or low-budget area, their duties are often more extensive and onerous, as they may be forced to make do without important assistance, such as location managers, transport coordinators, payroll, and a number of assistants and second assistants.
In preproduction, the AD coordinates with the director and the DP to schedule the shots that are to be required at each location, and to schedule, with the director's input, the most efficient order in which to complete the shots.
During production, the key role of the AD is to ensure the smooth running of the set: to ensure that all personnel are informed of the schedule and given "call times," and if need be to organize transportation for both cast and crew. The AD coordinates with all of the various departments (camera, grip, electric, sound, wardrobe, hair/makeup, props, and cast) to ensure that everyone is aware of the schedule. Equally important is to inform all departments if there is a change in the schedule.
The AD is responsible for on-set discipline and is vitally important in affecting the on-set atmosphere. He will call for quiet before each shot, and at the end of each shot he will announce the next camera setup.
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