Episode 5 – Joth Riggs – An AD’s guide to working with first time Directors

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In this episode we talk with 1st AD Joth Riggs. (@jothriggs on instagram)

Joth Riggs is an award-winning filmmaker whose film career spans 25 years and includes over 80 movies and television shows for all the major Hollywood studios. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Film Production, Joth got his start on the set of his first feature film, Pet Sematary II. From there he went on to work as a production assistant on the sitcom Coach on the Universal lot before ultimately landing at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. It was only after being accepted into the prestigious Director’s Guild Training Program that Joth left Amblin to become an Assistant Director. After years of A.D.ing on everything from feature films like Starship Troopers, End of Days, and Suicide Kings with Christopher Walken to t.v. series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Party of Five, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Baywatch among others, Joth made the move to the director’s chair with several award-winning short films including Push, Shaken, and Heartfall, as well as the television series The Encounter. Joth is currently in pre-production to direct a feature suspense thriller later this year.

Books Mentioned in the Podcast
Running the Show: The Essential Guide to Being a First Assistant Director by Liz Gill

The film director’s team by Elizabeth Ward

Apps Mentioned in the Podcast

Scriptation
Shot Designer
Evernote
FD Reader
Panascout

What does a 2nd AD do besides make a call sheet?

Crew members who work as 2nd Assistant Directors fill one of the most critical roles on any film set. The 2nd AD acts as a bridge between the “set” and the “basecamp” and while they are known for creating the call sheet, their duties extend into other areas of production that are vital for a set to operate efficiently.

The below information was complied by the Directors Guild of America:

2nd AD Duties

  1. Prepare the call sheets, handle extras, requisitions, and other required documents for approval by the 1st AD, the UPM and/or the production office.
  2. Prepare the daily production report and end of day paper work.
  3. Distribute scripts and script changes (after shooting has started) to cast and crew.
  4. Distribute call sheets to cast and crew.
  5. Distribute, collect, and approve extra vouchers, placing adjustments as directed by the 1st AD on the vouchers.
  6. Communicate advance scheduling to cast and crew.
  7. Aid in the scouting, surveying and managing of locations (mandatory in New York and Chicago)
  8. Facilitate transportation of equipment and personnel.
  9. May be required to secure execution of minor cast contracts, extra releases, and on occasion to secure execution of contracts by talent. (May also be delegated to 1st AD and UPM.)
  10. Coordinate with production staff so that all elements, including cast, crew and extras, are ready at the beginning of the day, and supervise the wrap in the studio and on location (local and distant).
  11. Schedule food, lodging and other facilities.
  12. Sign cast members in and out.
  13. Maintain liaison between UPM and/or the production office and the 1st AD on the set.
  14. Assist the 1st AD in the direction and placement of background action and in the supervision of crowd control.
  15. Perform crowd control in New York and Los Angeles except where the work is customarily performed by police officers or is performed by security personnel or a facility at which the photography takes place and which requires or customarily provides this service; provided, however, persons not covered by the Basic Agreement may perform such work if at least two additional 2nd ADs are employed in addition to a Key 2nd AD and 2nd 2nd AD or two Key 2nd ADs
  16. Supervise and direct the work of any Trainee or Intern assigned to the picture.
  17. May assist in the proper distribution and documentation of milage money by the Producer’s appointed representative.

An employer may not unreasonably deny a request from a UPM or 1st AD for another 2nd Assistant Director. BA 13-202 (b).

How to run an effective production meeting

A production meeting often called a page-turn is one of the most important meetings any film or tv show can have prior to shooting. These meetings can vary depending on the size and scope of the project, however in general they look very similar. Below are some ideas for running a mtg for a typical low budget project.

  1. Schedule the Meeting. Inform the people attending the meeting a few weeks out and be sure to collect RSVPs. This assures that you will have the right people attending and can answer as many questions as possible. Make sure your crew are aware of how long the meeting will last ie…6 hours etc.. If shooting on location you may want to wait till you have a majority of the Depts on the ground to have the meeting…so generally one or two weeks before filming. If filming a larger movie or tv-show there may be multiple meetings early on. In general its ideal if you can have this meeting the day after a tech-scout because the Dept Heads have seen the locations and this will inform the meeting greatly.
  2. Decide who will and who will not attend. Generally this meeting is reserved for department heads and certain above the line folk, however certain productions may call for various personal. Depending on the size of your meeting space you may also be limited in space on who you can actually fit in the meeting. Suggestions for who to include are the following (Producer(s), Director, Line Producer, UPM, Production Supervisor, AUPM, Script Supervisor, DOP, Gaffer, Key Grip, Production Designer, Art Director, Prop Master, Set Decorator, Costume Designer, Costume Supervisor, Construction Coordinator, Location Manager, Assistant Location Manager, 1st AD, 2nd AD, Stunt Coordinator, SPFX Coordinator, VFX Producer, Transportation Coordinator, Sound Mixer, Key Makeup Artist, Key Hair Stylist, Editor and Post Producer)
  3. Have updated scripts. Send out an email a few days before the meeting and get a count of who will need a physical script. Encourage laptop/iPad use to save the forest and to avoid over-printing scripts. Scripts should be hole-punched and fastened with brads. Coordinate with the writer and director to make sure the latest edits are in this draft.
  4. Offer drinks and food. Its a good idea to offer a breakfast / lunch and have crafty type foods and drinks throughout the meeting. This will make your staff feel taken care of and allow everyone to be focused on the meeting and not their hunger pains.
  5. Setup the meeting room in advance. You may have a dozen people with laptops and electronic devices so make sure there is enough power outlets and strips for people to work effectively. Print out the wifi/password and have listed in the room. In addition to having a supply of scripts you may want to have additional materials such as one-liners, crew lists etc at the meeting.
  6. Do intros at the beginning of the meeting. For some shows this may be the first time that some of the crew members are meeting each other. Take a minute to allow everyone to introduce themself by saying their name and title. In some cases it may be great to place name-tags with titles for where each person should sit.`
  7. Consider using a TV Monitor for visual support. If you have a scene(s) that need details explaining it can be helpful to have visual aids such as story-boards etc.. This can be especially helpful if the movie is very vfx/stunt heavy and you want to talk about certain action sequences.
  8. Setup how the meeting will run at the beginning of the meeting. Typically the 1st AD will run the meeting, talk about how much time they have allotted and keep everyone on track. Normally the 1st AD will go scene by scene in script order and will read or paraphrase the descriptions of each scene. After the 1st AD talks about each scene it is a good time to ask questions or point out problems from various departments. If there is an issue that takes longer than a few minutes to solve in the meeting it is a good idea to say “sidebar” and discuss after with the pertinent people it pertains to.
  9. Take Notes. Consider having someone take notes on their computer throughout the meeting and keep track of side-bars. This person can then email the notes after the meeting to everyone who attended.
  10. Come up with Solutions. Its important to come up with solutions and action-steps at this meeting and not just address problems or concerns. Make sure that at the end of the meeting everyone has a clear idea of what problems remain and who is the person appointed to solve these problems.