14th AD Event

14th Annual 1st AD Event

August 28, 2021 An Eastern and Western AD/UPM Councils' 1st AD Committees Event

On August 28, more than 120 1st AD members came together online for the 14th Annual 1st AD Event. Jointly hosted by the 1st AD Committees of the Eastern and Western AD/UPM Councils, the virtual event was designed for members of this category to exchange information, share ideas and address relevant issues on the job via two panels: First AD Leadership Skills and Emerging Pandemic Response.

Following a welcome from Western AD/UPM Council 1st AD Committee Co-Chairs Mark Hansson and Alan Curtiss, Eastern AD/UPM Council Chair Lyn Pinezich and Eastern AD/UPM Council First Vice Chair/ Eastern First AD Committee Co-Chair Joseph P. Reidy gave their remarks and introduced the first panel discussion, First AD Leadership Skills. The panel featured 1st ADs John Rusk, Chris Surgent, Jennifer Wilkinson and Michele Ziegler exploring that subject in a conversation moderated by 1st AD Donald L. Sparks. The topics they covered included skillsets on what makes a good 1st AD, decision-making on set and working with different personalities.

During the second panel of the day, Emerging Pandemic Response, Reidy moderated a conversation with 1st ADs Carol Green, Francisco Ortiz, Artist Robinson and Laura Sylvester. There, panelists discussed their personal experiences working during the pandemic, how they dealt with implementing new safety procedures, and what practices they'd like to continue post-pandemic.

Following the moderated panels, all the participants came together for a Q&A session where they addressed questions submitted by the online audience.

About the Panelists:

First AD Leadership Skills Panel


John RuskJohn Rusk
Rusk has worked in over thirty states as well as overseas. and collaborated with numerous prominent Directors such as Peter Weir, Alan J. Pakula and M. Night Shyamalan, contributing to the production of over 50 feature films and television shows in addition to dozens of commercials. His feature credits include Dead Poets SocietyThe Sixth SenseDoubtUnbreakableSignsAvalonA League of Their OwnFearlessThe Pelican BriefOutbreak12 MonkeysSplitGlass, and 21 Bridges. Most recently, he has worked on the upcoming seasons of Ms. Marvel and Stranger Things. A member of the DGA since 1987, Rusk has served on the Eastern AD/UPM Council as Co-Chair. He has also spent almost a decade on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association and was a founder of the Delaware Valley Filmmaking Foundation. 

Chris SurgentChris Surgent
Surgent’s AD credits include feature films such as Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and 2, Julie Taymor’s The Glorias, John Crowley’s The Goldfinch, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone; movies for television including George C. Wolfe’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; and acclaimed television series such as Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire. He is currently working on Scott Cooper’s feature, The Pale Blue Eye, and has on deck Francis Lawrence’s Slumberland. A graduate of the DGA Assistant Director Training Program, Surgent has been a DGA member since 1995 and has served on the Eastern First Assistant Directors Committee since 2016. 
Jennifer WilkinsonJennifer Wilkinson
Wilkinson is a graduate of the New York DGA Assistant Director Training Program and has been a DGA member since 1992.  Her AD credits include shows for TV luminaries like Steven Bochco, Ryan Murphy and David Kelley and she has spent time in the CSI universe. Wilkinson did the whole run of ABC’s Revenge and twice got the chance to direct on the series. Most recently, she spent a winter in Chicago for Amazon’s Utopia followed by a winter in Chicago and Toronto for HBO Max’s upcoming miniseries Station Eleven
Michele ZieglerMichele “Shelley” Ziegler
Ziegler got her start as in the industry a PA on Bruce Beresford’s Her Alibi and Barry Levinson’s Avalon. Some of her other credits include Joseph Sargent's DGA Award-winning movie for television, Something the Lord Made, Barry Levinson’s DGA Award-nominated movie for television, The Wizard of Lies and Bradley Cooper’s DGA Award-nominated feature film, A Star Is Born. Some of her other credits include feature films such as Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and David O. Russell’s JoyAmerican Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook; and episodes of the series Boardwalk EmpireThe WireThe Sopranos and Homicide: Life on the Street. A DGA member since 1991, Ziegler has served as a Second Alternate on the DGA National Board and is a member of the Eastern AD/UPM Council 1st AD Committee. 

Donald SparksDonald L. Sparks (moderator)
Sparks began his career in the media and entertainment field in advertising as a copywriter and also worked as the Director of Operations at several Los Angeles-based post-production facilities before joining the DGA as a Stage Manager in 1992. Since becoming an Assistant Director, his credits include comedies such as Steve Carr’s Daddy Day Care and Andy Fickman’s Parental Guidance; action dramas including F. Gary Gray’s Set It Off and Paul Haggis’s The Next Three Days; and the period dramas like James Gartner’s Glory Road and Tate Taylor’s The Help. Sparks has also enjoyed a close collaboration with Director Denis Villeneuve on films such as PrisonersSicarioArrival, and Blade Runner 2049. His most recent projects include A Journal for Jordan directed by Denzel Washington and is currently in production on Director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Emerging Pandemic Response Panel 

Carol GreenCarol Green
Green has been a DGA member since 1981 and has numerous feature film credits as an Assistant Director including Joe Dante’s Gremlins and Howard Deutch’s Pretty in Pink. She has since moved onto mostly television, with an occasional feature, as a 1st AD on shows like NYPD BlueThe TemptationsHouse, MDAmerican Horror Story: AsylumSMILFGone; and Franklin & Bash to name a few. Her more recent shows include The Red Line and P-Valley, and she has recently wrapped season two of Twenties
Francisco OrtizFrancisco Ortiz
Ortiz is a New York-based 1st Assistant Director who serves on both the Eastern AD/UPM Council and the Eastern First Assistant Director Committee. Since joining the DGA in 2003, some of his credits include feature films such as Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark, Martin Scorsese’s Silence and John Turturro’s The Jesus Rolls; and episodes of television series such as UtopiaPowerThe OutsiderTom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and Vinyl. He is currently working on the upcoming series, Dexter: New Blood
Artist RobinsonArtist Robinson
Robinson has spent 38 years in the film industry and has worked on over 90 movies. He began his career in 1984 as a PA on the James Bridges film, Perfect. In 1986, he moved up to Key 2nd AD on Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He went on to work on 32 films including Rob Reiner’s Misery, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Robinson finally climbed into the 1st AD seat in 1990 on Jonathan Mostow’s Breakdown. In 2008, he was a member of the directorial team for the DGA Award-nominated, multiple award-winning mini-series John Adams. He has acted as Co-Producer/1st AD on Michael Radford’s Elsa & Fred, and as 1st AD on Neil Burger’s Divergent; Paul Feig’s Spy and Ghostbusters; Jonathan Levine’s Snatched; and Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me. His latest film is Paul Feig’s The School for Good and Evil. Robinson has been a DGA member since 1986. 
Laura SylvesterLaura Sylvester
A graduate of the DGA’s Assistant Director Training Program, Sylvester has worked on over 350 episodes of television as an Assistant Director. She enjoys working on both comedies and dramas. Her most recent 1st AD credits include episodes of Truth Be ToldYou68 WhiskeyLucifer, and Sex Lives of College Girls. She has been a DGA member since 1996. 
Joe ReidyJoseph P. Reidy (moderator)
A graduate of the DGA’s Assistant Director Training Program, Reidy has worked as a Second AD and First AD on well over 70 feature films and television projects including DGA Award-winning features such as Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed; and DGA Award-nominated features such as Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, Oliver Stone’s JFK and Martin Scorsese’s GoodfellasThe Age of InnocenceGangs of New York and The Aviator. A DGA member since 1979, Reidy serves as the First Vice Chair of the Eastern AD/UPM Council, as the Co-Chair of the Eastern First AD Committee, is a member of the DGA Return to Work Committee and serves on the Board of Trustees of the New York DGA Assistant Director Training Program. 

About the Councils

The Eastern and Western AD/UPM Councils are the elected bodies that represent the Assistant Director and Unit Production Manager members of the Guild who work in film, television, commercials and new media.

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