The Accidental Novelist becomes the Accidental Assistant Director

Oh where, oh where, has Danika been??

About a month ago I “accidentally” became the 1st A.D. on a low budget indie feature film.  If you know anything about feature film-making, then you know I have not had any life outside of the film since then. It means 14-16 (even a few 18 )hour days and that my “day off” is never really a day off.

Being a low-budget indie also means we have no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th AD’s… so I’m it in the AD department. It means being the contact person on and off set, creating the shooting schedule, call sheets, keeping everything moving on set, and being the director’s right hand woman.

I’m having the time of my life. I’m exhausted a lot of the time, but not stressed, because behind it all is the thrill of doing something that I absolutely love. It’s chaotic and magical at the same time. It’s also extremely collaborative due to the nature of the shoot. This is why I like indie filmmaking… it tends to be less hierarchical and people tend to take on multiple roles.

Our heroes:  Stephanie (Michelle Harrison) and Mike (Kirk Caouette - also the writer-director)

Our heroes: Stephanie (Michelle Harrison) and Mike (Kirk Caouette - also the writer-director)

This is the first time I’ve been this hands-on in the creation of a feature film. It’s better than any film-making program I could have attended.

I have never been any level of AD on a feature film. The reason I can do this job is because I have been on set in many capacities and I used to produce events for a living. During the events I was always the only person who knew what was going on in all departments, what was going on behind and in front of the scenes, and I acted as the point person for everyone.

The film is a little gem, too. A great crew, a great cast, a great story. There is a musical aspect to the film and the songs are quite lovely. A sort of Cat Stevens feel to them. I know the CD will be beautiful.

The guerrilla aspect to our filming creates a bond that one might not get on another set.

The film has a WEBSITE with PHOTO GALLERY and a blog if you’d like more info.

Pieter Stathis (DOP) and Me (AD)

Pieter Stathis (DOP) and Me (AD)


  1. Michelle Johnson
    Sep 30, 2009

    it sounds like you’re staying very busy. hope all continues well on the set.

  2. Danika
    Oct 2, 2009

    things have gotten a little more under control. the end is in sight!

    although now we’re all getting a little sad that it’s going to end.

  3. Julia Smith
    Oct 3, 2009

    WOW! Dreamy! Thanks for the link to the production site – I popped over. Looks like a great story.

  4. Michelle
    Oct 7, 2009

    Congrats!!!! I’ll never forget the first time I was a 1st AD, and now I do it all time. It’s the best feeling to see everything come together on set after all those months of pre-pro. I love doing it and I’m always psyched to see others doing it as well.

    I have a silly blog about being a first AD, you should totally check it out:

    good luck with the rest of the shoot!

  5. openchannel
    Oct 13, 2009

    Well, I’m not planning to be an AD for the long term! I don’t know how you guys do it for a living… it’s exhausting.

    I laughed when I read “months of pre-pro” — I was hired as 1st AD two days before principal photography. Zoiks!

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