Profile: 1st assistant director

Jon Midlane is the first assistant director (1st AD) on Doctors. He tells us about the job: the responsibilities, the skills and abilities needed, and how to get there.

The first assistant director in drama is the conduit between the director and the crew. They are in charge of organisation, timings and discipline on set, while the director is in charge of the overall look of the programme and the performance of the actors.

"You've got to have a can-do attitude." – Jon Midlane

During pre-production, first ADs work closely with the director to break down the script and work out what order scenes can be shot in. This requires in-depth knowledge of working hours rules, health and safety legislation and location management.

On set, first ADs manage a team of other ADs and runners. They must ensure that actors arrive on set, costumed and ready to go, at the correct time, and they are responsible for making sure each day runs to schedule. Any slip means costs in overtime, so the first AD must keep the production moving.

We join Jon on his first week on Doctors. He became a first AD after completing a BBC training course. Like most ADs, he started his career as a runner, then moved up from third to second AD on programmes like Casualty and Eastenders.

Doctors has a very tight filming schedule so Jon’s job is particularly demanding. As he explains, it is vital to be positive, patient, enthusiastic and to have a sense of humour.