What In The Hell Is A 2nd AD?

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My name is Jaz and I’m often hired as a 2nd AD for production gigs. Whenever I mention this to non-industry folks, they give me a blank stare and nod their heads. I usually sigh and respond with “kinda like a set nanny of sorts.”

But it’s so much more than that. Let’s dive into detail.

Basically, my job is to monitor everyone to make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there. These going-ons are mainly focused on the actors, however. I am their chaperone and their stalker. A 2nd AD MUST know where their cast is at ALL times so they’re ready for set and we don’t fall behind schedule.

The night before a gig, I personally contact the actors and make sure they know their call times (which I have e-mailed to every member of the cast and crew,) where they can park, and if they have any questions or concerns that I can help them with so they’re 100% prepared and ready-to-go. I then make sure they have my number saved in their phone and apologize ahead of time for the overbearing helicopter mom* I will transform into on set.

*Helicopter Mom: A parent who pays extremely close attention to a child or a child’s experiences or problems. Like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child’s life.

I greet them in the morning and chauffeur them to Wardrobe/HMU  (Hair & Make-Up) where I provide them with their sides (mini-scripts of the pages we will be shooting that day) as well as a shooting schedule. Throughout the day, when there are inevitable changes in the schedule, I will notify the cast. While chaining myself to the actors in HMU, I check in with any tardy cast/crew members yet to arrive and convey over walkie their ETAs (Estimated Time of Arrival) to the 1st AD who is the Great Overseer Of All That Is Time Management.

The 1st AD is my best friend and my worst enemy. Their job is to move the set along according to schedule and I’m the lucky person who tells them whether that’s gonna happen or not. My job is to convey to the 1st AD that the 45 minute make-up application the director insists on, realistically can’t be done in a mere 30 minutes, but that I’m doing everything in my power to make it happen anyways. Simultaneously, I have to remind the MUA (Make-up Artist) that we are on a tight schedule so timely results are VERY much appreciated. I must act as a true diplomat, convincing all parties that their needs are my top priority. Usually I’ll get the actor out quick enough to satisfy the 1st AD without making the MUA feel as if:

  1. they were forced to skimp on the quality of their work and
  2. that their work isn’t appreciated.

I am also in charge of a little something called Exhibit G forms, which I think stands for “Goblins” because they are both mysterious and evil. They’re a time sheet of sorts that every SAG/AFTRA actor has to sign before going home. Many times at the end of an emotionally/physically draining day, goblins are the very last thing on an actor’s mind. But my helicopter parenting, enhanced by redbull, comes in handy and I pop up like a creep to get their signature before they even step out into the smog filled LA air. Exhibit Gs are important because according to unions, actors can only work so many hours in a day without receiving overtime. Having knowledge of their time-in and relaying that to the 1st AD can be important on a low-budget project that may or may not have the extra money to spare for overtime. Plus there are penalties and so many wonderful things that come with any mistakes that occur. Also, I have to write it in military time. Thus, goblins.

Meanwhile while all this is going on, I’m updating the call sheet for the next day. Call times and scenes need to be added or subtracted based on whether or not we “make the day” (shoot everything we scheduled for that day.) We may also have new cast and crew joining us, in which case I have phone call greetings to make.

And then it all starts over again…

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Jaz Moore

About Jaz Moore

Jaz Moore is a writer/director living in Los Angeles with her best friend Cheeseburger the tortoise. She loves horror films, fears the sun, and wears her “Saved by the Bell” nightgown more than is socially acceptable. Follow her on twitter @JazMoore