TV or film assistant director

Assistant directors support directors by organising and planning everything on TV or film sets.

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours


Future employment

There will be 3% more TV or film assistant director jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You’ll support directors by organising and planning everything on set.

Most productions use a team of ADs, with a 1st AD, at least one 2nd AD and sometimes one or more 3rd ADs, all with different jobs to do.

If you’re a 1st AD, you'll do much of the planning before a production, and manage the set during filming.

You might:

  • work with the director to break down the script into a shot-by-shot ‘storyboard’ and decide the order of shooting
  • plan a filming schedule, taking into account the director’s ideas and the budget
  • oversee the hire of locations, props and equipment
  • recruit the cast and crew
  • make sure filming stays on schedule
  • supervise a team of 2nd and 3rd ADs and runners
  • motivate the cast and crew 

If you’re a 2nd AD, you might:

  • produce each day’s 'call sheet' (schedule)
  • be the link between the set and the production office
  • deal with paperwork
  • organise transport and hotels
  • make sure cast members are on set at the right times
  • find and supervise extras on productions where there’s no 3rd AD

As a 3rd AD, you’ll make sure extras are on set at the right times, and give them their cues. You might also direct the action in background crowd scenes, and act as a messenger on set.


You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • film production
  • creative media production
  • film and television

Courses that include practical skills and work placements are usually the most useful.

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree


You could start by taking a college course to help you get a job with a production company. Courses include:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Media Techniques
  • Level 3 Diplomas in Creative Media Production
  • Level 4 Diploma in Media Production Film-making

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma or relevant experience for a level 4 or level 5 course

Other Routes

You’ll need experience of the production process and a network of contacts in the industry. Employers are usually more interested in your experience than your qualifications.

You’ll usually need to start as a runner or production assistant on set and work your way up to 3rd or 2nd assistant director (AD).

You may find it easier to get a job as a runner if you do a film, video or media production course that includes practical skills and work placements.

You can also search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT and The Knowledge.

You can take short courses in production skills for assistant directors run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.

Creative Skillset has information on careers and courses in TV and film,


You’ll usually be paid a fee for each project. Rates can vary widely. The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) has information on current pay guidelines.


Your working hours could be long and irregular, depending on the demands of a production, and will often include evenings and weekends.

You’ll work in TV and film studios, or on location. Work can be anywhere in the UK or abroad, so a driving licence is usually required.

With experience, you could progress to be a director, production manager or producer.

You can find out more about careers in film and TV from ScreenSkills.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • the ability to lead and motivate others
  • excellent organisational and planning skills
  • problem-solving ability
  • a flexible and adaptable attitude
  • good administrative skills
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