‘Minari’ Second AD Explains What, Exactly, a Second AD Does

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Photo Source: David Bornfriend/Courtesy of A24

The second assistant director is one of those pivotal production roles that keeps the machine running smoothly without ever being seen. Ann Laudick, the second AD on A24’s awards contender “Minari” (out Feb. 12), breaks down the position. 

Can you describe the role of the second AD? 
During the shoot, the second AD is the point of contact, or intermediary, for the cast to the producers, production coordinator, the rest of the AD team, and, really, the rest of the crew. And then I run base camp, usually with the help of some amazing PAs. I create the call sheet, which is a big part of my day, and that lays out the plan for the next day with a lot of specificity. The role requires a lot of attention to detail, creative problem-solving, and working with a whole lot of different personalities, which are some of the things that I really enjoy about this particular position.

Does the second AD work directly with the director?
It varies [from] shoot to shoot. Generally, the first AD is on set with the director at all times, and I’m the intermediary between the set and base camp. The cast arrives, I make sure they get through hair, makeup, and wardrobe with, like I said, usually an awesome base camp PA. Then we communicate with [those on set] to get them there. I’ve been really lucky in my experience to work with really collaborative, supportive, brilliant AD teams. On “Minari” in particular, the first AD was really boots on the ground, and it’s equally important to the first AD that everyone feels safe and heard and appreciated on set, which is obviously essential. They’ll have my back, and it makes everything so much easier and definitely more fun, and gives it a little more flexibility with responsibilities when you really trust the people that you’re working with.

Does the second AD have any involvement in post-production? 
Generally, the second AD is pretty much done at that point.

What background do you have that led you to the role of second AD?
I went to undergrad for film studies, but didn’t really see production in the cards for me—and then I got into it and loved it. It snowballed from there with the help of a whole lot of really supportive people who believed in me and took chances on me, which is how I think it usually goes in production. My first gig was [as] a story PA for a reality TV show shooting locally, in Oklahoma. Then I worked my way up through the base camp PA route, and then to second AD. It is really the position that suits my personality and skill set.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue the second AD track?
The [word] “networking” gets a lot of cringes and has some disingenuous connotations. But I think the truth is, in production, you will make meaningful connections with people that you work with, and you’ll want to keep working with those people. If you’re lucky and work hard and treat people well, maybe those people will want to keep working with you, too. I know it’s not specific advice, like “show up early, answer your walkie,” those kinds of things. But I haven’t found this to be a science at all. I think it just really boils down to: If you work hard and really care about what you do and have some integrity, that’s going to get noticed. That cultivates a pay-it-forward attitude. There are just incredible people with huge hearts out there working [in] production, and you’ll have amazing experiences together, which is one of the best parts of the job. Nurturing those relationships in a genuine, authentic way is a great thing for life in general, and also for the job.

READ: How to Become a Film Director

How do you work with and interact with actors on a given project?
I come in and prep and use actors as they come in. You schedule fittings and hair and makeup tests, which is all dependent on a specific project. You meet them pretty much right off the bat and have some involvement in pre-production with them. You’re their point of contact, besides producers and directors, for the actual shoot. I’m sending them their call sheets, making sure they know their pickup times, [and] greeting them when they get to set or base camp. We’re really fostering a relationship with the cast.

When you first receive a script, what do you do to start planning? 
That also really depends on the project. I had worked with the “Minari” AD team before, so there was already a lot of trust. Once you get the script, as a second AD, you start talking to the first AD about scheduling. Generally, they’ll have more prep time than us, so they’re already in it full time, while you might be wrapping up another project. There’s really a dialogue early on about the major scheduling things and what the issues or challenges of that film are going to be and how we want to overcome them. That’s actually one of the processes that I really love, because people don’t traditionally think of a second AD as a creative position. But there’s a lot of creativity and problem-solving that you have to do.

What was unique about being the second AD on “Minari” specifically?
Upon reading the script, it completely drew me in. It’s so understated and tender, and so deeply personal. It’s complex and heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. What really stood out in terms of this being a special experience [happened] during the production meeting, which can be a high-stress situation; all the department heads are gathering, [and] a lot of times it’s the first time everyone’s there in one room. There’s a new story to tell, and you’re learning the challenges of that story and getting your head wrapped around what the next few weeks of your life are going to look like. It’s old friends and new friends and new people. 

We were in the production meeting and the director [Lee Isaac Chung] tells us an absolutely beautiful speech about what a personal story “Minari” was for him. That moment completely set the tone for the entire experience. When the stories are beautiful and you can really believe in it and put your heart into it, it shifts the experience away from being a job and into wanting to facilitate this telling of that story in the best way that you can.

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 7 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Casey Mink
Casey Mink is the senior staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
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