TV Floor Manager/Film Assistant Director

The Job and What's Involved

A lot of people are involved in making a TV show or film and the floor manager/assistant director is responsible for making sure everyone knows exactly what to do and when to do it.

When the director and production assistant are sitting in the studio gallery or outside broadcast vehicle, they cannot speak directly to the crew, performers and broadcasters. They use headphones and microphones to give instructions to the floor manager/assistant director who passes information to the relevant people.

In TV, the floor manager is responsible for ensuring that everything needed for the production is in the right place at the right time. They make sure that:

  • Actors and guests are ready to be brought before the camera when they are required.
  • Props are ready when needed.
  • Equipment is moved to the correct position.
  • All the equipment is in good working order, and any faults are mended quickly so the show can continue smoothly.
  • Any changes to the schedule (because of bad weather or a breaking news story, for example) are dealt with so that the production can continue smoothly.
  • Health and safety requirements are followed at all times.
  • Members of the public, including studio audiences, know what is expected of them.

Other tasks vary according to the type and size of production. Floor managers in news studios may help to operate remote controlled cameras and edit video material to be inserted into the programme. On more complex productions, floor managers may be assisted by floor assistants who bring actors from dressing rooms, deliver scripts and schedules, and do other general duties as needed.

Assistant directors perform similar duties in feature films, commercials and TV dramas. Larger scale productions often have a first assistant director who is supported by second and third assistant directors and possibly a trainee. First assistant directors provide the producer with a day-by-day breakdown of activity, known as a schedule, which they ensure the crew follow. They may also be involved in directing extras in crowd scenes or co-ordinating stunts.

Floor managers and assistant directors work closely with a range of people including the production team, crew, actors, broadcasters, interviewees (including politicians, sports people and celebrities), extras and members of the public.

Working hours are often long and irregular. Early starts, late finishes, night work and weekend working may all be required. Floor managers in television studios often work shifts of between eight and twelve hours, and six-day weeks are standard for those working on feature films. Most people in this career are freelance. They usually work on a contract basis and may have periods of unemployment between contracts.

The work often involves standing for long periods. Depending on the production, working outdoors in all weather conditions may be necessary. Travel within the UK and overseas may be required, sometimes at short notice, and the work may involve staying away from home for short or long periods.

A third assistant director may earn around £16,000 a year, a second assistant director around £26,500 and an experienced TV floor manager around £29,000. A first assistant director may be paid around £35,000 a year.

Freelance rates range from between £79 to £160 per day for an eight hour day.

Unsocial hours payments and meal allowances may also be paid. The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) publishes recommended minimum rates on its website.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Floor managers work for terrestrial, satellite, digital and cable broadcasters as well as independent television production companies. Assistant directors work for film and commercial production companies. Many are self-employed, working on short-term contracts on a freelance basis. Over half of the UK's TV and film industry is based in London and south-east England, but there are some opportunities in other parts of the UK. There may also be opportunities to work overseas, particularly in film.

Some vacancies are advertised on broadcasters' websites, in national newspapers, such as The Guardian (on Mondays) or on recruitment websites, such as www.broadcastnow.co.uk. However, many jobs are never advertised by conventional means. Some freelancers register on crew databases, such as Broadcast Freelancer or Productionbase, and in industry directories, but it is also important to build up a network of industry contacts as many people hear about work through word of mouth. Reputation is key, so it is important to gain experience whenever possible. Guidelines from the Department of Trade and Industry on work experience in television are available on the Skillset website (the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media).

Some companies, such as the BBC, offer work experience placements, however competition for places is fierce.

Education and Training

There are no set educational requirements to begin a career as a floor manager/assistant director, but it is helpful to have some GCSE's (A*-C), including English. Languages may be useful as some jobs involve working overseas. Entry is very competitive so many new entrants also have higher level qualifications.

There is a range of relevant qualifications available:

  • BTEC First Diploma in media.
  • City & Guilds qualifications, such as the Level 3 Diploma in media techniques.
  • AS/A level in media studies.
  • BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in media production.
  • HNC's/HND's, foundation degrees, first degrees and postgraduate qualifications in film and TV production.

The Diploma in creative and media (available in England) may also be relevant for this area of work.

Skillset's network of Screen Academies and Media Academies are institutions that it has identified as offering the highest quality of film and television skills training. Details are available on its website. There is also a comprehensive course database.

Entry requirements to courses vary according to the qualification and candidates are advised to check with individual institutions. In general, entry to a degree course requires a minimum of five GCSE's (A*-C) and two A levels, or equivalent. For HNC/HND courses normal entry requirements are at least one A level plus three GCSE's (A*-C), a BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in a relevant subject, or equivalent.

It is vital to gain relevant practical experience and to demonstrate commitment to the work. Experience of working with people is also an advantage. Joining a film club or dramatic society and getting involved in amateur or student productions or community media can be helpful.

A typical starting point is to join the industry as a runner or production assistant and, after gaining experience on the job, apply for floor assistant or trainee assistant director positions.

There are a number of schemes available for new entrants to TV or film. Entry to these schemes is fiercely competitive. They include:

Schemes run by Skillset or regional screen agencies across the UK. These are aimed at people who are committed to a freelance career in the industry and who already have some experience. Schemes last between 3 and 18 months and combine short course training with industry placements. Trainees receive an allowance and work towards vocational qualifications.

Schemes of varying lengths run by broadcasting companies, including the BBC and Channel 4. Details are available on the websites of the individual broadcasters.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Floor assistants/trainee assistant directors usually train on the job, under the supervision of experienced floor managers/assistant directors and other members of the production team.

Freelancers have to fund their own training, but may be eligible for support from Skillset to cover part of the fees.

Regular training in health and safety is essential.

Other short courses, such as those offered by the National Film and Television School, may include budgeting and scheduling, and training in industry software packages, such as Movie Magic.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A floor manager/assistant director should:

  • Have excellent communication skills to be able to pass on accurate information and instructions.
  • Have excellent people skills and the ability to relate to people from a wide range of different backgrounds.
  • Have excellent organisational skills.
  • Be adaptable and able to cope with rapid change.
  • Be confident and assertive.
  • Be persuasive and diplomatic - directors may change their minds several times and it is the floor manager/assistant director's job to communicate this.
  • Have a good sense of timing to ensure everything happens smoothly and on schedule.
  • Be able to prioritise a range of different tasks.
  • Be able to work effectively under pressure.
  • Enjoy team work.
  • Be physically fit with a lot of stamina.
  • Have a basic knowledge of the technical aspects of production.
  • Have self-discipline and self-motivation.
  • Have a good awareness of health and safety requirements and legislation.

Your Long Term Prospects

TV floor managers may be promoted to supervisory grades or move into other areas of broadcasting, such as producing or directing.

Assistant directors may use the position as a springboard to other production roles in the film industry, such as line producer or producer.

Most work on a freelance basis, so floor managers/assistant directors need to establish their reputation and build up a network of contacts to secure a regular supply of work.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

4talent (for artist profiles, careers advice,
training and funding information)
Website: www.channel4.com/4talent

BBC Recruitment,
PO Box 48305,
London W12 6YE
Tel: 0870 333 1330
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs

The British Film Institute (BFI),
21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN
Tel: 020 7255 1444
Website: www.bfi.org.uk

The Broadcasting Entertainment
Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Website: www.bectu.org.uk

FT2 - Film and Television Freelance Training Ltd,
3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street,
London SE1 1TJ
Tel: 020 7407 0344
Website: www.ft2.org.uk

Independent Television Association,
ITV Network Centre, 200 Gray's Inn Road,
London WC1X 8HF
Website: www.itvjobs.com

National Film and Television School (NFTS),
Beaconsfield Studios, Station Road,
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire HP9 1LG
Tel: 01494 671234
Website: www.nftsfilm-tv.ac.uk

The Production Guild, N & P Complex,
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath,
Buckinghamshire SL0 0NH
Tel: 01753 651767
Website: www.productionguild.com

Scottish Screen,
249 West George Street,
Glasgow G2 4QE
Tel: 0845 300 7300
Website: www.scottishscreen.com

Skillset, Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB.
Free careers helplines:
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland),
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 0800 0121 815 (Wales)
Website: www.skillset.org

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