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Do you know how long it takes to become a First Assistant Director?

By Billy Delgado

Do you know how long it takes to become a First Assistant Director? Years! Decades! I’m not even kidding you. At least in the big budget world. Don’t even get me started on what you need to get into the DGA.

Working up the ranks the old fashioned way you’re going to be a additional Set PA for about 3 to 4 years. Then eventually be a Consistent Staff Set PA. You then move on to getting a few gigs being an additional 2nd 2nd AD. A year or so later you’ll be staffed as a 2nd 2nd AD. Couple years goes by and you’ll get thrown a bone and get to fill in as a 2nd AD. Eventually you’d be teamed up with a 1st AD and get hired as a team on gigs. I can only imagine how long it takes to make the jump from 2nd AD to 1st AD.

Then you’re 50 years old! This is if you start in your early 20s. In the indie film world it def works a lot different. But everyone usually does both big budget union gigs, and the indie film gigs…if they’re smart. If you’re super likable, have common sense, great at your job, and hustle to get those gigs the road might be faster.

With the DGA trainee program you go from a SET PA to a 2nd 2nd AD in two years! Two! Two years people. And this is why people go bananas for this program.

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not talking about the holiday season. I’m referring to the daunting task of finishing up your application to the DGA trainee program in NYC. It’s due December 1st, so if you haven’t gotten to doing it get cookin’!

Now the west coast’s program deadline has come and gone by a whole month. But there’s still time for the NYC program! I mean if you can squeeze in two professional recommendations, essays, and a very detailed resume in there.

The New York Assistant Director Training Program is designed to provide opportunities for a limited number of individuals to become Assistant Directors in Film, Film Television & Commercial production. This is a two year program consisting of up to 350 days of on-the-job training combined with seminars and special assignments. A rotation system places Trainees on the sets of various features, television series and commercials shooting primarily in the New York City vicinity. There they work under the supervision of DGA members – Second Assistant Directors, First Assistant Directors and Unit Production Managers until graduation. Upon completion of the program, graduates are qualified to join the DGA (Directors Guild of America) as Second Assistant Directors. – dgatrainingprogram.org

I’ve applied to this program once before. Well, probably a half a dozen times, who am I kidding. And it’s an emotional roller coaster. If you know anything about film you know this program is the fast track to becoming an AD.

I’m almost tempted to apply again myself. But I’ve had the same lady Interview me every single time! And she remembers what happened in the past interviews with me. She’s super human, I swear. I’ve passed a number of rounds to totally bombing that damn interview. Too much pressure, too many things zooming around in my head, and too many thoughts along the lines of “what are they looking for?” When this interview hits it’s like I completely forget who I am!

If you’re not aware on how the process works for the NYC program it starts with the initial application. Resume, recommendations, and essays. Then if you get accepted you move on to the testing round. They ask you a ton of questions to basically measure your personality, characteristics, logistical thinking, and leadership levels.

Then if that matches up to what they look for personality wise they call you to set up an interview. After that there would be another interview with the people who actually run the program. The first Interview is with this consulting firm who pick people out based on what the DGA program maps out.

So it’s not for the faint of heart. I understand that thousands of people apply and they need to narrow it down to about 7 people, but I hate the fact that they use this consulting firm. I understand it, doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Good luck in the film world everyone, stay safe, and stay warm out there!

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2 comments on Do you know how long it takes to become a First Assistant Director?

  1. Really random stuff. They ask about your life. Why you think you want to be an AD. Are you ready to be freelance, is your life arranged to be a freelancer. Like lady if I wasn’t I wouldnt have applied. All kinds of stiff is asked really. Nothing Is Off Limits

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