“Is this a joke?!,” was Mindy McKoin’s (Production – M.F.A. ‘12) first reaction upon learning that she had been selected for the Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program. “After I settled down, I realized what I worked so hard for was finally coming true. It’s surreal. I’ve applied more than once and couldn’t believe I got it. All the work paid off.”
The Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program is a highly competitive program aimed at aspiring ADs. The two-year program offers intensive on-the-job training combined with seminars and special assignments. As a trainee, McKoin will be working with seasoned DGA members who work professionally as second assistant directors, first assistant directors and unit production managers on the sets of various features, television series and commercials.
McKoin initially thought that being an assistant director wasn’t for her until she spoke with LMU production professor Charles Swanson. Swanson encouraged her to pursue the path, saying that her personality, and how she worked on set, are qualities that make a successful first assistant director. With that seed planted, McKoin was determined to hone her skills as an assistant director and found a seasoned assistant director in SFTV’s head of production administrator John Syrjamaki. Syrjamaki told her about the DGA Program and helped with McKoin’s application. “Without Charles and John, this wouldn’t be possible,” said McKoin.
As an SFTV graduate, McKoin’s experience in the production program has prepared her well. “LMU does such a good job at making us well-rounded filmmakers because we have to work on other people’s projects – you’re not one-dimensional. Working all those projects, I saw the difference of having a good assistant director versus a bad assistant director. It’s a balance of being super strict and being too relaxed. Being an assistant director is not about having a power trip. You have a servant’s heart helping others. You really shine by pulling the best out of people.”
Currently, McKoin is immersed in the required reading assigned to her and getting her DGA standardized resume ready. She also plans to get all her personal travel in because once the program starts she needs to be ready to work. According to McKoin, many of her assignments will be in Los Angeles, but she has spoken to past program trainees who have been assigned to projects all around the world.
To find out more about the program, watch the video below.