A film director is the most competitive job role in the film industry. Almost every person in the film industry has dreamt of directing at some point. But how you work up into this role is different for everyone. There are lots of work paths you can take to become a film and TV director.
On this page, we list everything you need to know about becoming a director. We break down the job role including duties, education, career route, salary, and how to find work.
What is a Film Director?
A director is the driving force behind a film project. They direct the actors and lead the film until it’s completed. Typically the producer hires the director with the screenwriter during the start of pre production. Sometimes the director writes the screenplay themselves.
The job role of a film director can change per project. On some film sets, the director is the most powerful person with full creative control. On other sets, the director needs to direct a project with set visuals. For example, directing an episode of a TV show.
What Does a Film Director Do?
When you think of a film director, you likely imagine someone famous. However, there are many thousands of directors working on a variety of projects.
Directors can work on anything from broadcast TV shows and sports events to animations and even game design. A director might be hired for a day’s work or brought onto a project for many years.
Often, directors are self-employed but can work full-time on TV shows. For example, ongoing shows such as soap operas and news might hire full-time directors. In addition, some media and creative jobs have in house directors.
Film Director Job Description
Directors are freelancers who work within an above the line job role. However, they sometimes work full-time on TV shows. It’s the job of the director to imagine the script for the screen. Their first job is to read the script and help the producer to hire key roles.
The director is also in charge of casting and making final cast decisions. They work closely with the producer during the planning stage to get the project ready for filming. The prep includes finding locations, approving costumes, and rehearsing scenes with actors.
During filming, they will direct the actors and have the final say on any creative decisions. The director is the leader of the film set and guides the whole crew through filming. After filming, they will lead their edit until the final cut.
Firstly, the director will read the screenplay and imagine the film for the screen. They will create storyboards, cast actors, and hire the key crew. In addition, they will have production meetings, rehearsals and help to plan the overall film shoot.
- Read and visualize the screenplay
- Hire the key crew with the producer
- Cast actors with the casting director
- Help to plan and organize the shoot
During filming, the director is always on set. At the start of the day, they will block the scene with the actors. Then, when the camera is set up they will direct the scene and approve each shot. It’s the director’s job to get the most out of the actors and lead the crew.
- Block the scene with actors
- Direct all of the action for the screen
- Lead and work with all of the crew
- Approve all creative decisions
Finally, it’s the director’s job to watch over the edit and approve the final cut. The director will make the decision on the final cut with the producer. They will also attend film festivals, the premier, and press events to help promote and market the film.
- Watch over the editing
- Approve the final cut
- Help to promote the film
Education and Skills
A film director doesn’t need a degree, but attending a film school can teach you the basics. What is important is that you understand the entire filmmaking process from start to finish. You will also need to practice directing by making your own short films.
When you have enough directing experience, you should put together a portfolio. Before you apply for agents and directing jobs, you will need a portfolio of work credits. Networking is the most important part of finding work in the film industry. Producers will hire those they know and trust first. So, learning how to pitch your projects is a helpful skill.
Key Director Skills:
- Leadership and teamwork
- Imagination and creativity
- Film production knowledge
- Pitching and networking
Film Director Career Route
The film director is an above the line job role in the film industry. There is no one way to work up to this role. You can start your career as a PA and work in any department. This route will allow you to learn how a film set works whilst making industry contacts.
Another route is to practice directing by making short films and other low-budget projects. Some directors also start out in theatre, which lets them practice working with directors. You can also start on a low budget and work your way up to high-budget projects.
Once again, there is no set route into this role. What matters is that you fully understand the industry and gain skills within your job role. Because people will hire you based on recommendations, you need to learn to network and make contacts in the industry.
Film Director Salary
As with all above the line roles, the film director’s salary is highly negotiable. However, you can expect anywhere from 2-5% of the film’s overall budget. So, the bigger the budget, the more money you will make per project.
Another key factor determining your salary is whether or not you are part of a film union. If you are in America, being part of a union is integral to getting paid fairly. If you have an agent, they will also help to negotiate and help you get a good salary.
The directors guild of America provides a recommended minimum of $20,616 per week for theatrical releases. These terms come with a minimum of 10 weeks of work, so at least $206,160 per project. Although more experienced directors will make a higher salary.
At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. In addition, large TV studios, frequently hire staff for freelance and full-time job roles. You can also directly contact local production companies and ask for work experience. Many directors start out as runners and production assistants.
When it comes to finding film directing work, you will need to network in the industry. Film producers will hire those they know and trust first. You can network at film festivals and by working in the industry.
Another route is to create your own film projects and find funding. To do this, you will need to find a producer yourself and apply for funding opportunities. It’s common to fund a project through a mix of resources, such as crowdfunding, tax incentives, and grants.
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|Entertainment Careers advertises jobs in the film and TV industry across the US. It specializes in work for production companies in the Los Angeles region. Their website makes it easy to narrow down your search by job type, experience level, media sector, and location.||The Dots advertises creative work in the UK including job placements in film and TV. You can specify if you are looking for freelance or full-time work. In addition, they have a section for user job postings which you can also use to find collaborations.|
In short, film directing is very competitive. It can take longer than other job roles to make a living solely from it. You will need to fully understand the filmmaking process.
You will need to learn to work with actors and be able to direct under considerable pressure. If you enjoy making films you can still do this as a hobby without the hardship of making a career out of it.