EP NowEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Meet the Assistant Director

A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
March 16, 2022
EP BLOG_WIDE-Meet the AD

“If I could live next to the camera, that would be my life,” says assistant director (AD) Myron Hoffert. And his 30-plus-year career as an AD is a testament to that desire. He loves what he does, and has made his life's work supporting some of the best directors in the world, including the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Darren Aronofsky, Rob Marshall, Paul Feig, Ava DuVernay, and more.

For those outside the entertainment industry, or those aspiring to become a part of it, first assistant director may be one of the jobs that is less understood than other roles. It is, however, a vital position among a team of creators. If the primary artistic vision of a film or TV project is driven by a director, that vision can’t be truly realized without an assistant director. They oversee all the logistical and creative details a director – and project – needs during principal photography.

We spoke with Hoffert about what an AD does, how he became one, and how others can successfully follow in his footsteps.

What does an assistant director do?

An assistant director is, in effect, a director’s second-in-command. They assist in logistically and creatively bringing movies in on time, and budget, by supporting the director, coordinating with crew, and more. It can be a high stakes job. “When a studio or network gives you millions of dollars and says that your operating cost is between $100,000 and $250,000 a day, depending on the location, the AD is responsible for these costs. We have an amazing amount of pressure to do what we have to do.” And Hoffert does this well.

Whatever is happening on a given shoot day, the first AD helps make it happen. “Everything passes through the first AD. Lots of decision making goes through the first AD, in concert with the line producer, producer, and director.”

bradley cooper-nightmare alley-800x.jpg
Bradley Cooper in Guillermo del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley' (20th Century Studios)

The first AD job requires good oversight and management, having to ask oneself – with the creative teams – things like “What do I have to do, and what target and scene moments do I have to get on this day?” The answers to those questions then need to be made clear. “I explain and outline to the crew that we have to shoot X, Y, and Z. We want to be out of this one by this time, we want to be out of that one by that time. And hopefully, we'll finish it by [our projected] time, because that is the shooting plan for today. With this planning and knowledge, everybody has the ammunition, both professionally and emotionally, to accept what's about to be handed out to them during a given shoot day.”

None of this should give the impression that being an AD is only about logistics. That may be the means, but in the end it’s about the creative: working closely together with the director to realize their visions.

How do you become an AD?

Hoffert graduated from a film studies program where he relished being exposed to a broad range of film. Valuable as that was, he stresses that it’s not comparable to actual industry experience. “You learn a lot [in school], but it's not the real thing. It's not until you get out there,” he says. Fresh out of school he quickly pursued work, landing jobs as a runner and producer’s assistant. As he observed others on set, he realized he wanted to be an assistant director and asked himself: “How do I get there?”

Continuing to pursue jobs, Hoffert progressed up the assistant director ladder. In 1986, he became a third AD, moved on to a second AD, and then, on the set of a 'Friday the 13th' television series, he met J. Miles Dale ('The Shape of Water', 'Nightmare Alley'), who asked him “Why don’t you become our AD?” It was then, in 1988, that Hoffert established himself as an AD.

The passion for me is helping directors find their way through the production maze. And that's what a good assistant director will do.

Hoffert has helpful advice for those looking to pursue a similar path, “You have to get jobs on set,” he says. “You have to decide if you want to get closer to the on-set production action. You start befriending the producers. You start befriending fellow ADs. You start befriending location managers, production managers. And every time you work with somebody, make it a positive experience.” This advice rings especially true today. Thanks to the content boom the industry is currently seeing, there is an abundance of opportunity available and productions are hungry to fill much needed roles.

shape-of-water-still-800x.png
Sally Hawkins in Guillermo del Toro's 'The Shape of Water'

Investing in time, networking, and experience can provide an advantage to aspiring ADs – especially now as the industry experiences labor shortages. “The biggest problem we have is we don’t have enough skilled people to support the shows that are coming in,” Hoffert says. He’s optimistic that will change soon, however. “Like any other territory, that's just absorbing growth. It just takes some time to get the personnel on the crews trained and better.”

What makes a successful AD?

When Hoffert was early in his career, he had a particular idea of what being a successful AD meant. “I used to be a hard-nosed ‘my way or the highway’ guy,” he says. Over time, however, that changed. “It took me years to understand what works and what doesn't work.” And what do people appreciate? He had a realization. “People want to be treated with respect and with kindness.” In other words, he became a diplomat, not a tyrant. Now, it’s important for him to create a happy set. “We're human beings first, and then we're filmmakers,” he says. “Because when you’re [part of] a filmmaking machine, you’re a family.”

Another important attribute of a successful AD is leading by example. How they approach their work dictates how others will do theirs. How they tell the crew what they need to know – what number of script pages will be shot that day, what safety measures are required for an upcoming scene, when to approach the director with questions – also dictates everyone’s mood. Will their work be calm or stressed? “The AD team is the first team that all crews look to for any change of cadence or rhythm on the set. Because we deliver the information for the crew. We always have all the information,” he says. “You never want to show what you're feeling inside as a person because crews pick up on that immediately,” he adds, which is why Hoffert always keep his temperament even keeled.

nightmare-alley-arnival-set-performers-wide-800x.jpg
Mark Povinelli and Ron Perlman, 'Nightmare Alley' (20th Century Studios)

A set relies on a good assistant director not just for tone, but also problem solving. “People are looking for the AD to find solutions all the time,” Hoffert admits. For example: “Weather is always an obstacle, and the weather is never what it says it’s going to be. Weather wreaks havoc with assistant directors and you just never know what it’s going to give you.”

He saw that happen once while shooting the 2012 film ‘On the Road’, when a scene called for an idyllic wheat field in the fall-time in Calgary. The night before it was beautiful weather. When Hoffert woke up, it had snowed. “The AD has to find the solution to reschedule something immediately.” Sying “I don’t know” or “Well, that didn’t work, I’m sorry” aren’t solutions. “You're always trying to get out of trouble. You're always trying to get out of traps,” he says.

Doing that in service of the director is what’s most important of all. “The passion for me is helping directors find their way through the production maze. And that's what a good assistant director will do. Come up with plans that will allow directors to get what they want and be happy with getting what they want. There’s nothing more satisfying then when your director knows that you really helped create a fantastic moment in his or her cut. I live for those moments. Making great shots, moments that are appreciated by your director, and ultimately the audience is what’s most satisfying to me as an assistant director,” Hoffert says.

“I’m grateful for my career and all those co-workers and filmmakers who helped me every step of the way. Being an AD is high-stress, yet the dividends are rewarding and gratifying. Don’t become an AD because it’s a cool job. Become an AD because you love making incredible cinematic moments.”

Topic: Spotlight

Related Content

Meet the Music Supervisor

1/4/2023
Kasey Truman ('Grey’s Anatomy,' 'The Sandman,' 'Fire Country') on the art of creating cinematic...
Topic: Spotlight
More

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

11/17/2022
Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

Meet the Script Supervisor

11/15/2022
A conversation with Rachel Connors Phillippe (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘Only Murders in the Building’)
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

9/20/2022
On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_1st AC Matt Sanderson

Meet the First Assistant Camera

9/7/2022
A conversation with 1st AC Matt Sanderson ('Everything Everywhere All At Once')
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

8/22/2022
Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

8/11/2022
Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

8/2/2022
A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

7/26/2022
How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

7/19/2022
How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

7/7/2022
A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

6/29/2022
As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

6/14/2022
Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Tax Incentives and Legal Affairs

5/31/2022
Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_Residuals and the streaming model

Residuals and the Streaming Model

5/24/2022
How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
EP Newsroom-Netflix logo-Thumbnail

Netflix and Entertainment Partners to Train Next Generation of Production Accountants

1/26/2023
Netflix, in partnership with Entertainment Partners, is calling for applicants to participate in a...

7 Things Production Finance Teams Need to Know for Budgeting in 2023

1/25/2023
Mark Hammond, VP of International Finance & Ops, shares some of the key factors production finance teams...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-PGGB

6FT From The Spotlight Wins Inaugural Earl of Wessex Award at PGGB Talent Showcase

1/25/2023
Film and TV industry charity 6ft From the Spotlight were awarded The Production Guild of Great Britain’s...

Entertainment Partners and Netflix Pledge £500K ($608K) to New PGGB Talent Development Fund

1/25/2023
Production Guild of Great Britain (PGGB) Talent Development Fund will support the development and...

New Union Agreement for Engaging Crew on UK HETV Takes Effect

1/20/2023
Pact/Bectu 2023 agreement makes a number of key changes to the terms and conditions for engaging crew.
Topic: UK
More
Master Series square Thumbnail Pact Bectu Agreement

Understanding the New Pact/Bectu TV Drama Agreement 2023

1/12/2023
Your comprehensive overview of the new Pact/Bectu TV Drama Agreement and how key changes will impact...
Topic: UK
Watch
Virtual Production

The UK Invests in Virtual Production as Content Boom Continues

1/10/2023
The UK is doubling down on Virtual Production infrastructure; learn how and why they’re leading the charge...
Topic: UK
More

Hawaii 2023 Loan-Out GET Tax Rule FAQs

1/5/2023
Productions seeking a Hawaii tax credit must withhold and report general excise tax (GET) on loan-outs in...

Production Incentives Update: December 2022

12/27/2022
A look at changing film incentive programs across the US, Canada, and Czech Republic.
tax

Hawaii Production Tax Incentives Notice

12/22/2022
Hawaii announces new rules and procedures for reporting and paying loan-out HI General Excise Tax (GET)...

Budgeting and Forecasting Film and Television Residuals

12/13/2022
What production accountants need to know to confidently budget and forecast for residuals.
Master Series Budgeting 2023

Budgeting for 2023: Federal, State, and Incentive Considerations

12/9/2022
Learn what Federal and State payroll tax changes are coming in 2023, plus tips for setting up your...

UK Production Incentives All Producers Should Know About

11/17/2022
Don't miss out on the UK's tax incentives, special programs, and national and regional funding...

Production Incentives Update: November 2022

11/1/2022
Don't miss these US incentive programs, accepting applications now!

The Production Accountant’s Guide to Year-End Payroll

11/1/2022
A step-by-step breakdown of how to navigate pitfalls and fix production payroll errors for a smooth year...

US Production Incentives Special Alert: Hawaii

11/1/2022
Hawaii amends Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit

Preparing for Year End: Focus, Find, and Fix!

10/28/2022
EP's payroll tax experts share best practices to identify and resolve payroll tax errors for a smooth year...

Film Community and Industry Jobs Grow in Washington State

10/25/2022
Thanks to new funding and a continuous effort by Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks,...

Special Report: Entertainment – A Hollywood Education

10/24/2022
It’s the best of times and the worst of times for employment in the entertainment/streaming industry.

Special Report: Entertainment – Soundstage Gold Rush

10/24/2022
Hollywood is experiencing an ongoing boom that fills its Los Angeles production hub to overflow levels.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Creating a development budget

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Development Budget

10/18/2022
Before you start the filmmaking process, learn what basics you need to budget for to get your idea off the...
Changes to UK Pensions Act

Proposed Changes to the UK Pensions Act Could Impact Production Budgets

10/12/2022
Reintroduced bill seeks to give UK government the power to extend pensions auto-enrollment to young and...
Topic: UK
More
UK Gov Growth Plan

Mini Budget; Big Changes: What the UK Government’s Growth Plan Means for Production 

10/12/2022
UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announces new Growth Plan (aka the “mini budget”) and a big shake up of the...
Topic: UK
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Streaming service

Streaming Services Expand to Latin America and New Audiences

10/11/2022
SVOD providers look to Latin America as a gateway to global stories and new subscribers
Western Canada

Production Tax Incentives in Western Canada Every Producer Should Know About

10/4/2022
Alberta and Manitoba offer film and TV productions competitive tax incentive programs and versatile...

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

9/20/2022
Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New York

NY Convenience Rule Impacts Remote Production Workers and Film Incentives

9/13/2022
How remote employee payroll taxes apply to New York-based productions and if an employee’s physical...
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

9/8/2022
Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
EP Blog_SQUARE_US Expanded Incentives 2022-2

A Record Number of US States Expand Filmmaking Incentives in 2022

8/25/2022
Your guide to the latest news in production incentives and film programs to come from the 2022 legislative...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New US Incentives 2022

New US Film Incentives Introduced in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and West Virginia

8/23/2022
As production continues to boom, new tax credits and other programs welcome industry to new locations...
EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

8/19/2022
Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Atlantic Canada Expands Incentives

Atlantic Canada Expands Film Incentives in 2022

8/16/2022
Enhanced production incentive programs attract industry to Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and...
Compliant crew contracting panel-square

Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

8/1/2022
Learn how to ensure your crew contracts are compliant with UK regulations and why the Production Portal is...
Topic: UK
Watch
5 Master Series panelists discussing Atlantic Canada production incentives-square

Production Incentives Update: Atlantic Canada

7/15/2022
Learn how productions can benefit from newly expanded incentives in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador,...
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

7/12/2022
Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_Jesse Wente

Supporting Indigenous Storytellers of Canada

6/21/2022
How the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) offers advocacy and funding for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis...
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_SQUARE-Pitching Reality Tv-blue

Pitching and Financing Unscripted Television

6/7/2022
Ready to sell your big idea for a reality TV program? This guide will help prepare you for the road ahead.
EP Blog_SQUARE_World Revenues_global currencies

The Beginner's Guide to World Revenues, Foreign Sales, and Senior Debt

5/17/2022
Learn how shopping your project around the world to secure funding commitments for distribution rights can...
uk-gdpr-and-how-productions-reduce-exposure-LC

The UK GDPR and how Productions can Reduce their Exposure - Q&A with Sheridans

5/3/2022
Sheridans’ Associate Krishan Neelendra answers key UK GDPR questions from production companies and...
Topic: UK
More

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2023 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.