Do you want to be the next Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola or Ang Lee? Do you want to see your creative ideas flourish on the silver screen? Do you want to be the big cheese of the film industry? Well then, keep reading and find out how to become a film director. Who knows? Pretty soon, you might be receiving your Academy Award for Best Director!
Film directors have ultimate control over the creative side of a film production. They are responsible for making a film as powerful, entertaining and effective as possible. Without skilful direction, a well-written film with an excellent cast of actors can fail. Everyone who plays a part in the production of a film is important, but the film director is (arguably) the most vital member of the team.
They work alongside each and every member of the film production team, from the actors and producers to the lighting technicians and camera operators. They direct everyone else, asking them to perform certain tasks or act in a certain way, in order to visualise their creative ideas on the screen. The style, the pace and the impact of a film is dictated by the director. They oversee everything, from casting and set design to lighting and editing.
Some film directors may even write and edit the film scripts which they are responsible for transforming into fully-fledged film productions. As well as using their creative ideas and decision-making skills to produce effective cinema, directors must also have the ability to lead a team of talented professionals.
Salary & benefits
Understandably, film directors don’t tend to earn an annual salary. They are paid on a film-by-film basis. How much a director can earn really depends on the type of films that they work on. Directors can earn anywhere between £10,000 (for a short film) and upwards of £1,000,000 (for an internationally successful feature film).
As you become more established as a director, you may start taking a percentage of what the film earns at the box office, rather than receiving a set fee. This can be a particularly lucrative way of getting paid, particularly if the film is a box office smash.
If you become a film director, you won’t be clocking-off at 5pm every day. Expect to be working long, irregular and unsociable hours. The nature of film production means that filming can take place at any time of the day. You may even be required to work at the weekend from time to time.
You will also usually find yourself working in a variety of different places, i.e. in studios, offices and on-set in remote locations.
It’s not completely necessary to have an academic background in film or media production. However, studying at film school can be a good way of developing your skills and knowledge before entering the industry as a director.
During your degree, you will be taught the various aspects of production and you’ll be given the chance to develop your understanding of what happens on-set. Studying film can also help you to develop your own creative ideas as you draw inspiration from other directors.
However, when it all comes down to it, the best thing that you can do is get plenty of work experience. Most directors work their way up from the bottom. Perhaps consider working as a runner or production assistant. This will allow you to gain valuable on-set experience and build up a list of contacts in the industry.
You can also make short films in your spare time, which will help you to refine your skills and cultivate your own film-making style.
Training & progression
There are no formal training programmes for aspiring directors. All your training will be done on the job in a lower-level position, such as a runner or production assistant.
A director needs to understand all the different aspects of how a film is made, so working in a generalist assistant position is a great way to immerse yourself in the industry and pick up different ideas and skills.
As you gain more experience and establish yourself as a director, experimentation is the key to development. You’ll need to push yourself and try out different things.
Once you have a few films under your belt, the sky is the limit. You could be the next Spielberg, earning millions and inspiring generations of people all over the world.