Understanding Film Production Jobs: What Does a Second Assistant Director Do?

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The Assistant Director Department

Many of the film production jobs that are common to most sets seems ambiguous to those outside of the film industry, even though they are integral to the production. The assistant director department is one of the most important to actually running a set, and will be in charge of the functionality and process of the production as it is happening.

In this way, the assistant director takes on much more of the producer functions in production, though they do not do most of the tasks performed by positions like the unit production manager and line producer. The assistant director’s functions are really outlined in their title: they assist what the director needs out of the production. This can be a range of tasks depending on the production, but will involve scheduling, call sheets, arranging actors, and generally making sure things are running smoothly.

With many of the departments, the assistant director will be the mouthpiece for the director so they can just deal with a single person rather than running around set and coordinating with every department. The number of tasks that are a part of the assistant director department are so numerous that they will often need to be passed down a hierarchy to others, which is then taken up by the second assistant director. Just as with the first assistant director, when there is a second assistant director they tend to have fairly standard tasks that are common to most sets. The question “what does a second assistant director do?” can really be answered by what the production needs and what the first assistant director must have executed.

Second Assistant Director Tasks

The second assistant director does much of the labor that the first assistant director coordinates. The assistant director department is responsible for creating and disseminating the call sheets, but it is usually the second assistant director that actually writes and distributes those call sheets. They will also usually develop the schedules that are used either daily or for the larger production, and in this way must take information from the line producer. In general, the second assistant director will also be working less on the active set and more in the staging areas. They may be the person that helps arrange people during preparation and gets them ready to go out onto the active set, while the first assistant director is actually working with the different departments, directing extras, and calling cadence. If there are lower level people in the assistant director department, such as third, fourth, or second, then they will also often be responsible for them as well.

Type of Position

Since the tasks can change depending on the shoots, what’s important to understand about what a second assistant director does is that they are the hands-on person for the first assistant director. While the first assistant director will often make the decisions about how things will be done, it will often be up to the second assistant director to actually do these things or coordinate those who must do them. This can mean physically taking actors through their preparation process, discussing what things have to be done with production coordinators, or even going out to get extras. Actors are going to be an important responsibility for the second assistant director, so they must get to know them and make sure that they are ready to go when the first assistant director needs them.