Movie directors are the consummate storytellers. People like George Lucas, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola capture the imagination of the public by choosing the right actors and then getting them to perform at a high level, setting up film shots, pacing scenes and then working with an editor to create the best story. Directors are responsible for the overall vision of a movie, working to develop all creative aspects of the project, and assembling the right team to help accomplish the goal. There is no one clear path to becoming a movie director -- but there are many steps you can take to eventually sit comfortably in the director's chair.
Assess and Develop Your Skills
Determine whether you have what it takes to be a director. Directors are good leaders, have an imaginative vision and are creative storytellers. They communicate their vision to everyone from producers and investors to actors and technicians. They are intricately familiar with the technical side of the filmmaking process and pay close attention to detail. They are good with budgets, casting and can compose and edit shots. Develop these attributes by watching and analyzing movies. Immerse yourself in the experience and then begin to pay close attention to plot, theme, shot sizes, structures, angles and lighting. Learn how to work a camera and edit movies. Possessing these skills teaches you how to get the right shot and to use the language of movie-making.
Attend Film School
Film schools can help launch your career as a director if you take advantage of the experience. The Princeton Review reports that "nearly all film directors are film school graduates." While it is not enough to simply have a degree, film schools can teach you discipline and several different job positions that will inform your skills as a movie director. Take advantage of the time in film school and the people you meet to start shooting your own films so you have a reel to show potential employers. Many schools require students to shoot a short film before they can graduate.
Just as an author needs to read books in her genre, a movie director must make a habit of reading shooting scripts. A shooting script is the screenplay that is used on the set and typically includes scene numbers, camera and direction angles, detailed special effects, detailed stunt work and action sequences, specific information on sets, costumes, lighting and any special notations about acting. A director must be able to recognize good screenplays and what elements will translate well to the screen. To do this, find shooting scripts of movies that have been nominated or won an Oscar or other similar award for best picture or screenplay. Some places to find online scripts include SimplyScripts.com and The Screenplay Database.
Nothing replaces experience. A director directs. No one will hire a director who doesn't have a reel. Stanley Kubrick, director of such films as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange" and "Full Metal Jacket" is quoted on LAVideoFilmmaker.com as saying, "The best thing that young filmmakers can do is to get a hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all." Some directors direct stage productions or get jobs on films doing jobs other than directing. Some work their way up as assistant or associate directors, though both these routes require you to start making a reel of your own work. Many directors first become independent filmmakers, self-financing their work.
The more you direct, the better you will get. Writing and directing short films are great ways to develop your skills while building up your reel. You'll learn about every aspect of the directing business, from auditioning to lighting, to scoring to editing. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money either. Contact local community theaters and ask whether they have actors willing to volunteer their time. If you can't afford fancy equipment, start out using a smartphone for shooting video and get some decent sound equipment. Keep creating and learn from your mistakes.
As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.