How to Be a Film Director

Research the requirements to become a film director. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in film directing.

Should I Become a Film Director?

Film directors visualize how scripts can be brought to life and oversee the technical aspects of making films. They tell cast and crew members in a production what to do and oversee the overall production process. These individuals manage large groups of highly creative people. This industry is very competitive, so finding mainstream success can be difficult. In addition, working with other highly creative people may involve a certain amount of job stress. Film directors work full time, often with long hours on evenings, weekends and holidays. Traveling to various locations for shoots is common for this career.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree most common
Degree Field Film, cinema, acting or another related program
Training Hands-on training experiences offered through internships
Experience 1-5 years typically required
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication, leadership, creativity and management skills; ability to use video recording and other equipment common on a set
Salary $71,215 per year (2015 median salary for all film directors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, (August 2015)

Step 1: Earn Bachelor's Degree

Although not required for all positions, individuals can benefit from formal training through bachelor's degree programs in film, cinema or other related majors. Attending an undergraduate program will give an aspiring director the opportunity to learn essential skills and work under the supervision of mentors. Programs typically explore additional areas of filmmaking, such as editing, cinematography, production and acting. Many programs emphasize hands-on learning by having students practice techniques with equipment similar to what they'll be using in the industry. Students may also consider majoring in communications programs with a concentration in film.

Success Tips:

  • Begin creating a portfolio. A creative portfolio showcases an individual's abilities to direct videos, plays and other productions. Many undergraduate programs require the submission of a portfolio for admission. As a student advances through school, they may add onto their portfolios or improve existing work.
  • Participate in an internship. Aspiring directors can intern with production crews, entertainment corporations and similar institutions to gain first-hand experience working in the industry. An internship can also provide valuable networking connections to help an aspiring director get ahead after graduation.

Step 2: Consider Graduate Film Studies

Graduate film studies allow students greater freedom and the opportunity to focus on their professional and creative interests. Programs accept students who don't have an undergraduate degree in film studies, but may require a creative portfolio. Similar to bachelor's programs, graduate programs involve hands-on learning in screenwriting, producing and directing. Many programs have faculty members and guests lecturers who are active in the industry.

Step 3: Gain Experience and Advance

Many directors have experience as actors, writers or other members of the production team. Because film directing is such a competitive job field, prospective directors need experience working on sets, as well as connections in the industry. Many directors debut on small independent films, commercials or promotional content and advance with experience.

Success Tips

  • Join a professional organization. Professional organization for directors, such as the Directors Guild of America (DGA), can provide directors with a variety of benefits to help them advance in their careers. Benefits include networking opportunities, employment listings and more.
  • Continue education. Film directors can continue learning through on-the-job training as they advance in their careers. Additionally, film directors may attend one-day workshops and seminars to stay current with the latest trends in the industry.

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