by Foo Ming Li
The word “director” may bring to mind the assumption that the director’s job is confined to uttering the orders “Action!”, “Cut!” and “That’s a wrap!” The reality is, however, far from that.
Gary Gan, a graduate with a Diploma in Mass Communication from Han Chiang University College of Communication (HCUC), has worked as a television program assistant director for five years at ASTRO, and he is currently working as an Astro Go Shop producer.
“When an interviewer at Astro asked me if I mind working as a producer or assistant director, I answered that either one would be fine. A week later, I was surprised at receiving a letter of appointment from Astro stating that I would be working as an assistant director with them. I didn’t even know what an assistant director does,” Gan hilariously commented about his interview session and how he landed in the job.
As an assistant director, Gan is responsible for multiple tasks ranging from arranging or setting the camera at the proper shooting position whenever shooting outside of the television studio, and to understand the rules and flow of the games planned in the television program.
“An assistant director needs to be aware of the intricate details of shooting. For example, when the television host or guest arrives, a crew member and I will wear name tags to simulate the television host and guest and walk around or position ourselves at certain places of the shooting venue to enable the camera crew to take the footages,” he said
The task of a production project is usually not complete when the shooting ends. Gan said he has to ensure a smooth flow of the editing process until the television show is broadcast. When there is a problem encountered, he has to be quick in suggesting solutions to prevent the production from slowing its pace.
“There was one time where one of the cameras lost the close-up shot of the guest. I quickly suggested the solution of cropping a wide angle shot of the guest as a replacement and it turned out great,” Gan narrated one of the problems he faced while shooting.
He added that it is hard to have a balanced life as an assistant director. There are many occasions where he has to turn down lunch meet-ups with his friends and family as last-minute tasks would pop-up unexpectedly.
Even the weather can pose unpredictable challenges for Gan during his shooting. Sometimes, the shooting has to be delayed until the rain stops. This may take up some time and he will discuss with the director on which part of the segment needs to be shortened in order to complete the necessary scene for the day.
“It is no use to blame the bad weather or wait until the weather becomes better. We need to be efficient by discussing with the director to shorten some scenes to finish the work for the day,” he said.
One of the toughest projects he has done is the live broadcasting of the Astro Classic Golden Melody singing competition which took three hours. He said it was his first time doing a live broadcast as an assistant producer and had tremendous pressure placed on him to ensure the live broadcast goes well.
“I need to talk to every crew member using the talk-back headset to cue the crew members, for instance, when to turn on the lighting effects or change the colours of the lights according to different participants,” Gan said.
It was indeed a tough job but Gan finds himself satisfied with his past achievements despite the hardship.
He advised fresh graduates who are interested to enter the broadcasting field to improve their skills in editing, shooting, and speaking. He noticed that some of the fresh graduates do not demonstrate good editing skills during the process of editing the television programme.
“When there is a new crew member talking impolitely to another crew member, the senior crew members including myself will not help that new crew member,” commented Gan when relaying the importance of being polite during interpersonal communication.
“Though it may appear as workplace bullying, this is an effective method of grooming new talents in adapting to the work life and the society,” Gan said.
He also advised everyone to have the eagerness to learn new skills from other people as there are many things that we did not learn from our textbooks or lecture notes.