Once you have gained enough experience as a 2nd AD, you will then be asked to be a 1st assistant director. The 1st AD plays a large role in pre-production and the production itself and is vital on any and all sets. There main roles during pre-production is to look over the script, creating a schedule, having a location list as well as other forms of paperwork.
As 1st AD it is your role to look over the script and make notes of any special requirements that may be needed, this could include props, special effects or any other specialist equipment that may be needed. It is also his job to break each page of the script into 8ths, this is very useful in both schedules and call sheets.
When creating a location list the 1st AD will often put the real name of the location as well as the name used in the script, this will solve any confusion for other departments. For this you would have to communicate with the location manager if there is one, alternatively the production coordinator.
Once you have all these documents you should be pass them to the 2nd AD to ensure that he can organize the various departments, and the 1st AD’s responsibilities move onto production.
For the production the 1st AD is the voice on the floor, it is his job to call action, cut, ensuring that the day runs on schedule. They work directly under on the director and assist him in everything outside of the creative process.
Communicating with the separate heads of departments is crucial at this point, whether it be about pushing lunch back to ensure you are kept on schedule, telling them to move to the next starting position or location, the ability to give clear and precise instructions is a very important quality in a 1st AD.
Another task that it is wise for the 1st AD to perform is to introduce themselves at the start of the shoot, this will allow every cast member to know who you are, and it will allow you to make sure that they all know where they are supposed to be. This is your chance to make an impression on the crew and show them what kind of assistant director you are. You should be able to appear approachable and friendly while at the same time demand a certain level of respect.
Overall being a 1st AD is something that can only be perfected with experience. When you first do it, it will be daunting and scary, but over time, you will become more and more comfortable with the role. Just keep the day on schedule, ensure that the director does not compromise their vision, and know when it is time to move on to the next shot, and when you can allow yourself a little extra time.