What does a First Assistant Director actually do on set? Do you need one? The short answer is YES! I’ve directed with no First Assistant Directors, with bad 1st Assistant Directors, and with world-class First ADs and trust me I rather work with the latter. Today’s guest is First Assistant Director, Brandon Riley.
Brandon started out in the entertainment industry working as an Assistant Director and later joined the DGA. With a vast knowledge of how a set operates and functions, Brandon has since gone on to produce, line produce and UPM features and TV projects. Brandon is a natural-born leader who aims to lead every show in a calm-assertive manner. He prides himself in aiming to create an environment where both cast and crew are treated well and have an enjoyable experience on set. Brandon is one who continually tries to bring the best out in others and always pushes for excellence in every area. He has a passion for problem-solving and is an invaluable team player.
Alex Ferrari 0:04
Now today on the show, we have Brandon Riley was a first assistant director and wanted to have him on the show because wanted to kind of put a spotlight on first assistant directors and their importance and how to do it properly. We discuss how not to do it properly. And sometimes you need them, sometimes you don't. But if you can afford it, you should always have one, because they are wonderful and very helpful if you've got the right one. And I've shot with with first IDs without first IDs with good first ACS with bad first IDs and with legendary first IDs. So if you can afford it, definitely use one. So Brandon, I get into the weeds about what a first ad really does, how to do the job. And if you're interested if you're listening out there, and this might be interesting to you to become a first ad and how becoming a first ad can get you into the Directors Guild, which hopefully maybe lead you into other work down the line. It's a very interesting conversation. So without any further ado, please enjoy my talk with Brandon Riley. I'd like to welcome to the show. Brandon Riley. Man, thank you so much for jumping on the show with me, man.
Brandon Riley 3:06
Thanks. Glad to be here.
Alex Ferrari 3:07
We've never had a first ad on the show. So I am going to beat you up on how to do it properly. Because I've been with too many don't do it properly.
Brandon Riley 3:16
Hope I can help.
Alex Ferrari 3:17
No worries, man. So how did you get into the film business in the first place?
Brandon Riley 3:21
Well, you know, it's a funny story. When I was seven years old, I met a famous film producer. He was a son of Michael illage, who owns Little Caesars pizza. And I told my dad is like, I want to be a film producer too. And my dad was like, Sure you can do that. And so you know, in the back of my mind, I was thinking I can do this, you know, and and you know, you know, Junior High in high school, I got involved in journalism, I really became obsessed with story and, and telling stories and taking pictures. And that was something that interested in me. So filmmaking was this natural thing that I was, you know, obsessed about? You know, when I went to film school, did the typical thing kind of regretted it and kind of didn't, you know, I don't know if it was helpful. You know, because I feel like I can more and more in a film set and then I can three years film school?
Alex Ferrari 4:20
I would I would. Honestly, I would agree with you. I went to film school too. And everything I learned, you know what I learned in film school how to wrap a cable. Right? That was really important.
Brandon Riley 4:31
Yeah, I mean, the thing about film school you learn is his writing, I think and that's, that's helped me today because and how to think, you know, I study philosophy as well. And, you know, I'm working on helping people with scripts and different things like that. And I think that's one thing. It's hard to pick up, you know. So yeah, I did the film school thing, and then I worked. You know, the videographers for several years. Just doing lots of random videos. Corporate corporate videos, commercials, all types of things. But I was wearing a lot of hats. You know, I was like writing and shooting and editing and, and, you know, mostly editing and hating that. And, you know, spending, you know, 12 hours in a darkroom. So I was like, I need to move to LA. So that's what I did. So I saved up some money, moved to LA. And, and, and I couldn't find a job couldn't get anything really, you know. And so I started driving cars and as a valet driver, and that's what you want to do after film school is drive cars,
Alex Ferrari 5:42
Because that's gonna help you pay back debt. Quick.
Brandon Riley 5:45
Right, Exactly. So but then I got my first break, working for free on a TV pilot as a grip.
Alex Ferrari 5:52
I love that. I love that you just said I got my big break working for free.
Brandon Riley 5:56
Yeah, so that was the big break because I was working for free as a grip, right. And I did that for half a day before they realized that I sucked at a grip, but they needed somebody in the camera department. And so I was like, I can do that. Because I did that a little bit in college because I used to think I wanted to be a dp. And so so I did that camera, AC thing. And after that, so working for free, I got like, you know, paid jobs, right. And the paid jobs paid a lot of money like 50 bucks a day,
Alex Ferrari 6:25
Holy cow! what are you going to do all that cash, and some tax agents.
Brandon Riley 6:30
So I'm continuing to like valet drive and work $50 a day on all these films as a camera, AC. And then the actually my big break came was the DP that I was working as an AC from. She was married to a producer, and he was about to produce some indie horror film. And, and I somehow convinced him to let me first ad his movie, right? And, and I'd never first ad before I'd never second ad before, I'd never really been a PA on a set. But he believed in me. And so it was great. So the movie was a six day shoot. Yeah, we shot a movie in six days. So it's very challenging, you know, I was wearing 45. So it's probably one second, my alarm is going off for some reason. So yeah, wearing 45 hats, you know, we're shooting like 12 pages a day it was it was nuts. But that's what where I got my first big break. I feel like because after that, I got the second job and the third job and the fourth job. And so then I've been working as an ad for many years, and I gotten to the Directors Guild. And then I started producing. Now I'm in The Producers Guild. And so, you know, I'm also trying to develop my own projects, and, you know, work with other people writing scripts and doing that. And so that's kind of my journey. In a nutshell.
Alex Ferrari 8:01
Well, you, like I was telling you before, when we were off air, I was telling you that you are the definition of hustle. I mean, if you go to his IMDb guys, and I'll put it in the show notes. It's insane. Like he's just like constantly working. It was it was pretty remarkable. And all the other stuff that you do on the side, as well. You definitely are hustler. And you got to be in this business without quite well.
Brandon Riley 8:24
Yeah, I'll tell you a funny story. Last year, maybe it's two years ago, I I was I was not working. And I got I saw this thing on Facebook. And I was like, Hey, we need to first you need to cover our first day he got sick, right? And I was like, Oh, this is me. I could do this. Right. So so he called the guy is like, I'm your guy. And and and then the next morning they call it like how fast can you be here? Because there's a Vegas and like, I'll be there in house for four hours, three hours. Sure. So I yeah, I packed my bag, like in one hour fight and then drive and drive to Vegas. And then and then continue. And I jump on set and try to get things going right. So I do that. So and then the next show after that was this. I had they had fired a first ad and so I that's the next show was in Atlanta, but it was starting like a day after this other show in Vegas. So I had essentially, like have no prep on both of these shows. And it's just like one thing after, there's so many things like that, where it's like, you got to make these decisions or you got to,you know,
Alex Ferrari 9:34
Do this or not.
Brandon Riley 9:35
It's like but yeah, it was definitely I had to hustle to get those you know.
Alex Ferrari 9:39
Now let me let me ask you a question because a lot of people listening don't know what is the job of a first assistant director or first ad?
Brandon Riley 9:47
Right. So in my opinion, the job of the first ad is really to make it so the director can focus on the creative right? And and he's not worried about logistics. So Because if you try to do both, it's just so much for one person. So, you know, I tried to put out as many fires as possible. And so I'm on the radio, talking to the second ad and the second second, I'm talking to the PA, and all the other departments saying, Hey, bring this actor, we're going to do a blocking. And then what, how are we doing on the next scene? I'm talking to the costume designer and saying, Hey, we're having to change this wardrobe? Can you get a different look, and and while the director is talking to the dp by the shot, he's not having to worry about that logistical thing. So, you know, you know, when I do work in the first idi, I'm working very close with the DP and the director. And we're making, we're essentially working as a team and make all these decisions, like, how do we get through the day, you know, and some first ladies have a certain way, where, you know, people have heard the first ad screen when your yo and some are very calm or assertive. And, you know, I try to be in between I don't try to yell or anything. But so, you know, the first ad is can sometimes be looked at as the bad guy. You know,
Alex Ferrari 11:13
What you guys are you guys, you, you're the party pooper, man, you guys are the party poopers. But you need that you need an adult onset. And a lot of times the director and the actors and the DP are all in the creative mode. And like, let's just get this shot. And it's gonna only take four hours, I'm like, well, then we're out of our schedules off. And that's your job.
Brandon Riley 11:31
Yeah. And I think what's what's difficult about it is you got to be very diplomatic, because you can't just say, hey, you can't just say the director, hey, we're moving, moving on, you know, because it's really the director's decision, whether you're moving on or not,
Alex Ferrari 11:46
You're just there to tell them, hey, if you don't, this is what's going to happen.
Brandon Riley 11:50
Yeah, I mean, I just, I inform him, Hey, I think we're behind or, in my opinion, we are behind we, is there a way that we can catch up? You know, and so it's, and you know, I want to be there with solutions to like, Well, here's a couple of things. Could we do this in a water?
Alex Ferrari 12:09
Right? Instead of 45? takes different angles? Can we just do this in a water and move on?
Brandon Riley 12:15
Yeah. Yeah. You know, it's having those lunch meetings with the DP and the director, like, what can we do to, to make come up with the rest of the day, you know,
Alex Ferrari 12:27
And so, I want you to, I want to kind of focus in on this because a lot of first time directors and filmmakers, or inexperienced directors don't understand the importance of the schedule, don't understand that you've got an eight hour, 10 hour, 12 hour day. And if you're shooting a feature, than if you are, if you like, first day, you're behind a page, well, you've got to make that page up somewhere. If by day two, you've, you're now behind two pages. So let's say that's three pages down, you're never gonna finish the movie. If you keep going on this path, you're never gonna finish the movie, the whole thing's gonna become a fiasco. Right? And that's the job of the first ad is to kind of really hone in on. Look, we've got to make the day. And a good and a good director, a seasoned director understands that correct?
Brandon Riley 13:15
Yeah, and I think, yeah, but some of them don't care, you know. So it's a kind of a thing where, you know, you got to be the middleman between the director and the producer, like, can we even go over, you know, and so it's like, we'll go, you know, they'll ask me, we'll go talk to producers, hey, we need this shot. And then I'll go talk to the producer, and they'll say, we'll go back to the director and say, we don't have the money for the shot. So, you know, it's kind of one of those things of, you know, you're trying to be the peacekeeper, essentially. And, and, and keep things moving. But, you know, I'm always trying to fight for the best movie, you know, and sometimes the best movie needs to go in overtime. Sometimes, you know, the best movie needs more extra as more money, you know. And so I do sometimes goes to the producers and say, Hey, I know that you guys budgeted 100 extra for this movie. I did my math, I sat with the director, I came out with 140. You know, can we find a way to increase the budget on this category? You know, so it's, it's, it's being realistic. And, you know, instead of like, saying, okay, we only have 100 to work with, I guess we'll just have to live with it, you know?
Alex Ferrari 14:31
Or do some visual effects. Right. Now, now, can you explain how a first ad breaks down a script, which I know that's a mystery to a lot of filmmakers were like, Oh, you give it to a first ad or I need the script broken down. What is that? Exactly?
Brandon Riley 14:48
You know, it's actually a lot easier than people think it is. But you know, I get hired all the time to to just do a script breakdown and a budget you know, probably on a monthly basis. As people call me like, Hey, can you do scheduling a budget? So the easiest way to explain it is, you know, you look at every scene in the script, and we have to have a scene number. And when we look for how long is the scene? Is it five eighths of a page? Who's in the scene? You know, we have, you know, john, Mary and, and Joseph. Joseph, right. Three Wise Men, right? Yes. So and then, you know, what, are there any props in the scene? Where is the scene is what location is, you know, where is it at?
Alex Ferrari 15:35
Is there stunts on the scene? Is there?
Brandon Riley 15:37
Yeah. So and then the program that we use is called movie magic scheduling is is the main program. There's other ones like synchronize. But gorilla, right. But the nice thing about movie magic is because so many people have it, if you send them the file, they can easily open it.
Alex Ferrari 15:52
It's the industry standard.
Brandon Riley 15:54
Yeah. So that's the nice thing about it. Yes, it's it's kind of antiquated, but it's still it's a cool software. Well, you know, when I was when I was in college, I didn't really know much about assistant directing or movie magic. So I was like, how do people do this thing like you're talking about? But it's, it's there's YouTube videos that he puts out that you can watch and learn. But the other thing is like, you can you can ask a first ad, okay, well, you show me a little this. And it only takes like five minutes to show you the program, essentially, you know, but once you get the hang of it, it's not difficult. I think what's difficult is, once you break it down, is moving the strip's around and actually scheduling it, because that's, that's where the producers will get on the phone with you and be like, Okay, well, we have 15 days, but this actor can only work three days, and this actor can only work four days. And that, you know, we can only be on this location on this one day. And so all these parameters come into play when you actually actually start shooting, that aren't involved when the film was actually budgeted. And, you know, that can create a real nightmare.
Alex Ferrari 17:10
Without question, yeah, the schedule in general, though, is like a living, breathing thing. It's constantly changing. It's constantly moving around, because there's so many parameters that affect it, like, like, Oh, this actor is now leaving a day early, and the other actors coming in a day early. So now we got to change that around and all the location dropped, we got to move to another location, oh, there's rain coming. And there's, there's just so many things, especially in a feature when you're 30 days, 45 days, you know, five weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, there's so many different parameters. And I can only imagine on those, like $200 million movies. Oh, I know, they have to have like an army of a DS to just kind of, because that's like, moving independent, you know, film, as an ad, I'm imagining it's a smaller ship. So you can cut and you're kind of speedboat, but when you're moving that $200 million visual effects extravaganza is like moving a carrier.
Brandon Riley 18:06
Yeah. I mean, yeah, the movie Dunkirk they had, you know, five different countries they shot in. So I mean, can you imagine, but you know, as an ad as the first ad, I think it's almost like, like, a, like a ship commander, you know, or, you know, like a battle commander, where you're, you're, you're all about strategy, right? And how are you going to win the battle? So, you know, every day on the film set feels like a battle sometimes. But you
Alex Ferrari 18:37
Every day you go in and you're just like, Alright, it's not gonna come out the way I planned it right. I'm not gonna get all my shots. Let's just do what we can and let's move forward on it. And yeah, you just don't know. It's just oh, there's just too many parameters, man. It's just too many.
Brandon Riley 18:52
Right? things and happening. Yeah. So if you if you take all that all that responsibility and try to force it on a director is is too much for one person to think about, you know, it's like, I'm overloaded just thinking about logistics. It's, I can't think about the creative, you know,
Alex Ferrari 19:10
And I've done it it is not easy. smaller things on smaller things. Yeah, feature anything but write smaller things. Well, actually, I didn't do it on a feature once but it but it was a very controlled, very small situation. So I was able to do it. But almost I've been doing it for 20 odd years. So I it's a little bit different. But yeah, it is not easy. Now it's not I'd much rather have a good first ad.
Brandon Riley 19:32
Right? Yeah, cuz even if I was directing something, I want a first ad, you know, just because you want the freedom to be creative, and not have to think about who do I need to bring to set next and because because you're trying as a director you're constantly thinking about is the scene work, you know, is the acting. What's the shot like talking to the DP, you know? So there's already and then you have 100 different questions from each department. You know, they're trying to answer. So I love being a first ad. But it's, it's also very stressful sometimes. So I sometimes
Alex Ferrari 20:11
I don't know, I have no idea you guys do it in general. And you were you said, you said something earlier. But there's two things I wanted to kind of touch that you said earlier that you could show, you know, a filmmaker or Producer Director how to use movie magic. But that's just a piece of software, whereas in the art form of using that to schedule is something that it takes years to an experience to be able to do because you know, where there's going to be. Oh, there's, there's a pitfall right there. Oh, there's a cliff that we don't want to go over. Yeah, but that's just you know, so it just because you might know, the software doesn't mean that you can schedule your own movie, if you have no degree.
Brandon Riley 20:49
Exactly. Yeah, you could do a rough schedule, any big new rough schedule, but in terms of like budgeting something, but like, even stuff, like understanding how to shoot a split or nights, or how much night you actually need before you can start shooting, you know, so if the sun sets at 748, I know that we can probably start shooting around 830 if if we're you know, going full speed, we can't start shooting at 730 just because of my experience is too bright. So those are the types of things that you just it takes years of experience. And, and you kind of learn, you know, on the job really as working as a second or, or, or as a first you know, just collaborating with other ideas and be like, hey, well what about this and this, you know, and that's the other thing I like about it is you are working with other people and and bouncing ideas off. So
Alex Ferrari 21:47
It's problem solving you're trying to Yeah, we're all just trying to get across the, across the river.
Brandon Riley 21:53
Yeah, I mean, yeah, that's I mean, in general, that's what I see my job primarily as is a problem solver as a first ad or a wine producer. I there's like a list of 100 problems and I've got to solve them. And and that's what I like about it.
Alex Ferrari 22:07
Now, you also mentioned the about yellers and screamers and also quiet first ladies. I've had all I've worked with all I can't stand yellers. Because I feel personally it doesn't. It doesn't really for at least for my sets. And if you're on a Joe Pickett set that might be different. But if you're, by the way, guys, Joe pika look him up. He's a very famous commercial director. And the stories will speak for themselves. But, but generally speaking, I like to have a really cool, calm, relaxed, have a fun kind of atmosphere. And when when I always found that when I see first day DS yelling, is because they're losing control. And this is now their last last line of defense. But there are also times where I kind of see where it's needed. So there is a balance, but generally speaking, the quiet controlled first ladies who know what they're doing, and and have the respect of the crew, which is a huge thing. If you lose, if you lose your crew, you're done as a first ad,
Brandon Riley 23:12
Right! Yeah, and I think there's a difference between yelling and being loud because you have to be loud and be like, if you're open a loud an open space on a field, you know, you might have to use a megaphone. You might have to, you know, do this. Yeah, I'm with you. I there's no reason to yell. And And honestly, like you said, it makes people feel like you're out of control.
Alex Ferrari 23:36
And with a CFO with a season crew, the season crew will eat you alive. I mean, yeah. Seasoned Hollywood crew with a yelling first ad. Who's inexperienced? It's done. They just yeah, they'll just go on doing their own thing. And they'll ignore him, which happened to me on rice. That's I'm like, Oh, man.
Brandon Riley 23:53
Yeah, you know, one thing that I tried to do on on every movie is I meet with the director, and the DP and myself, if I found the first ad or the producer, and we have a little powwow, and we talked about how do we want the set to be run? You know, because I think sometimes, I mean, you're all coming together, you never work with each other for the most part, unless you have before. And so everybody has these different assumptions. You know, some some first time directors think that they're supposed to direct the extras when that's really like, the ad the ad job. Yeah. So sometimes there's like an educational meeting. I was like, okay, so and then I asked the director, how do you want to set to be run, you know, what, what, what do you want? And then I'll talk about like, what some are, my expectations are, you know, that if if we feel behind, how are we going to dress that on the day, you know, just and that's like an hour meeting, and that our meeting has really changed the way I work because because we can point back to that meeting. I remember when we talked About that, or just knowing that they know that, hey, we're gonna set the extras, you don't have to worry about that. But if you want to, you want to help us figure out this one piece, you know, get dirty. What is no. And I think that that that's been helping, helpful for me, I guess.
Alex Ferrari 25:18
Yeah, again, communication always is a big help when working on a set. Now, can you you've mentioned second, second, eds, and third eds. What are the what are the differences between the multiple and I've seen many multiple versions of EDS out on the set.
Brandon Riley 25:35
Yeah, it's funny, I've actually never been a second second. So I'm, I can tell you a little about it, but I've never done it. And it's, it's mostly to do with, you know, working with the background actors and working with talent. And you know, if you have 300 extras that day, you might have several seconds seconds, and they're just all giving the background, they're setting background, they're giving them direction, they're wrangling them,
Alex Ferrari 26:01
Are they would you consider them like a glorified pa is at that point? Because I've heard that, like a lot of pa is just going like, okay, you're the second second thing?
Brandon Riley 26:10
Yeah, I mean, sometimes it's a credit that's given to a PA, if you don't have a second second. It's it's really the first ad his right hand man on set a lot of times, you know, in terms of a lot of times the second IDs at base camp, doing a call sheet. Sometimes the second ad is on set, helping with background different things, but a lot of times they're so much paperwork, they're just not able to be on set as much. Sure. And then a third ad, the same thing is the second second. It's just in a different country, they call them different things. So like in UK, they might call them a third ad. So are fourth at
Alex Ferrari 26:50
What sometimes you might need it because there's like 5000 people that you're trying to wrangle?
Brandon Riley 26:55
Well, yeah. And in the US, we wouldn't we wouldn't have a third or fourth, we'd have like an additional second ad, you know, and then we'd have a second second. And if you could have an additional second second, stuff like that. And sometimes you might have to first add, if it's a TV show, and they're rotating, and all that kind of stuff. So it gets really complicated.
Alex Ferrari 27:16
Now, you also know you also do line producing, can you talk a little bit about what the job of a line producer is versus a UPM?
Brandon Riley 27:25
Yeah, I mean, I'm not the best at explaining that. But I'll do my best. Sure. So so the line producer, you know, in my opinion starts early on with the film and and they might open bank accounts they might make get the tax incentives, get all the accounts opened, and then handle the budget, do a lot of the major hires and then a UPM would come on later in the game, and take over some of those responsibilities, you know, in terms of hiring the crew, managing payroll, working with the accountants and stuff, really, that the two overlap a lot. But on a big show, I think they're important to have both because there's so much to do. You don't want to just have another PA, you don't know. And so, you know, I did a show for the CW, where I was the line producer, and we had a UPM. And we kind of split responsibilities a little bit. And it was very helpful because, you know, I was busy all day, you know, but there's some shows where I don't have a UPM. It's just kind of I'm the wine producer. And that's that's what it is.
Alex Ferrari 28:38
And for everybody listening a UPM is a unit production manager. Because a lot of people don't know what UPM is, in general. Now what what is the DGA? And how does a first ad get into the DGA?
Brandon Riley 28:51
So the DJ is the Directors Guild of America and it's the Union for directors HDS and UPS
Alex Ferrari 29:00
Line producers and UPS right?
Brandon Riley 29:02
Well, so line producers are not actually in a union. Okay, so they're, they're the one of the few categories that don't have a union. Same thing as producers aren't in a union, although you can join a producer's guild but that's more of a club. Like the ASC. Yeah, so I'm in the Brewers Guild, but yeah, I'm in a club. Basically,
Alex Ferrari 29:22
You're not getting you're not getting a pension, you're not getting a pension from the
Brandon Riley 29:25
Right. I mean, it's a cool club to be a part of. There's lots of parties and stuff like that. So the way you get into the DGA is very complicated, but the easiest way is to get into the DGA training program. And that happens every year, or I think applications and around April or May and and essentially they take like 20 people they accept, you know, out of hundreds of applications. And if you get accepted then you get like two or three years of work and you work on big shows and TV shows as a trainee trainee assistant, or assistant assistant trainee. And and then you know you're set for life pretty much because you've built contacts and you know, you can easily step into a second ad and then go via first.
Alex Ferrari 30:16
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Brandon Riley 30:28
I did did not do that I tried, but I was not qualified enough. So in the end, the reason they don't always pick who you think they're gonna pick, sometimes they pick people with no film experience at all. So you really don't know who these people are going to pick. And so I didn't let that discourage me. But so you can get on. The other option is to get on a show that flips you know, and that's how I got on I was on a show where the UPM I was hired before the UPM and the UPM was the DGA. UPM. And she wanted to make the show part of the Union. And so that would mean that I would have to join and so I joined.
Alex Ferrari 31:12
Now when you when you flip a show, that's generally not depending on the perspective, it's not a good thing sometimes.
Brandon Riley 31:19
Well, there's different clippings I guess flipping for the DGA is only like three people or four people,
Alex Ferrari 31:25
Right! It's like it's not like I asked
Brandon Riley 31:27
Yeah, yeah, so it's director UPM. First and Second, or second second. But yeah, the IRC, which covers the rest of the crew, except for teamsters, you know, that that's where people they talk, mostly talking about flipping, that's what they mostly refer to. Because you really can't it's really weird for a show to flip DJ It was so I guess it wasn't really flipped. It was more of just, I was grandfathered in. And essentially, it's not gonna backdoor it's not gonna Yeah, so that's how I got in. And then the other way to get in is through working as a PA.
Alex Ferrari 32:01
Yes, I remember that.
Brandon Riley 32:04
And like you get like 600 days or something like that and not have to be on some commercial QL. And you can call if you have questions you can call the DGA QL. website. And they'll kind of walk you through how to be qualified. It's important though to keep call sheets and you have a proof and paycheck stubs. Yeah. Because if you if you can't prove that you worked, they'll kick out some of your days, you know. So
Alex Ferrari 32:35
so if you if you pa for 600 days, and you can prove it with call sheets and pay stubs, that's a way in to the DGA to get in, but that's a long, that's a long way around.
Brandon Riley 32:46
Yeah, I mean, the other way, like I was working was collecting days as a non union first ad, and then I'm able to basically cash those days in to be listed as a certain QL. You know, so that's the DJ is very complicated.
Alex Ferrari 33:05
Because it's a wonder because it's a wonderful union once you're in Yeah, the pension is insane. The medical is insane. It's one of the best unions in the business period.
Brandon Riley 33:16
Yeah, it really is a great union, although it's sometimes tough, because you can't take other work. You can't take non union non union work. And whereas if I go work, if I'm an IRC member, a lot of times they don't care as much, you know, right. And I didn't really know that going into it. But I know I know now.
Alex Ferrari 33:36
Yeah. Now, let me ask you a question. How do you handle a director that is just breaking down and completely losing control on set? Is there anything the first ad can do to help? Because I'm sure you've been on projects, whether it's a first time director, or he's having a bad day, or he's having a bad movie, and it's just completely just breaking down? Losing control? What is there anything you can do to help?
Brandon Riley 34:03
You know, I don't know if I mean, losing control? I don't know about as much as out of control. I mean, maybe it's more of I've dealt with directors that are yelling and screaming and firing firing people
Alex Ferrari 34:16
So out of out of control. So out of control.
Brandon Riley 34:19
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, that's always a tough thing. Because, you know, you everybody wants to keep their job, you know, so it's like, I better but at the same time, the director will listen to me where they might not listen to the third PA, you know, so I think it's, it's challenging because you have to pull them aside and be like, Hey, I know, I know you're upset. Like there was this one instance where this actor, we thought that she cut her hair, and he just wanted to get rid of her and you know, it was an African American actress and She, she didn't really cut her hair. It was like, he had these braids, things, you know? So, right, but I was like, it's like, if we fire this actress, we're gonna have to reshoot these two days of stuff like that, right? It's like, as, like, we don't have the time or the money is like, so, you know. So in that instance, I was able to convince him not to fire her, right?
Alex Ferrari 35:25
It was just logic, it was logical,
Brandon Riley 35:27
Right! But it's like, sometimes, you know, and there are, there are a few directors that are bipolar, just because the profession attracts some people that are highly creative, you know, and, and I've worked with many of these guys. And so that's challenging, too, you know, so I think, you know, it's trying to be the calm one on set is my goal is trying to Okay, I know where this this huge problem is in front of us. But let's, let's think about it. Because if we're, if we're being loud, and and angry about it, it's not going to solve itself, you know, so I just try to come up with as many solutions as possible, and talk to him in a calm, assertive way. And I don't know if that's answering the question,
Alex Ferrari 36:19
It is, it is, it is. I mean, it's, uh, it's tough when you have an out of control directors kind of like having out of control General, like, yeah, you know, all of a sudden, they're firing people or attacking places that they shouldn't be as acting as a general. So same thing goes with a directory he could out of control director can bring down the entire movie within minutes. Yeah. And it's tough. And then you're stuck in the middle between the producer and Oh, god, there's so much drama, that could happen. I said, when you when, when you have people like that. Now, tell me a little bit about assisting directing, calm your website.
Brandon Riley 36:53
So yeah, it's just a little site that I created a couple years ago, it was funny, the domain was available. And I was like, I just got to buy this thing. And I just put blogs and articles and some downloads on there, to help others that are wanting to get into assistant directing. And, you know, I just have, every time I go work on a thumb set, I learned something new. And I was like, Oh, this could be a post and I post it, you know, you know, I had a friend of mine contact me today. And he's an ad friend of mine. But he's producing movies like, Where do you get non union extras? Like, why? I was like, I do find these la casting when I'm in Los Angeles. And so that was, you know, but as like, that's another topic for a blog post is finding non union extras. You know, I have that I have a couple of those posts. But I don't know, I just I feel there's value in sharing knowledge and experiences with others. And, you know, I wrote a book kind of about my experience.
Alex Ferrari 37:51
Yeah. Can you tell me about your book?
Brandon Riley 37:53
Yeah. So it's called the career, the career chose me. And it just kind of talks about, you know, choosing the right career. And in a way that you don't have to go really find a career that the premise is really that if you figure out who you are, and what you like, and what you're good at, that the career will essentially choose you. And that and that's kind of what happened to me in the sense that I really fell into assistant direct assistant directing, you know, I just, I didn't know what system directing was, but if I did, I would have chose it a long time ago. You know, because I love scheduling. I love budgeting. I've always been the super organized person.
Alex Ferrari 38:34
God bless you. God bless you, sir. I can't. That's why we need first ad. I can't
Brandon Riley 38:38
I mean, I was the editor of my school newspaper in high school, and I was telling my peers what to do. And you know, today, I'm telling my parents what to do, you know, so it's kind of a similar thing. So I talked about my personal story in the book, but I make it, you know, broad, it's not just about filmmaking, it's really back back careers. But I do give some help helpful hints for those that want to pursue the film industry. And and so the website is the career chose me calm, and it is available on Amazon.
Alex Ferrari 39:10
I'll put that in the show notes. Good. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Brandon Riley 39:21
Yeah, I mean, I think like we talked about college earlier, the question is whether or not to pursue college and then having because you may or may not be the best thing and to where to live. Because, you know, the market is, you know, so fragmented now. You know, I'm why I'm producing this movie in Louisiana, Louisiana right now, but right. You know, I also live in Los Angeles. And so, you know, you can really live in a lot of different places. So it's looking where the tax credits right now and Atlanta and Louisiana, those could be good markets to live in. Yes, you could go to Los Angeles in New York. But the competition is so heavy. So you just have to really, you know, think about, do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? And, you know, so where do you live? And, but I think, you know, being self aware is very important. And I think that's one of the biggest things for most people is they're not enough self aware. And, you know, so my biggest downfall was I was like, I want to be a dp for a decade. And, you know, I was okay. I mean, I could, I can be a fine camera operator, or I could shoot video. But when it comes down to it, I'm not great with math, F, you know, trying to figure out what f stop doesn't come natural to me. So it's not a great profession for me to choose. If it doesn't come. Not necessarily easy, but I just don't enjoy that part of it. You know. So if I would have realized that earlier on and been more self aware, if I would have asked more people, hey, what do you think I'm good at? What do you think I should pursue? I think that would have helped me find this position, this ad wine producer position earlier, you know, but I don't feel like I wasted that much time. So I don't know. those are those are the main things.
Alex Ferrari 41:29
Okay, now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Brandon Riley 41:35
Hmm, I don't know if I know that. There's so many books, you know, that. I don't know if there's one book but I will say that when I was in high school, I became a voracious reader. Like, I just started reading dozens of books on leadership. And that was something that topic of leadership, I think, has affected the way that I I try to work and work with people. And I think if you can understand leadership and how people want to be treated, because that's a huge part of my job is trying to lead people and and educate people. And trying to make the right decision, you know, and but
Alex Ferrari 42:20
Read a lot.
Brandon Riley 42:21
Yeah. Well, I mean, yeah, but I mean, read nonfiction. I I'm a big nonfiction reader. I guess I just Yes. Well, I love business books. I love not, you know, there is a book, a great book about assistant directing, by I can't remember the name of it, but it's it'll come to me later.
Alex Ferrari 42:42
I'll put it up, put some hurt some links. Yeah. Yeah. So now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Brandon Riley 42:54
Lesson took me the longest to learn? I don't know. That's a tough question. In life? No, I think one thing that I realized a couple years ago, was to stop waiting for jobs. You know, I'm saying like, like, I can always apply for something off Craigslist. So I can apply for something of Mandy or, you know, wherever these job applications are, and that's great. But I'm not going to depend on that to provide for me a job, right. So I've got to go out there and like your podcasts, I gotta hustle. So that for me, that means, you know, I send a lot of cold emails to people that I don't know.
Alex Ferrari 43:45
Like to me. Exactly.
Brandon Riley 43:49
I, you know, I, you know, I go to networking events, even though I hate networking, and I tried to, I have a goal where I just meet one person, you know, I don't try to try to meet 10 people, I just be one person. You know, so there's small things I think the biggest thing is for me is also is following up with people, they'll say, Hey, you know, hit me up in three months, and I'll put on my calendar and I'll hit him up in three months. And and I think just having tenacity to you know, keep bugging people sometimes, and I hate being the one to bug somebody but I'm, you know, I'm known for that is
Alex Ferrari 44:27
Gotta hustle. is basically the blessing is hustle and hustle. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Brandon Riley 44:36
Three of my favorite films. One of my favorite films is Magnolia by PT Anderson. And not feel Magnolia is because people confuse
Alex Ferrari 44:46
Very different movies.
Brandon Riley 44:47
I know I haven't even seen film I know so I don't know. But I just love the tracking shots and Magnolia and Pisces. You know, the rain and the falling frogs and sure Yeah, so my other favorite movie is Zoolander.
Alex Ferrari 45:03
Brandon Riley 45:04
Because I can quote the entire movie. Sure. The third movie I don't I don't know. I'd have to think I mean, I love I love spy films. So I just probably had to say like born one of the Bourne movies just think they're, they're well made. And now where can people find you? So people can find me. My what? My personal website is the film fixer.us and my email is [email protected]
Alex Ferrari 45:33
Oh, god, I'm sorry. You did? I told you not to but All right, now you're gonna get it? I know. Right? Yeah.
Brandon Riley 45:43
Yeah, and let's see, I all my my social media handles are radiant first. So you can look me up that way.
Alex Ferrari 45:50
And then assistantdirecting.com?
Brandon Riley 45:53
Alex Ferrari 45:54
Very cool. Brandon man. Thank you so much for being on the show. Man. You've dropped some first ad knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So I really appreciate it, man.
Brandon Riley 46:01
Hey, really appreciate it. Alex. Thanks so much.
Alex Ferrari 46:04
I want to thank Brandon for coming on and dropping some first ad knowledge bombs on the tribe. If you want to get links to anything we discussed in this episode, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/254 to download the show notes. And guys, on a side note, I am working on another secret project not a feature film. thing. I've discussed this before. But this is going to be huge. The biggest thing that I've ever done for the tribe, for filmmakers in general, and I really do hope it provides a tremendous amount of value because it's really, really a lot of work. But I am working on that as we speak. So keep an eye out next couple month next month or two for an announcement and then a launch hopefully sometime in October November sometime. But just trust me you guys are gonna flip the hell out when when I talk to you about it. So keep an eye out. And if you haven't already, head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave the show a good review on iTunes. It really helps us out a lot. I really appreciate it. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
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Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
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Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
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