YAFTA INTERVIEW SOPHIE DOWD
Job Title: 2nd Assistant Director (2nd AD)
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Being an AD requires excellent organisation skills. It’s your job to co-ordinate everything off set to make sure the work on set runs as smoothly as possible. A typical day starts early! Usually at 7am. I arrive for the first costume/make up call so that I can oversee the artiste arriving on time or call them if they’re late. As we film out of sequence, I then liaise with costume and make up about any changes that may be happening between scenes so I know when to call the actors off set. We usually start the days filming at 8am and aim to get the actors on set as close to that time as possible, sometimes you have to ask a few times before you get any movement! Once the actors are on set for the first scene, I look at sorting out the following day; giving out call times etc. When we are filming on location I sort out transport to and from the location. As we film three units of Emmerdale at once, I also have to talk to the 2nd AD for each of the other units about any actors that may be crossing over to their unit, and keep them informed about timings. If one unit is behind it can affect all the others.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about being an AD is the variation. Every day can be totally different. Also, its one of the few areas where you work closely with a lot of different departments- costume/ make up etc so you get to know a lot of people and see how all the other departments work.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
The saying ‘if in doubt, blame an AD’ is something we say quite a lot! Because you are the hub of all information (lunch time, wrap time, telling people if you are ahead of schedule or behind) you quite often get the blame for things out of your control. Also, you nearly always get moments where everything happens at once, so you have to be good at prioritising when everyone thinks their question is most important.
How did you end up doing the job that you do?
I didn’t go to Uni as i wanted to just crack on and a degree wasn’t necessary for the role I wanted to do! I basically pestered the right people until they let me come in on a work placement, you need to be persistent! I then started at the very bottom, logging episodes of Emmerdale into a computer system and worked my way up, going through production secretary, print room and all sorts on the way. I did some work shadowing with the AD’s and loved it and I’m still doing it now!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in production?
Get as much experience as you possibly can, it’s the best way to learn how filming really works. It will mean doing very unglamorous things and possibly for free/not much pay, but it will be worth it when you can fill your cv.
From an AD’s perspective, do you have any advice that you can offer to YAFTA students to help them in their acting careers?
Respect and discipline on set is a huge skill to learn. Being quiet when the 1st AD asks you to or when other actors are running lines or the Director is speaking. Also be punctual! Everyone hates it when an actor strolls onto set 10 minutes after the others arrived.