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What is a Second Assistant Director

What is a Second Assistant Director & What do Second ADs Do on Set?

Second Assistant Directors are often referred to as Second ADs or Seconds. Their role is to act as an assistant to the First Assistant Director in ensuring that film productions orders are properly carried out. During production, Seconds have the responsibility of preparing the “call sheet” which documents the daily logistics of filming and is handed out to all members of the cast and crew. They are also required to monitor and encourage proper movements of cast to ensure primary actors are in make-up, wardrobe, or stand-by on schedule.

Small, or low budget productions, may not have a Third Assistant Director. Thus, these projects will require the Second Assistant Director to take on the Third’s role in finding and securing background artists (extras). Seconds work in tandem with Firsts in liaising between the production office and the set or filming location to appropriately update key personnel on the film progress and timing of the shoot.

Second Assistant Director

The Job of Second Assistant Director

Seconds are tasked with the duty of daily preparation for the following day’s call sheet. This requires the Second to confirm cast and crew will be on-location or on-set as scheduled. Appropriate travel arrangements, transportation, and the securing of any film extras to ensure production remains on schedule becomes the job of Second Assistant Director each day of the shoot.

Once Second ADs have drawn up the call sheet, the production office must approve for distribution. Seconds then distribute the call sheet to the cast and crew members following up to ensure each individual involved in the next day’s shoot knows his or her call time and responsibilities. Failure to remain on schedule with filming as a result of bad time-keeping is inefficient, negatively affects both schedule and budget, and is considered extremely unprofessional.

When daily filming begins, Seconds ensure actors are prepared for their call-time by coordinating transport and ensuring proper make-up and wardrobe scheduling and timetables are met. Second Assistant Directors may also be responsible for finding, hiring and coordinating shoots with large numbers of extras on very little notice. This includes coordinating appropriate transport to and from activities on set or on location with little notice to prepare.

Second Assistant Director Skills

Time management is an essential skill for Second Assistant Directors as they spend much of their time coordinating arrangements for cast and crew to ensure timely production. They must also have strong communication skills and relationship building qualities as people must feel at-ease coming to them but should also respect their orders.

Second Assistant Directors deal with several people, sometimes very large amounts of people, everyday. Therefore, they must have profound skills in communication. Specifically, Seconds must pay close attention to detail to ensure clear instructions are provided to the several hundred cast-members that may be involved in the production of the film.

Essential skills of a Second Assistant Director include:

  • Communication skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Patience and common sense.
  • Strong ability to work diligently under pressure.
  • Organization skills.
  • Flexibility and understanding when projects, needs, or other aspects change.
  • Background knowledge of the role and requirements to become a part of the Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

Flexibility and proven resourcefulness.

Larry Katz gave a fantastic talk to Full Sail University about his experience as a Second Assistant Director

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