Exploring the DGA's Assistant Directors Training Program

The Directors Guild of America offers an intensive training program to start your career and gain membership. 

As important as schooling is to a future career as a director in films and television, it doesn’t guarantee you a job, or even a place in the Directors Guild of America. Internships are helpful for building skills, but they don’t always pay the bills. The Assistant Directors Training Program helps bridge that gap between receiving your degree and actually becoming a working director.

The ADTP, which is supported by the DGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, operates two programs; the West Coast program based in California, and another in New York City.

The ADTP recruits candidates from throughout the U.S. who have the background and interest to become members of the DGA. Those in the program are provided with paid, on-the-job training that they would not otherwise have access to.

It’s not easy to get into the ADTP, but it’s certainly worth putting in the effort. The application process is quite lengthy. In order to apply to the training program you must show your interest in the television and/or motion picture industry either through schooling or experience. This translates into a degree, internship, volunteer work or other proven dedication to working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.

While there are no guarantees that this program will lead you to the job of your dreams, opening that door can be a stepping stone into a major career. Graduates of the ADTP program include Michael Grillo, winner of the Directors Guild of America Award for The Deer Hunter and Academy Award nominee for The Accidental Tourist; and Paula Case, who has worked as an assistant director on films such as What Women Want and is currently the second AD on the film adaptation of Jersey Boys.

Trainees complete between 350 and 400 days of practical experience on active film and television sets, and are paid for their long hours and physically demanding work. In 2012, the rate ranged from $723-$888 per week. Once you graduate from the program, you are eligible for employment as an assistant director, where your salary can quadruple. The DGA requires a minimum salary for a second assistant director at nearly $3,000 per week.

Janet Dyer Gould, ADTP Administrator, sat down to answer a few questions about her program.

Get In Media: When was this program started?

Janet Dyer Gould: We were established in 1965 in Los Angeles by the Directors Guild of America and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

GIM: Do you feel this program fills a gap needed by students and recent graduates?

JDG: We were created to provide access to those who would not otherwise have access to the motion picture industry and provide the industry with trained, professional Assistant Directors. Since 1965, over 600 men and women have graduated.

GIM: What specific things do you look for when selecting candidates?

JDG: People interested in becoming a second AD with excellent interpersonal skills that are analytical. An ability to multitask and develop strong relationships is a must.

GIM: Can you give examples of a few success stories who have come from your program?

JDG: Many of our graduates have had success and moved on to become first Ads, unit production managers, and producers. A few have become directors. Michael Grillo, Walter Hill, Howard Kazanjiian, Duncan Henderson, Dan Attias, Leonard R. Garner, Jr., Paula Case, Christine Larson, Janet Knutsen and many more.

GIM: What are some of the companies who have hired those in your program for paid training?

JDG: Warner Brothers Television, Warner Brothers Pictures, Sony Pictures Television, 20th Century Fox Television, ABC Television, Walt Disney Pictures, NBC Universal, Paramount. All of the major studios.

Entrants may begin applying for the 2014 Assistant Directors Training Program in September, 2013. The deadline is in November (the exact date will be announced). For additional details and application forms, visit the Directors Guild of America website here. 

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