“Assistant Directing is a brilliant role. A Runner on the last film I worked on said you are the cushions of the set; you support the crew at all times and keep morale high and that's what I want to keep doing”

Still: All the Devil's Men starring Milo Gibson

It’s work experience time for the Assistant Directing and Floor Managing Diploma students so we caught up with two of the students, Charlotte Smith and Eline van Oeveren, as well as Richard Lingard from the Assistant Directing Association and Helen Fraser, experienced Assistant Director and visiting NFTS Tutor, to find out more.

Charlotte Smith

Since joining the NFTS, I have done so many things I would not have been able to achieve without the support of the School. I have worked on student projects as a 1st AD which was really good fun but a real challenge. I have also had opportunities to work on professional sets including Stan and Ollie directed by Jon. S Baird and All the Devils Men, at West London Studios. These gave me real insights into a professional AD department which I am extremely grateful for and has cemented my interest in the AD role even more. I have recently secured a freelance Floor Assistant job on Emmerdale at ITV Yorkshire in Leeds. This has been an incredible experience so far. My main role on set is to help the cast when they struggle with the lines and prompt them during line run through. I also support the AD department and look after the cast on set. I mainly communicate with the Script Supervisor and the AD department and cast. A typical day on Emmerdale can be long from 7am until 7pm but it is really enjoyable.

The Woolpack - famous pub in Emmerdale

When I graduate, I hope to pursue a job in the AD department hopefully as a 3rd AD or Floor Runner then work my way up the ladder. In the far far future I hope to become a director but AD’ing is a great way to work up close to the director and experience the creative process. AD’ing is a brilliant role. A Runner on the last film I worked on said you are the cushions of the set; you support the crew at all times and keep morale high and that's what I want to keep doing."

Eline van Oeveren

I've already completed work experience on a few feature films as a dailies runner in the UK and I am currently doing work experience as a Production Assistant at Lukkien, a media company in my hometown in the Netherlands. I am assisting on multiple commercials for a range of companies including Yulu, Haribo and Fonq. Lukkien has made commercials for Philips, Nintendo and the studios were home to one of the seasons of The Voice of Holland. I've done set dressing, catering, and general running tasks. The sets for Fonq in particular were very abstract and beautiful.

Coming to the NFTS (and the UK in general) was life changing. I've gained so much experience over the past half year, not just in work but in life as well. I really feel like I've grown as a person. The most interesting experiences so far have been the work experience on the feature films where I got to meet loads of talented people. Seeing how it actually works in the industry is an amazing way to learn.

John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan to star in Stan and Ollie biopic directed by Jon S Baird

Richard Lingard, Training Co-ordinator, Assistant Directors Association (ADA)

The Assistant Directing and Floor Managing Diploma is delivered in partnership with the BBC, supported by the Assistant Directors Association and the Production Guild.

Richard Lingard, Training Co-ordinator at the ADA arranged for four of the AD students to experience working on action-thriller, All The Devil’s Men written and directed by Matthew Hope, produced by Hannah Leader and starring Milo Gibson, William Fichtner and Sylvia Hoeks. They have been working on a range of scenes including car interiors using green screen as well as stunts and fight scenes.

“Although it was early starts and long days for all, all the students agreed it was a fantastic experience and opportunity to make valuable contacts for the future. They felt that the placements increased their skills and knowledge of the film industry and kick-started their professional network. Some have already gone on to find more work with ADA professionals on the back of these placements”.

Paul Bennett, 2nd Assistant Director on the production said: "You’re obviously doing something right with the trainee scheme as all the students we had were brilliant. Punctual, enthusiastic and with a great knowledge of what was going on and what was expected from them. It's not always easy for even a seasoned AD to come onto a film that's been shooting for a while but each student we had on set proved themselves to be valuable members of our team.”

Helen Fraser, Assistant Director and NFTS Visiting Tutor

Helen Fraser is an experienced Assistant Director having worked as 2nd AD on productions such as High Rise, Victoria, A Royal Night Out and Sunshine on Leith. She has worked with all the AD students on drama, The Children Act starring Emma Thompson: “I had all of the students out on various dates throughout the production and they primarily worked with the onset AD's, particularly the Runners & 3rd AD. They assisted with the day-to-day running of the set and looking after cast & background”. 

Emma Thompson - starring in The Children Act

One of the students, Lilla Vindic spent a week working with Helen on her current production as she had a particular interest in becoming a 2nd AD. “Her experience centred more around the last week of prep/beginning of shooting and she observed the Production Meeting, Read Through, Rehearsal Process, Camera Tests, and spent time with both 2nd AD's (one prepping, one shooting) & the Crowd 2nd.”

According to Helen, “It's great to have a course that actively trains and encourages young members of the industry to become Assistant Directors. As we all know, the role of Assistant Director is essential to the smooth running of any production and the NFTS course gives the students opportunity to learn & train in all levels of the department. The students on the NFTS Diploma are ambitious, focused and hardworking. All of them have been keen to learn and welcome feedback, both good and critical. They have been a welcome addition when on work experience.

She has the following advice for aspiring ADs: “Be prepared to work long hours & be prepared to work hard. Be friendly, polite, helpful, approachable, organised & thick skinned. Buy good comfy shoes & decent waterproofs. Observe, listen & learn from everyone around you, and don't worry if you make mistakes starting out. The best thing about mistakes is you learn from them - just don't repeat them! Oh and don't sit down on set! And put your phone away!”

And on the highlights of working as an AD: “The sense of achievement when a plan comes together & when a challenging day runs smoothly!”

For more information on the Assistant Directing and Floor Managing Diploma, and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/assistantdirecting

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