Assistant Director Alex Diamond jokes that his professional abbreviation, “A.D.,” should really stand for “Anxious Director.”
“We always have to think of what could go wrong, and what could be an issue,” explained Diamond, a graduate of Columbia College and a veteran of several local independent productions. A resident of Chicago’s West Side, he is currently working as an assistant director on the longtime NBC drama Chicago P.D.
“Let’s say we’re filming outside a neighborhood house,” he added. “I have to make sure that all the houses are clear and that no one pops out [their door]. I have to think of everything that happens in there. I like to think that my vivid imagination helps me think of all the possibilities that can happen.”
Diamond describes himself as a “people person.” “That’s one of my favorite things and is a big part of film. You meet so many different types of personalities and you have to find a way to work together as a huge team.”
Diamond is a native of suburban Northbrook and jumped at the chance to work on a studio production.
“I thought that I’d really like to see what the studio life is all about,” Diamond recalled. “I’d really only been working on low-budget indie things, and a Lifetime movie and a BET movie. I wanted to see how a big television show ran.”
His first day working as a production assistant on Chicago P.D. was a “stunt day,” he added. “So I couldn’t say no.”
After working on the program for two seasons, he was asked to come on board full-time. Diamond said it helped that he was well-acclimated for the pace of a major production even before he left Columbia.
“I had a pretty good understanding and a pretty good feel for how a set ran,” he explained. “Then, after about three years [working on Chicago P.D.], my vision just sharpened and my focus got more clear. Now I really understand what 15 minutes on a film set means.”
Diamond is confident that his experience will help him when he is running his own productions one day.
“I’m seeing this flow throughout the day, and I think that is what is going to help me be a creative director—the one behind the monitors giving the actors direction,” he explained.
When not working on Chicago P.D., Diamond has been developing a “proof of concept” short film called Dopamine Dreams he hopes can be expanded into a feature or a television series.
The film is about “a naive drug dealer who meets a dark stranger at a party. We later find out this stranger is a drug kingpin for the underground music scene.”
Diamond has been working on Dopamine Dreams “since before college. It is ready to be green-lit and [begin] pre-production. This project…is actually what I have been pursuing my whole career and what ultimately made me change my life path and go to film school.”
He encouraged anyone seeking to break into film and television production locally to network and talk to people. “There’s a lot of social-network pages and communities that will allow you to volunteer on a film set. I [once] volunteered as a second A.D. on a short film, and a script supervisor suggested me to another company. For that, I made $800 in one day. At 24 years old, that was amazing at the time. It goes to show that there is no bridge you should ever burn [and you must] make sure you’re working the hardest you can.”
Launched in late 2021— with a second round of applications opening this summer— the Chicago Made workforce development program offers job training and placement to Chicago residents ages 24-50, primarily from underserved areas, to help meet the industry’s increasing demand for skilled workers. The program is an initiative by the Chicago Film Office at the Department of Current Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the XD-TECH consultancy.
NBC Universal, Netflix, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Media provide on-set training for the program. A number of local firms and organizations, as well as unions IATSE Local 476 and Local 600, have provided support as well.
A record 15 productions filmed in Chicago in summer 2021, bringing with them nearly $700 million in economic impact. The Chicago Made program links projects such as those with workers from across the city.
This series, from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), asks Chicagoans in the film industry to share their experiences. Learn more at ChicagoMade.us and join the conversation on social media using #ChicagoMade.