Assistant directors support directors by organising and planning everything on TV or film sets.
Salary range: Variable
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
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.
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
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
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
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
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 take short courses in production skills for assistant directors run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.
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.
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.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- 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
What you’ll do
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
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.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could progress to be a director, production manager or producer.