Before, I featured 5 Questions With a Writer's PA. Today's interview is with Lee, who works as a director's assistant on an upcoming studio comedy.
1. What exactly does a Director's Assistant do?
A director's assistant mainly holds all the duties that typical assistants do, especially during pre and post production. You handle the schedule (as all the department heads and studio departments will be vying for time), answer phones and maintain the office. However, there are also some duties that are unique to the position. I was lucky that my boss was very receptive and interested in my thoughts and notes, so I was able to weigh in on the script, casting choices and various other creative decisions throughout all the stages of production. On set my main job was keeping the director happy, making sure he was well fed and hydrated. I was keeper of the official version of the script and was in charge of making sure that changes were distributed by the AD department the following day. I also managed set visits for the studio and guests of the director.
2. How did you get the job?
Before I held this position I worked for a couple of years as a development assistant to a producer. When I first started working for him, he was weeks away from a greenlight on a film that was to be directed by my current boss. Unfortunately that film was never made, but the director and I had a good relationship and in the following years he would call me up and ask me to help out on various things, filming casting sessions, taking notes at a table reads etc. Recently, he knew I was looking for a new job and it just happened he had a film that was about to start pre-production and offered me the job as his assistant. I was excited to finally work on a film after years of living in development.
3. What are your career aspirations and how is this helping you get there?
My goal is to eventually produce films and this job has helped in a lot of ways. It has allowed me to see first hand a film go from pre to post production, something I had never seen before. I was able to see how producers, directors and the studio work with and against each. Also, seeing how the film changes over time from script to screen has given me a good lesson in developing films. What can sometimes play better once it is performed versus on the page, what story lines ended up working or not working, etc. Luckily, everyone on the film has been incredibly kind and I have become friendly with a lot of the studio executives, the writer and the producers of the film, which will hopefully go a long way to finding my next position.
4. What other kinds of things have you learned on the job?
I have learned a lot about the other departments involved in making a movie. I was able to interact with the DP, AD, Production Designer, Locations Manager, Prop Master and other department heads who gave me insight into what their jobs involve, some of the challenges they face and what can help make their jobs easier. To me this is very is important when it comes thinking about producing my own films. The producers also put stress on defining the tone/style/story of the film for the studio's marketing department so they don't f--- up trying to sell the movie. I have learned the importance of making sure everyone is on the same page creatively so the studio knows what they are getting/selling and the filmmakers maintain a vision of the film that they want.
5. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I have so many favorite things about this job - it has been an awesome experience overall. I love being on set especially and I miss it a lot now that it's over. I have really enjoyed working and becoming friendly with the cast and crew. I was lucky to be working on a film with very minimal egos and one that was small enough that everyone developed a family feel. I would have to say though, that because my boss was so open and actually cared to hear my ideas, that my favorite thing about this job was the ability to actually have input into the final film. I know that there are lines, character actions, edits and other small pieces of the film that are only there because I opened my big mouth and that is very exciting to me.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would say that it's important to realize that being a director's assistant is an education in many more aspects of filmmaking than just directing and I would recommend it for anyone looking to be in film as a creative of any kind. It wasn't a job I ever planned on having or even wanted really, but now that I have done it, I realize how valuable it is, especially if you aren't working for a big ego-ed tyrant. Also, post production is really boring until you finally are allowed to see a cut of the film. Then it gets really cool.