How many Assistant Directors work on a film?

Assistant Directors radioA few months ago I looked at the size of crews on 2,000 films. Since then I’ve had many requests to break the numbers down by department. I published a producers breakdown a few weeks ago so now it’s time for the Assistant Directors (known as ADs). I looked at the Assistant Directors credits on live actions films within the highest grossing 100 films of each of the past 20 years, giving me a pool of 2,000 films to study. In summary…

  • In 2013, the average film had two First Assistant Directors, almost five Second ADs and one and a half Third ADs
  • Films budgeted over $100 million have three First ADs, seven Second ADs and three Third ADs

Twenty Years A.D.

In 2013, the average film had two First ADs, almost five Second ADs and one and a half Third ADs Assistant Directors credits 1994-2013 It’s worth making very clear that all credits are not equal.  Here I am counting the number of credits, which sadly does not give me a way to measure importance or time served.  A First AD on the second unit would be counted equally here as the First on the main unit.

Money allows you to have Seconds

Unsurprisingly, larger budgets mean more ADs.  The largest impact is on Second ADs, which swell from an average of just half a Second for films under $1 million to almost seven on a film over $10 million. Assistant Directors by budget range N.B. My sample doesn’t have any films budgeted between $70m and $80m, hence the missing section on the chart.

Not getting animated about Assistant Directors

For these crew calculations I have been studying the highest grossing 100 films of each of the past 20 years, giving me a sample of 2,000 films.  106 of those films were animations and so I excluded them from the calculations of averages as the process of making an animated feature is hugely different to that of live action film.  Most animations did not credit any Assistant directors and for those that did it is fair to assume that the AD role is different from that of an AD on a live action set. I know that readers of this blog will not be satisfied until I have put numbers to those claims so here you go… Across those 106 animated films there were just 22 First ADs, 28 Second ADs and 12 Third ADs.