2nd AD, Courtney Franklin talks to REEL Ladies. Courtney, currently a Director’s Guild of America Asst. Director on TV episodic and Film projects, has never let go of her creative side. Having written feature scripts since the age of 15, her short film, “The Shake Down,” which she wrote and directed became a finalist in the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in 2006.
Born in Gary, Indiana and a Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) alum, she moved to Los Angeles in 2000 to participate in the coveted Assistant Director Training Program. She completed the program in 2002 and has since been working in production. She still writes and in 2005 created CoCoFrank Productions, Inc. to develop features she has written.
RL: WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY?
CF: I got interested while in college. I watched a lot of movies.
RL: WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE BEHIND THE CAMERA?
CF: I took an acting class in college and felt very conscious of my performance which I didn’t think good acting should be. That moment sort of sealed my fate that I wasn’t interested in being a performer.
RL: WHAT IS IT ABOUT DIRECTING THAT CALLS TO YOU?
CF: The control. The creativity. The stories.
RL: HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE DGA TRAINING PROGRAM?
I was researching jobs and found a brochure explaining the program. It sounded perfect for what my current interests and skills were at the time and most importantly, it was a job in “Hollywood.”
RL: TELL US ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE.
CF: It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I really had no idea what a 2nd Assistant Director did or what the job really entailed, so it was a rude awakening. There was so much to learn within the job itself, but also the job politics. It was a huge challenge adapting to all of that on top of the long hours.
RL: WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE THING ABOUT THE PROGRAM?
CF: I can build a career in this business and treat everyone with respect no matter what position they hold.
RL: HOW WAS IT WORKING ON THE HIT FILM BARBERSHOP?
CF: At the time, it was the highlight of my short film career. I was excited to be working with Ice Cube, Eve and Cedric The Entertainer, performers I had enjoyed watching in the past. But, once I got to Chicago in January and had to work mostly in the cold and snow that excitement faded. It was a tough job where the weather proved to be a new challenge. Once I adapted to that, I must say I enjoyed myself. Working on a comedy was so much fun.
RL: EXPLAIN TO US THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A 2ND AD AND 1ST AD?
CF: A 1st A.D. breaks down the script into the elements needed and with the director develops a schedule that the rest of the crew uses to plan for a shoot. While actually shooting they also move the crew forward by being the person on set that determines what’s to be shot and in what order. They inform everyone when to roll and cut camera. A 2nd A.D. uses the schedule the 1st has created and develops the daily schedule which exists in the form of the callsheet. The 2nd A.D. communicates with the various departments and makes sure the elements for the shoot are there.
RL: WHAT IS THE COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT BEING A 2ND AD?
CF: That they’re Production Assistants. A 2nd A.D. is more familiar with crew, actor contracts and daily paperwork that get forwarded to the studio. Production Assistants work very hard, but 2nd Assistant Directors have earned their status which should be appreciated.
RL: HOW DID C.S.I. COME ABOUT FOR YOU?
CF: I was assigned as a DGA Trainee on the first season of the original C.S.I. I later was the 2nd 2nd A.D. on C.S.I. New York’s 1st Season. I got the interview because I had worked with the Production Manager as a trainee. It was a perfect example of maintaining a relationship and having a job come out of it.
RL: YOU WORKED FOR QUITE SOME TIME ON THE AWARD WINNING SHOW, UGLY BETTY, TELL US ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE.
CF: I worked on Seasons 1 and 2. For me, it was an example of a production that sought to get better and did, because everyone involved wanted it to be successful. Being a 2nd A.D. isn’t really considered a creative job, but on Ugly Betty I was able to offer input that I felt was listened to and appreciated. When I watch those episodes I feel extremely proud.
RL: HOW DID YOU GET THAT PROJECT?
CF: It was another case of having worked with the Line Producer, UPM, 1st and Key 2nd A.D. before.
RL: YOU WORK CLOSELY WITH PA’S ON SET, WHAT ARE SOME DO’S AND DON’TS A PA SHOULD KNOW BEFORE ARRIVING ON SET?
CF: Don’t be late.
Don’t distract the actors.
Don’t argue with your bosses.
Do read the callsheet.
Do follow through on all assignments.
Do ask questions.
Do pay attention to the needs of those around you and ask how you can be of service.
RL: YOU WORKED ON SOME GREAT PROJECTS SINCE YOUR CAREER, WHAT DO YOU THINK ATTRIBUTED TO THAT?
CF: Being reliable and responsible, but also I think personality had a lot to do with it. I try to make every set I’m on pleasant. I like to have fun and I want work to be fun. It’s tough because you want your bosses to know that you take the job seriously, but not so seriously that it becomes a place that harbors stress. I try to work hard, but keep a smile on my face. I think that makes me someone that people want around.
RL: WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL?
CF: That’s a hard question to answer, because I get excited about different aspects of the business. But I think ultimately I’d like to be a Writer/Producer who occasionally directs.
RL: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?
CF: I’m developing several projects, a feature titled “Rhythm of Love” and two short films, “Aholic” and “Vampress.” All of which, I’ve written. The shorts I plan to direct. With the feature I’m seeking financing.
RL: TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT, A BABY AWAY, WHICH WAS CHOSEN FOR THIS MONTH’S SCRIPT CLUB SELECTION.
CF: This is a script that was a finalist in the 2007 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival Script Competition. It’s a fun look at a very serious concern for professional women: Balancing career and family. My lead character is a supermodel pondering motherhood. I adapted this script into a short film that was accepted into the 2008 Hollywood Black Film Festival, San Francisco Black Film Festival and the MVAFF. I would love to have it made into a feature film.
RL: HOW DID THE IDEA COME ABOUT?
CF: The initial idea came from a “What if” conversation with one of my best friends. It was inspired by watching a lot of America’s Next Top Model, Ugly Betty and pondering my own life. I’m definitely not a model, but if I were I’d be concerned with what pregnancy would do to my career.
RL: WHICH DO YOU ENJOY MORE, WRITING OR DIRECTING?
I like each for different reasons, but I’d have to say writing because that’s the initial creation of a new world.
RL: WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
CF: Other successful people. I’m extremely competitive and I look at other people’s successes and if what they’re doing interests me I say “I can do that.” Also, I’m inspired by what evokes a true emotion in me. It’s usually the lives of real people. I love reading autobiographies.
RL: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE FROM WOMEN IN THE FILM & ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY?
CF: I would love to see more women in creative producer positions actually on set calling the shots. I think it would add a different perspective. Ugly Betty had that the first season and it was refreshing.
Courtney M. Franklin
2nd Assistant Director
Director’s Guild of America