How To Become A Director: 21 Steps to Achieve Success

A film director is the person in charge of a production set – making all of the big decisions, directing the action of the film and cast and crew, and quite literally bringing a script to life by controlling the project’s dramatic and artistic elements. In order to earn your place in such an essential role, it’s important that you spend some time learning about the industry and developing your skills.

How to Become a Director

To become a successful director, you should follow a few critical steps, such as:

1. Learn the Basics of Cinema and Film

Learning film history and theory are key to become a successful director. By familiarizing yourself with the lingo, equipment, and strategies often used in this line of work, you will be better prepared when it comes time to make your own masterpieces. Additionally, it can also be helpful to understand exactly what kind of role that directors play during every stage of production. The stages and responsibilities are:

  • Development: The director often works with a producer, storyboard artist, and graphic designer to create a vision for the project, called a pitch deck.
  • Pre-Production: Pre-production for a director involves working with all of the production crew heads to decide on key details.
  • Principal Photography: Production, also known as principal photography, is when the actual filming takes place. Each day, the director goes through the dailies to choose scenes for the film editor.
  • Post-Production: During post-production, edits are made to create the final product. Cinematographers and colorists work to ensure the imagery is properly colorized.
  • Distribution: This is when the director follows the film to promotional events and festivals to answer questions about their artistic choices.

2. Watch Films Critically

Instead of focusing on the most notable elements, consider things like the mise-en-scène, which literally translates as “placing on stage,” as well as the soundtrack and the dialogue.

3. Develop Your Soft Skills

Directors should possess a number of skills and personality traits, like communication, self-motivation, focus, and problem-solving. Communication and interpersonal skills are especially important because directors deal with a variety of people, and, in a lot of ways, their role resembles a management position. Directors have to work with a number of key production personnel, including the:

4. Make Your Own Short Films

5. Learn Acting Lingo and How to Act

Film directors and actors work closely together. By learning how to act, you can learn the most effective ways to direct actors. Directors that would rather focus on imagery than dealing with actors may be more interested in becoming a cinematographer.

6. Read Other People’s Scripts

You can find screenplays on websites like:

7. Develop Your Storytelling Skills by Writing Screenplays

Learn how to write a screenplay and then put those skills to use as often as you can. Once you’ve written a script, have others read it and evaluate your work.

8. Stay Current With the Trades

Popular trade publications include:

9. Consider Film School

In most cases, it’s wise for directors to attend film school and earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Not only do film schools provide essential technical training, but they also give you plenty of opportunities to practice the craft and receive constructive criticism. Aspiring film directors can pursue a wide range of digital media degree programs, including:

10. Gain Industry Experience

Even now-famous directors got their start somewhere. Many aspiring directors start as a production assistant. Additionally, within the directing department, there is a hierarchy, with the director at the top. Under them there is a:

11. Find Your Directing Style

Finding your personal voice or style is a process of trial and error. Experiment with different approaches, make the experience personal, draw from your influences, and connect with your characters.

12. Network

Most of the time, you are afforded more opportunities when you know more people, which is why it’s important for you to network by attending industry events.

13. Get Other Directing Gigs

Realistically, experience is the main way to start getting paid gigs as a director. Apply for programs and pick up directing work where you can find it to gain valuable experience; just make sure that you gain exposure. Once they start getting paid gigs, directors make about $74,420 per year on average. They can be found on the set of:

  • A TV Drama or Film: Film directors are usually freelance and in charge of managing a number of departments.
  • Commercials and Promos: Agencies usually have a list of preferred directors that they work with for certain clients.
  • A Documentary: When working on a documentary, directors typically have a lot of creative freedom and are often involved in the project from conception.
  • A Corporate Film: These projects often include:
    • Online commercials
    • Charity films
    • Promotional content
    • Internal communications
    • Industrial films
    • Consumer testimonials
    • Training videos

14. Continue to Make More Advanced Short Films

Collaborate with other people you’ve met in the industry to practice your skills and add to your reel.

15. Enter Your Work Into Film Festivals

If you make a short you’re proud of, enter it into film festivals to build your reputation and gain recognition.

16. Build a Strong Portfolio, or Reel

Producers and film distributors are really just looking for proof that you can make something worthwhile. Since this is a director’s portfolio, include:

  • Education
  • Resume
  • Contact information
  • Clips that showcase your writing, cinematography, and editing skills
  • Achievements and film festivals entered
  • Additional experience
  • Storyboards and stills

17. Hire an Agent

An agent can really help you network and get the exposure you need.

18. Don’t Get Discouraged by a Lack of Recognition

Directors are rarely recognized as much as actors for their wonderful work.

19. Join the Union

Become a member of the Directors Guild of America after you have established your career. Some additional helpful resources for directors include:

20. Advance Your Career

The best way to advance as a director is to foster positive, trusting relationships. A director’s lifestyle varies depending on how many projects they’re working on at the time. They could constantly work for months and then have no work for a while until the next project starts.

21. Enjoy Your Dream Job

You’ve accomplished your goal, so don’t forget to take some time to appreciate how far you’ve come.

Directing is undoubtedly one of the most important jobs in the industry and for good reason. It takes skills, talent, and experience to become a successful director. At Nashville Film Institute, we are as passionate about this incredible industry as you are. We’re here to help you hone your raw talent and teach you the technical skills you need to excel. Apply today and kickstart your film career.

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