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Third Assistant Director

(aka Third AD or Third)  

The main function of the Third Assistant Director is to support and assist the First and Second ADs in whatever ways are necessary on the set or location.  This can involve a wide variety of tasks, but the key duties of most Thirds revolve around the movement and activities of background artistes (extras).  Thirds may be required to direct the action of extras, or of vehicles appearing in the background of the shot, especially in large crowd scenes.  Thirds also act as messengers on the set or location, and are often required to convey messages and relay information to cast or crew members, usually by radio link.

What is the job?
Thirds are responsible for co–ordinating the extras to arrive at the right time and place for filming. Once the extras are on set or location, Thirds are in charge of preparing and cueing them, and sometimes also directing them, in any required background action. They must also supervise and look after they extras – they may be on standby on the set or location all day, despite only being needed for a short period. Thirds may have to keep members of the public out of shot, and off the set or location, so that they don't interrupt filming, cast or crew.

Thirds may also liaise with the Location Manager, and may be given responsibilities with regard to the security and locking up of studios or locations after filming has taken place. Firsts or Seconds may also provide Thirds with specific information to add to the daily progress reports, before they are sent to the production office.

Typical career routes
Industry experience is the key to finding work as a Third Assistant Director, and the best place to start is via the conventional entry–level position as a Runner. With sufficient on–the–job experience, individuals may then progress, usually relatively quickly, to becoming a Third AD. From there, the usual progression is to Second and then First Assistant Director.

Essential knowledge and skills
Thirds must have excellent organisational and time–management skills, as well as a good stock of common sense and initiative.  The ability to take and carry out instructions with enthusiasm and efficiency is vital. Communication and interpersonal skills are also essential, as Thirds spend most of their working days interacting with a large number and variety of people. Diplomacy and patience are required when co–ordinating and directing large groups of extras. As the work is freelance and involves long and unsocial hours, Thirds must be highly motivated and always flexible.

Key skills include:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to relate to a wide range of people
  • organisational and administrative skills
  • the ability to work effectively under pressure
  • flexibility and resourcefulness
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

Training and qualifications
No formal qualifications are required to become a Third Assistant Director and industry experience is key. However, in practice entry is very competitive and many new entrants have higher level qualifications. A large number of colleges and other training providers offer Media courses that may provide a suitable background. Relevant courses include City & Guilds qualifications, such as the Diploma in Media Techniques or the Certificate for Audiovisual Industries Induction; BTEC National Certificate in Media Production; HNC/HNDs; Foundation degrees, first degrees and postgraduate courses in film and TV production.

Skillet's network of Screen Academies are institutions that it has identified as offering the highest quality of film skills training. Details are available on the Creative Skillset website:

Regular Health and Safety training courses should be undertaken, in order to keep this knowledge up to date. A full driving licence is generally required.

Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Creative Industries' Sector Skills Council. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's creative careers advice service; for detailed careers information and advice, visit

Download a pdf for more information: Adobe Acrobat Document3rd Assistant Director

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