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How to Be a Film Director


Pursuing a career as a film director is a coveted aspiration for numerous individuals. Suppose you possess the dedication to invest ample time, possess a creative vision, and possess an exceptional talent for transforming ideas into reality.

How to Be a Film Director

In that case, the role of a film director might be the ideal profession for you. It is important to acknowledge that film directing positions are fiercely competitive, and it may require several years, or even decades, to achieve your ultimate objective. Nevertheless, if this is your true passion, then it is worth pursuing wholeheartedly.

Part 1: Begin Your Professional Journey

Watch Films Critically

If you want to become a film director, you have watched many movies. But you can use your movie-watching experiences to learn about filmmaking. Watch as many movies as possible and pay attention to the details.

How to Be a Film Director

Try to find at least 15 mistakes in each movie you watch. Look for acting errors, editing errors, storyline continuity errors, and more.

As you watch movies, develop your understanding of storytelling. You can watch movies without sound and observe how the story is told through visuals. Alternatively, you can also listen to the dialogue, soundtrack, and other sounds in a movie to see how the story unfolds through the characters' words.

Get into the Short Film Business

You should start making films right away and use every resource at your disposal to further your profession as a director. If you don't already have a camera, get one right now. While a high-end camera might improve the overall quality of your videos, start with whichever camera you have available.

How to Be a Film Director

Work with a scriptwriter or a buddy who can assist you in creating your screenplay. Spend the weekend with a group of friends and record sequences for a short film. Eventually, you can combine these shots using editing tools like Adobe Premiere.

You will be forced to learn more about the technical aspects of directing when you make short films. You will need to acquaint yourself with scripting, editing, and other necessary abilities. Making your own short films will allow you to practice a variety of roles and develop a wide range of skills.

Get Acting Skills

Gaining practical experience in acting, either through participating in your films or joining a drama group, is the most effective method to learn how to direct actors.

How to Be a Film Director

By immersing yourself in the world of acting and gaining firsthand experience, you will develop a deeper understanding and respect for the actors you collaborate with, facilitating better communication between you.

Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the terminology and techniques used by actors, such as classical acting and method acting, will further enhance your ability to direct them effectively.

Read Scripts Written by Others

As you start your journey as a scriptwriter, you may initially focus on creating your scripts. However, as you progress, you may collaborate with others on scripts written by different individuals.

How to Be a Film Director

Working on scripts by others can help you bring their narratives to life. When exploring these scripts, think about how you would visually capture each scene. For example, in a scene showing a heated argument between two characters, consider how you would position them, what camera angles would convey the intensity, what lighting techniques would set the mood, and what background sounds would enhance the atmosphere. This exercise can help you develop your skills and bring a fresh perspective to storytelling.

Think about Enrolling in a Film School

Attending film school offers numerous advantages, such as practical experience, access to professional crews, and networking opportunities. While not a requirement for success, many accomplished filmmakers have benefited from film school education.

How to Be a Film Director

By enrolling, you can secure internships, participate in workshops, and establish connections with industry experts. Moreover, you can easily collaborate with fellow students on projects and expand your network by assisting others.

Some of the top film schools, such as NYU, USC, AFI, and California Institute of the Arts, have produced renowned directors like Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas, among others. These institutions provide a platform for aspiring filmmakers to hone their skills and launch successful careers in the industry.

Participate in a Production Team

Becoming a film director is a gradual process that requires dedication and perseverance.

How to Be a Film Director

Many directors begin by working in various roles within a production crew, such as runners or camera operators. Each task, no matter how small, contributes to your progress. Whether it involves organizing paperwork, taking care of actors, or managing camera equipment, every responsibility helps you grow.

If you are currently studying film, consider seeking internships to gain practical experience. If you still need to, you can explore opportunities on platforms like Craigslist, network with creative individuals, and offer your assistance. By being reliable and friendly, you can build a positive reputation that will lead to more opportunities. With each project, you will have the chance to work on larger and more significant projects.

Having five years of experience as a production assistant will make you more attractive to production companies than a recent film school graduate. Look for entry-level positions in the production crew or specifically as a production assistant, and give it your best effort.

Begin to Network

In short, having a reel is crucial if you want to become a director. It's the most important thing you need. However, it's much easier to showcase your reel if you have connections in the industry.

How to Be a Film Director

To establish those connections, you should start networking immediately. The more people you know, the more chances you'll have. Make sure to attend industry events like mixers, conventions, parties, premiers, etc.

Introduce yourself to others and strive to build strong relationships. You can also offer your assistance on future projects or invite others to collaborate with you.

Part 2: Making the Cut

1. Find Additional Jobs to Make Ends Meet

As you work towards your goal of becoming a film director, consider broadening your experience by taking on various directing opportunities.

How to Be a Film Director

This could involve directing music videos, TV shows, and commercials. While the pay may be lower than big-budget films, these projects will add valuable diversity to your directing portfolio. Some of these opportunities may also offer good pay and enjoyable work, so pay attention to them just because they are not feature films.

Produce more Sophisticated Short Films

Collaborating on short films with industry friends is a quick way to boost your reel.

How to Be a Film Director

Team up with your network and fellow aspiring professionals. Funding can come from various sources, but it's a vital step towards reaching your goals.

Promote Your Short Films to Festivals

If you have a film that you're proud of, consider submitting it to a film festival. Film festivals are held in various locations, so you can enter one no matter where you are. There are likely festivals in your state or region that you can participate in.

How to Be a Film Director

For instance, Sundance receives around 12,000 submissions each year, making it highly competitive. Starting with smaller festivals and working your way up might be a good strategy. Make sure to meet the deadline and follow the formatting requirements.

It's worth mentioning that some remarkable films, such as Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and the previously unknown "Paranormal Activity" discovered by Steven Spielberg, were discovered at film festivals.

Bring Your Reel Together

Make sure your reel or portfolio is impressive when submitting to projects looking for a director

How to Be a Film Director

Models have modelling portfolios, actors have headshots and resumes, and directors have reels. Include your educational background, professional experience, and films in your reel. You'll need.

  • Educational background information
  • Resume showcasing your experience
  • Contact information
  • Clips demonstrating editing, writing, animation, and cinematography skills
  • List of film festivals and awards
  • Miscellaneous experience like music videos, commercials, animated shorts, and TV shows
  • Stills and storyboards showcasing your process.

Improve Your Interpersonal Abilities

As you progress to the role of director, remember that you may only sometimes be at the top of the hierarchy. Collaboration with various individuals is key, and conflicts may arise.

How to Be a Film Director

Your role will often involve ensuring everyone's satisfaction. Start developing your interpersonal skills early to manage diverse challenges and personalities effectively

Be prepared for frustrating situations, like receiving a call from a producer criticizing a scene filmed at 5 AM in a remote location for the perfect shot during the golden hour. The actress may have improvised lines for character depth, and the budget might be stretched. You may find yourself revising the script all night to accommodate these changes for filming the next day at the studio.

Part 3: Reaching the Peak of Success

Get an Agent

Once you have built a strong portfolio, a representative may approach you to manage your career. This person can assist with contract negotiations and offer advice that is in your best interest.

How to Be a Film Director

It is important to remember that you should not have to pay any fees upfront for representation. A reputable representative will only be compensated when you earn income as a result of their efforts. A key part of their role is negotiating your "gross points," which is a percentage of the movie's earnings.

While a $100 profit may not seem like much, imagine the impact of receiving a share from a movie that makes $1 billion. The allocation of gross points is crucial and can greatly affect your financial success.

Join the Union

After gaining experience in directing through various job opportunities, you can consider joining the Director's Guild of America (DGA) if you are based in the United States.

How to Be a Film Director

As a DGA member, you are guaranteed a salary of $160,000 for 10 weeks. To qualify, you usually need to be hired by a signatory company, but there is also a chance to succeed independently.

While there are initial fees and ongoing dues, the benefits of DGA membership, such as stable income and support, make it a valuable investment, especially if your projects could be more consistently steady.

Enjoy Your Fantastic Work

Achieving your goal is important, but it's also crucial to find joy and appreciation in your job. Despite the occasional stress, your work should bring you a great sense of satisfaction. Your tasks will vary depending on the stage of the film you're working on.

How to Be a Film Director

In the pre-production phase, you'll turn the script into a visual masterpiece. This involves managing logistics, casting, and other essential details, and it is arguably the most critical stage.

During production, you'll be fulfilling the traditional director role. You'll communicate your vision to the actors and guide them through scenes. You'll also face the pressure of meeting tight deadlines to create a masterpiece. It may be chaotic, but it will also be exhilarating.

In post-production, you'll collaborate with the editing team to bring everything together. Building strong relationships with your editors is crucial to ensure alignment with your vision. During this phase, you'll also work on incorporating music and refining all the finer details to create a cohesive final product.

Try not to Let a Lack of Recognition Upset You

Directors in the film industry are often overlooked when a movie succeeds but are quick to be blamed when it fails.

How to Be a Film Director

Even if a film is a hit, actors usually receive more praise. The public underappreciates directors and are often the ones held responsible for any issues on set. It's a tough cycle to navigate, but directors must learn to accept it to succeed in the industry.


Becoming a film director requires dedication, creativity, and the ability to turn ideas into reality. It is a highly competitive field that may take years to break into, but if it is your true passion, it is worth pursuing wholeheartedly.

Some key steps to becoming a film director include watching films critically, making short films, learning how to act, reading other people's scripts, considering film school, working as part of a production crew, and networking. As you progress, you can broaden your experience by directing music videos, TV shows, and commercials and entering your short films into film festivals.

Building an impressive reel or portfolio, developing people skills, and getting an agent are important steps towards hitting the big time. Finally, finding joy and appreciation in your job as a film director, despite the lack of recognition that often comes with it, is crucial.

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