TV or film assistant director

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Assistant directors support directors by organising and planning everything on TV or film sets.

Salary range: Variable

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How to become a TV or film assistant director

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • working towards this role
  • specialist courses run by private training providers
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University

You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • film production
  • creative media production
  • film and television

Courses that include practical skills and work placements are usually the most useful.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More information

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College

You could start by taking a college course to help you get a job with a production company. Courses include:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Media Techniques
  • Level 3 Diplomas in Creative Media Production
  • Level 4 Diploma in Media Production Film-making

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma or relevant experience for a level 4 or level 5 course

More information

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Work

You might start as runner or production assistant on set, and work your way up to 3rd or 2nd assistant director (AD). It can take several years to progress from being a runner through to 1st AD.

Volunteering and experience

You’ll need relevant work experience to get a job as a runner. You can get this by volunteering for student or community film and TV projects.

You can also search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT and The Knowledge.

Other routes

You can take short courses in production skills for assistant directors run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.

More information

Career tips

It’s important to get practical experience of the production process. You’ll also need a network of contacts in the industry to help you find work.

You may find it useful to train in health and safety, as this is likely to be part of your duties.

Further information

You can find out more about careers in film and TV from ScreenSkills.

You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • broadcasting and telecommunications knowledge
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Most productions use a team of assistant directors (ADs). First, second, and third assistant directors have different jobs.

As first assistant director, your day-to-day duties may include:

  • planning a filming schedule, taking into account the director’s ideas and the budget
  • managing the hire of locations, props and equipment
  • recruiting the cast and crew
  • making sure filming stays on schedule
  • supervising a team of 2nd and 3rd ADs and runners

As second or third assistant director you might be:

  • producing daily schedules
  • delivering messages between the set and the production office
  • dealing with paperwork
  • organising transport and hotels
  • making sure cast members are on set at the right times
  • directing the action in the background scenes

Working environment

You could work on a film set, at a TV studio or at a film studio.

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.

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Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to be a director, production manager or producer.