Second assistant director Michael Queen
Job title: Second assistant director
Michael Queen is a second assistant director who has worked on Jimmy's Hall, The Borgias and The Mighty Boosh and more. Previously he worked as a third assistant director on projects such as Love's Labours Lost and Alien Love Triangle. Other credits include T2 Trainspotting and The Widow.
Describe your job in your own words
I work directly with the first assistant director. I'm in charge of booking and choosing extras. I am the main source of contact with the cast - I give them their call times and arrange any costume or make-up meetings they need to have.
My main task each day is to prepare and finalise the call sheet. This document is given out at the end of each shooting day and informs cast, crew and financiers, and anybody else who needs to know, about the next day's filming.
How did you get into the industry?
I got into the industry through my college flatmate who had been working in the industry for a couple of years before me. He suggested that I come on as a runner and it went on from there.
It was, luckily, a good year and I managed to move up from being a runner as more thirds [third assistant directors] were needed. I'd been a runner for a few years so was ready to do so, but it was really a matter of good timing, as it so often is.
My luckiest break was meeting the first AD [assistant director] who I now work with a lot, David Gilchrist. I built up a good relationship with him and this has meant that he's taken me onto many of the projects he's done since, first as a runner, then as a third and now as a second.
What training or education did you find most useful?
Financial planning. Given the long gaps that there can be between jobs in this industry it's important to know how to manage your finances. Spending time with an accountant can be invaluable for this. As far as the assistant director position is concerned, working on as many projects as you can is the best training and only way you can advance your career.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I would advise anyone starting out to know how to do something else. You will probably need to get a job outside the industry at some point as work can disappear for months on end. This can be disastrous financially, so having something to fall back on would be invaluable. I would save money - work is sporadic in this industry and paying bills can become difficult as there is no regular cash flow.
As an industry, it is still as inconsistent as it ever was. As soon as it seems that there might be some relative long-term security it vanishes just as quickly as funding from projects which are about to be green-lit and you lose the job you thought you had for the next three months overnight. We don't have a sustainable industry - just boom times, which are great because if you're lucky you can work back to back. But the down time is always inevitable.
You need patience. And an ability to talk to people. Living with very little cash for long periods between jobs. If you don't get the hang of that it will affect everything about how you act when you do get work.
Back to case studies