How to Become a Movie Director: Education Requirements

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

Should I Become a Movie Director?

A movie director is the chief person responsible for the creative aspects of film production. While creating the look of a film, movie directors may make script changes, determine movie locations, finalize costume designs, approve special effects and provide coaching to actors. Jobs may be stressful, with often working under deadlines. Filming and directing in a wide range of weather conditions is also common in this profession.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (not required)
Degree Field Journalism, film, communication, acting, arts management or a comparable discipline
Experience Advancement is typically commensurate with experience
Key Skills Communication, leadership, management, business, and creativity
Salary (2014) $106,440 is the median annual salary for movie producers and directors

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Get a Head Start in the Industry

Formal education and training as a director is not required for a career in the field. Many movie directors begin making movies, such as short films or home movies, before going to film school. Others learn basic skills creatively without ever earning a film degree. For example, some professionals develop an interest in directing by working in various aspects of film development or production, such as screenwriting, producing or acting; generally, these professionals begin as assistants and work their way up.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Aspiring directors may pursue a bachelor's degree program in fine arts, film or a related field. These programs typically last four years and offer directing concentrations, which help students develop skills such as casting, rehearsal procedures, text analysis, acting techniques and camera application. Students also learn how to create and use storyboards, shoot scripts and brackets. Common courses include film history, storytelling, screenwriting and production. To gain directing experience, students are typically required to participate in a set number of collaborative student film projects as part of their coursework.

Success Tip:

  • Work at an internship. Most film schools strongly encourage internships within the film industry in order to develop technical skills, understand the ins-and-outs of film production and develop professional contacts. Internships can also help students build a network of contacts, which can be essential to career growth in the film industry.

Step 3: Consider a Graduate Degree

Master's degree programs in fine arts are often three years in length and help filmmakers develop their own voices as directors. Directing programs often focus on management skills, helping directors to oversee people across many different areas of film production. Most master's degree programs require the development of a professional portfolio and a thesis, typically in the form of a short film. Coursework covers areas in theme conceptualization, movie development workshops and screen directing.

Success Tip:

  • Find an accredited program. The National Association of Schools of Theater (NAST) accredits theater arts programs throughout the nation. Aspiring graduate students should look for master's programs accredited by the NAST to ensure that they are enrolled in a quality program that is nationally recognized.

Step 4: Continue Education

Due to the highly competitive nature of the film industry, many prospective directors seek additional education and training. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) offers an assistant director training program in which students receive hands-on training on the set of actual films. Graduates may become members of the DGA and are often hired as assistant directors on film productions, which may help launch a career as a movie director. Professional positions are scarce and highly competitive and, according to the BLS, there is not much growth expected in the job market in coming years. The BLS states that directors with business skills will likely find jobs more quickly.

Success Tip:

  • Get paid while training. Aspiring directors can find a program that compensates trainees for the work they perform. Training programs, such as that offered through the DGA, pay trainees when they assist productions, and essentially the trainee is considered an employee of the production.

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