Assistant Director, Music Video

What do Assistant Director, Music Videos do?

Assistant Directors, also known as 'ADs', are responsible for supporting directors during a shoot by organising and planning everything. A large scale production may use a team of Assistant Directors, sometimes up to three, each with different tasks. Many music videos will be produced on a low budget and either the director or Assistant Director will need to do all the planning and organising themselves.

Much of the work of an Assistant Director happens in preparation for the shoot, before it actually begins. A director usually focuses on the creative aspects of the production, while the Assistant Director is responsible for the smooth running of the practical side of things. They are also responsible for arrangements during the filming. Once the film is in production, they will be in charge of making sure that every aspect of the shoot keeps to this schedule.

The tasks of an Assistant Director working on a music video or music production will vary according to the budget and nature of the production, but they are likely to include: working with the director to organise the production into a ‘storyboard’, which may include live music performance, choreography, studio shots and any background filming; deciding on the order of shooting, planning a filming schedule, taking into account the director’s ideas and the available budget; overseeing the hire of locations, props and sound, lighting and other equipment; recruiting cast and crew if necessary, including session musicians and sound engineers and making sure that the production stays on schedule and within budget. On a large production the Assistant Director, or 1st Assistant Director, may need to supervise other staff such as 2nd and 3rd ADs and runners.

On location or on the set an Assistant Director's tasks will include producing the daily call sheet listing the logistics for the next day's shoot, acting as the link between the set and the production office, ensuring all the musicians and other participants know exactly when they are needed on set, dealing with any paperwork and organising transport and accommodation. They may need to prepare and cue the extras, and they may direct the action in background crowd scenes.

Getting practical experience and developing a network of contacts in the music industry is essential. Many Assistant Directors start by taking jobs as runners or production assistants on set. Becoming involved in student or community productions helps demonstrate an interest and commitment and provides experience. Many people start out producing or being involved in the production of music video or film for their friends or personal contacts, or if they are musicians, producing videos to support their own music. It is not essential to have studied film, video or media production before you look for work, although it can be helpful. The most useful courses include practical skills, work placements and the chance to make contacts. Several schools, colleges and universities offer relevant courses.

Most Assistant Directors work on a freelance basis and the hours can be long and often unsocial. Tight budgets and tight deadlines mean the work can be highly pressured and stressful, so commitment and a flexible and positive approach are important. An Assistant Director will need to be a good project manager with excellent organisational and time-management skills. They must also be excellent communicators, they must routinely deal with problems and sometimes even crises situations.

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