How to Be a Film Director

Apr 28, 2020

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

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Should I Be 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 film shoots is common for this career.

Career Requirements

Film directors typically have strong verbal and written communication skills. Experience in leadership and management are highly valued. People who work in this field also tend to be highly creative. Required hands-on skills include the ability to use video recording and other equipment common on a set.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, producers and film directors earned a median salary of $74,420.

Steps to Be a Film Director

Preparation for a film directing career emphasizes experience and hands-on work.

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.

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.

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.

Because film directors are responsible for the creative and technical production of a film, they have both education and experience in the field. A bachelor's degree is common, and while some film directors go on to complete graduate programs, nearly all have considerable hands-on skills gained through internships and work experience in several aspects of film production.

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