I only just picked up the news that Roger Simons died back in April. Roger was a core member of the British film industry, a veteran First Assistant Director with a long list of feature and TV credits from 1963’s Summer Holiday to the last season of Rosemary &Thyme. He ran the crew on just about every kind of production, from cheesy British comedies and big-budget features to arthouse indies like Polanski’s Cul de Sac. He was 1st AD on Oktober, which gave me one degree of separation from just about everyone in the business. His kindness and support on the shoot meant everything to me.
The job title can be misleading; ‘assistant’ suggests some kind of fetch-and-carry role, and nothing could be further from the truth. The First Assistant is responsible for day-to-day scheduling, the running of the set, the handling of the crew. One eye is always on the clock to ensure that the director makes their day and if they don’t, to rejig the elements necessary to catch up later. The AD is the producer’s presence on the set, with whom the buck stops on health and safety. Theirs is the loudest voice, the most authoritative, always moving everyone along. And if that isn’t enough, it’s also a tradition that the AD arranges all the background action with the extras.
See for yourself, check out Roger’s credits on the Internet Movie Database. His bio there gives the cause of death as ‘undisclosed’, but when I searched for more details a short obituary on the Britmovie forum indicated that he’d stopped posting a while before due to illness. We’d kept in touch, just cards at Christmas, and when I got hold of a widescreen copy I sent him a DVD of the show we’d worked on and got a nice note in return.
Weird thing is, sometime around April I’d sent him a postcard from our lockdown – my understanding was that he lived alone and I just wanted him to know that I was thinking of him, still grateful for his patient steering of an inexperienced tyro on Oktober. I don’t know if he saw it and I suspect it would have arrived too late. But there you go.