Why I'm a member: Aga Hayder
Aga worked her way to second assistant director (AD) after starting as a runner fresh from film school. Her career highlights include working on Pirates of the Caribbean shooting with the likes of Geoffrey Rush and Xavier Bardem. Aga recently got involved in MEAA's Get Real on Rates campaign because after she saw many of her colleagues having to make the decision to leave their film industry passion because they can no longer afford to stay in the industry.
What does your role entail?
I am the 1st AD’s right hand woman, so my job is to predict what needs to happen on set for the schedule to run smoothly and then implement it. I also look after the background of shots in a wide sense, that includes directing extras. There’s quite a bit of troubleshooting and relaying information to different departments involved, so I need to be familiar with schedules and scripts to answer crew’s questions.
Take me through a full day for you on set.
The day starts with meeting with the 2nd AD for any updates, making sure everyone has call sheets and sides, knows what’s going on and their radios are all working, etc. After that I meet with any extras, have a chat to them explaining what they’ll be doing, and keep track of them until they’re needed. My day is usually spent shadowing the 1st AD, observing the blocking so I can plan the background, and quickly fixing any problems that may arise for the camera. You need to have eyes around your head as a 3rd really, as there’s always something to do. Keeping the 1st and the director happy is the main focus, but you need to look after all the crew and actors as well.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started as a runner and a PA. I remember looking up agents for crews when I first got out of a film school I went to in Sydney. I ended up with Calling All Crew for about a year, which got me my first job. I made damn sure everyone I worked with knew I wanted to AD. It worked! A production coordinator gave me a chance with my first 3rd AD job, and it all rolled from there.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I really love that I meet new and great people all the time, and we get to do something really fun all day. Being a part of brilliant content that ends up on people’s screens is the best feeling.
What are some of your career highlights?
Working on Pirates of the Caribbean I got to hang out on the ships operated by huge gimbals, and hide on a rocking deck, while stunts were sword fighting during a take. I nearly got sea sick, but it was just awesome to watch. Meeting Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem. Jumping in amongst extras to better direct them is always fun too.
What would be your advice for people wanting to get into the industry?
Be stubborn. And hardworking. People will eventually notice you’ve got it if you’re willing to put in the effort, even if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere for ages. And get to know the right people - which is the tricky bit.
You recently got involved in our Get Real on Rates campaign, why was that important to you?
I love my job, but the state of affairs is not great for crews in Australia. I also have a child now, so it’s no longer just me I have to look after, which is when you can afford to just get by. I’ve worked with people who have been in the industry for decades and are now considering leaving their passion because they can’t afford to live on the rates they get. I don’t want to have to face that choice. I come from a country well known for unions, so it’s in my blood I guess, but strength really is in numbers and I’d like for the crews to be appreciated and paid accordingly.