Film/Movie Director  What They Do

Just the Facts

Directors - Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio Career Video

Insider Info

dotDirectors are the true authors of a film. They translate the written word and bring it to life with sounds, lighting, setting and action. A director is responsible for everything on or off the screen, working in each creative phase of filmmaking and molding them into one dramatic whole.

dotA director plans a film before visiting the set. One of the first steps of preparation is the storyboard, a series of drawings that lay out how a script will be shot. These sketches represent key scenes and demonstrate camera angles and character movement. A director may also put together a shot list.

dotDirectors spend their time in a variety of places, climates and environments. An on-location shoot may mean working at night or in rain or heat. Days can be long. During shooting, workweeks can extend to seven days. When they're not shooting a movie, directors spend time in editing suites getting the film ready.

dotDirectors work intimately with actors to bring characters to life. They do whatever it takes to ensure an actor's performance is top notch.

dotElia Kazan, director of such classic films as Gentleman's Agreement and A Streetcar Named Desire, has this advice for those considering a career in directing: Be familiar with the literature of all periods -- a film director is better equipped if he or she is well read. Understand the art of the screenplay, since the screenplay is ultimately the responsibility of the director. Know the history of stage scenery, setting, costuming and lighting and the tools of the trade. Know how to motivate and inspire actors.

dotBreaking into the industry is difficult. Make as many short films as possible in school, and submit your work to local or international film festivals. Take part in high school and college plays or work with little theaters and other acting groups. The best way to start is to use local opportunities and build on them. Don't aim for the top right away.

"Movies and film -- the entertainment business -- isn't like other businesses in terms of moving up the ranks. You can go from zero to the top in one step if you have talent, or beauty, or striking good looks or remarkable luck," says director David Schmoeller. "The film business is almost 100 percent word of mouth. It's really who you know."

dotMinimum salaries, hours of work and other conditions of employment may be covered in collective bargaining agreements between producers and unions representing workers.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Translate the written word and bring it to life with sounds, setting and action

  • Directors spend their time in a variety of places, climates and environments
  • You have to know how to motivate actors
  • Technical skills and talent are the recipes for success