An assistant director (AD) is a person who helps a filmmaker or theatre director in the creation of a movie, television show, or stage production.
In the realm of film, the duties of an AD include setting the shooting schedule, tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking the arrival of cast and crew, maintaining order on the set, rehearsing cast, and directing extras. Extended responsibilities may include taking care of health and safety of the crew. Historically the role of an assistant to the director (not the same as an Assistant director) was a stepping stone to directing work; Alfred Hitchcock was an AD, as was James McTeigue. This transition into film directing is no longer common in feature films, but remains an avenue for television work, particularly in Australia and Britain. It is more common now for ADs to transition to production management and producer roles than to directing. The role of AD has also expanded to become a separate technical profession.
In the realm of theatre, an "assistant director" can take on many different roles. Responsibilities range from helping the director take notes during the rehearsal period to actually staging parts of the play. Many aspiring theatre directors begin their careers assistant directing.
Often, the role of assistant director is broken down into the following sub-roles:
▪ The First Assistant Director (First or 1st AD) has overall AD responsibilities and supervises the Second AD. The "first" is directly responsible to the producer and "runs" the floor or set. The 1st AD and the unit production manager are two of the highest "below the line" technical roles in filmmaking (as opposed to creative or "above the line" roles) and so, in this strict sense, the role of 1AD is non-creative. ▪ The Second Assistant Director (Second or 2AD) creates the daily call sheets from the production schedule, in cooperation with the production coordinator. The "second" also serves as the "backstage manager", liaising with actors, putting cast through make-up and wardrobe, which relieves the "first" of these duties. Supervision of the second assistant director, third assistant director, assistant director trainees, and the setting of background (extras) are parts of the "second's" duties. ▪ The Second Second Assistant Director (Second Second or 22AD) deals with the increased workload of a large or complicated production. For example, a production with a large number of cast may require the division of the aspects of backstage manager and the call sheet production work to two separate people. ▪ The Third Assistant Director (Third or 3rd AD) works on set with the "First" and may liaise with the "Second" to move actors from base camp (the area containing the production, cast, and hair and makeup trailers), organize crowd scenes, and supervise one or more production assistants (PA). There is sometimes no clear distinction between a 2AD and a 3AD. Although some industry bodies (American DGA) have defined the roles in an objective way, others believe it to be a subjective distinction. ▪ The Additional Assistant Director (AAD or Additional) or Fourth Assistant Director (4AD or "Fourth") or "Key Production Assistant" (Key PA) may have a number of duties. Most commonly, the AAD has two broad job functions. One is the contraction of the duties of an AD where the AD acts as both 2nd AD and 3rd AD simultaneously. For example, a production with a large number of casts may pass the 2AD call sheet production work to that of the AAD, especially when the 2AD is already performing the additional work of a 3rd AD. The other main use of an AAD is as an adjunct to the 3AD and 1AD for logistically large scenes where more ADs are needed to control large numbers of extras. The "Additional" may also serve where the complexity of the scene or specialized elements...