Assistant Director (TV or Film)

Job Description:

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

Job Category:
Tourism, Hospitality & Entertainment

What you will do:

You’ll support directors by organising and planning everything on set.

Most productions use a team of assistant directors (ADs), with a 1st AD, at least one 2nd AD and sometimes one or more 3rd ADs, all with different jobs to do.

If you’re a 1st AD, you’ll do much of the planning before a production, and manage the set during filming.

You might:

  • work with the director to break down the script into a shot-by-shot ‘storyboard’ and decide the order of shooting
  • plan a filming schedule, taking into account the director’s ideas and the budget
  • oversee the hire of locations, props and equipment
  • recruit and motivate the cast and crew, or interviewees for documentaries
  • make sure filming stays on schedule
  • supervise a team of 2nd and 3rd ADs and runners

If you’re a 2nd AD, you might:

  • produce each day’s ‘call sheet’ (schedule)
  • be the link between the set and the production office
  • deal with paperwork
  • organise transport and hotels
  • make sure cast members or interviewees are on set (or on location for documentaries) at the right times
  • find and supervise extras on productions where there’s no 3rd AD

As a 3rd AD, you’ll make sure extras are on set at the right times, and give them their cues. You might also direct the action in background crowd scenes, and act as a messenger on set.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • broadcasting and telecommunications knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming an Assistant Director (AD) in the TV or film industry typically doesn’t have specific GCSE subject requirements, but there are certain skills, qualifications, and experiences that can be beneficial for pursuing a career in this field. It’s important to note that the path to becoming an AD can vary, and different production companies or individuals may have different expectations. Here are some relevant considerations:

  1. Education: While GCSE subjects are not a strict requirement, having a strong educational background in subjects like English, Drama, Media Studies, or even Business Studies can provide a foundation for understanding the industry and developing relevant skills.
  2. Experience: Practical experience is crucial in the film and TV industry. You can gain experience by working on student films, volunteering on professional sets, or taking on internships with production companies. This will help you understand how sets operate and build connections within the industry.
  3. Networking: Building a network of industry contacts is vital. Attend film festivals, industry events, and join relevant organizations or forums to meet people working in the field. These connections can lead to job opportunities.
  4. Assistant Director Training Programs: Some film schools and training programs offer courses specific to assistant directing. These programs can provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to work as an AD.
  5. Health and Safety Training: Safety is a top priority on film and TV sets. Consider getting certified in health and safety training, such as First Aid or courses related to film set safety.
  6. Technical Skills: Familiarity with industry-standard software for scheduling and organizing production tasks can be valuable. Programs like Movie Magic Scheduling and Celtx can be useful for ADs.
  7. Strong Work Ethic: Being an AD requires long hours, excellent organizational skills, and the ability to handle high-pressure situations. Demonstrating a strong work ethic and the ability to stay organized is crucial.
  8. Knowledge of Industry Practices: Familiarize yourself with industry practices, union regulations (e.g., IATSE, DGA), and standard operating procedures on film and TV sets.
    Portfolio: As you gain experience, build a portfolio of your work. This can include call sheets, schedules, and any documentation of your contributions on set.

You’ll need experience of the production process and a network of contacts in the industry. Employers are usually more interested in your experience than your qualifications.

Post School

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
  • drama or theatre studies
  • business

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

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

  • Level 3 Diploma in TV and Film Production
  • Level 3 Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology
  • T Level in Media, Broadcast and Production
  • Level 4 Diploma in Media Production Film-making

    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.

You’ll need relevant work experience to get into an entry level job like a runner, from where you could work your way up. You could volunteer 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.

Direct Application
You could join the Assistant Directors Guild UK for professional support.

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

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.

Working Hours and Environment:

Your working hours could be long and irregular, depending on the demands of a production, and will often include evenings and weekends.

You’ll work in TV and film studios, or on location. Work can be anywhere in the country or abroad, so a driving licence is usually required.

Career Path & Progression:

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