How Much Does a Film Director Make in a Year and Other Career Questions

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The occupation of the film director, the individual who drives the vision of a film and the representation of the script’s story, is one of considerable prestige.

Following is a consideration of the key elements of what it is to be a film director, how much they make, and how to begin down the path to becoming one.

What Is A Film Director?

The director in the most basic sense is tasked with translating the words of a script into moving pictures.

The screenwriter provides the foundation of the film, the story, and settings, and scenes that backbone the telling of the tale.

It is the task of the director to create the visual presentation of the screenplay, inventing visual representations of the story’s theme.

Further, the director is in charge of the actors, as they are the artistic head of the film.

The high level of specificity of occupations in the film industry must be recognized by the aspiring director as without focus one may move into alternative facets of the entertainment industry.

While elite directors may also write their own works, in general, film occupations follow a sharp division of labor.

Writers provide screenplays, producers provide production support, and directors direct the projects. Upon gaining notoriety, a director may gain the ability to write their own work, although at the outset, when developing skill, focusing upon exclusively directing will increase your chances of doing it professionally.

Why Are They Important?

ideas of a film director

Directors are the choreographers of the various players and settings presented within a film. It is through the director that the actors are aligned with the story and the features being employed to represent it.

Stories in a film are told both visually and through audio, portrayed by the cinematographer through visuals and by the actors through spoken word.

The director is important as they provide the direction that guides the visual interpretation of the script in concert with the actors’ interpretations of the characters.

Pre-Production Planning

The first element of the director’s performance comes during the pre-production phase when much of the essential planning is performed. The director and others including the set production designers, cinematographers, and other professionals collaborate in terms of the artistic angle to employ. This includes the casting, shot selection, style, color schemes, and other thematic elements.

Upon having determined the artistic characteristics of the production, the practical elements are then planned for. T

The scheduling of production, locations to be filmed at, and design of production alongside the final casting are all determined during pre-production.

It is during the planning process that is executed during the pre-production phase that the ultimate quality of the production is determined. Thus, pre-production planning on behalf of the director determines the character of the film.

Production and Performance

The production phase is the most important facet of the director’s performance. It is the part of film production most commonly associated with the director.

During the production phase, the director guides the realization of the story by leading and directing the set through which the film is made.

The director is in charge of the actors and cinematographers, determining the way in which the story is visually presented and shot by production.

The director is the person who calls “Action!” and leads the outset of filming.

It is during the production phase that the director is capable of exerting the greatest influence over the film. The director is shaping and directing the performance of the actors and cinematographers to ideally achieve a feel to the film that is unique and distinct to the director.

Directors achieve fame through their unique styles, with stylistic flair and a unique directing eye providing the foundation for notorious directors such as Quentin Tarantino.


During the post-production phase, all the elements of the film are assembled together to generate the final product.

The director works alongside the editor during this process, selecting the scenes that will go into the final cut, and the variations on those scenes ultimately used from amongst the many takes shot during production.

It is through this process that the film itself is constructed from among the many scenes shot. Then, form the final product from the many elements produced to align with the director’s interpretation of the script.

Annual Salary and Other Career Questions


The income of the film director can vary widely, depending upon the size and scale of production, and the notoriety of the director.

The most highly respected television commercial director may earn less than a notice director on a feature film.

Famous directors may earn millions of dollars for their contributions to the artistic representation of a film’s story.

Film directors earn an average of around $90,000 annually, starting at about $32,000 and going up to around $190,000. The average hourly wage of the film director is $45.

Directors are broken into the following categories

  • executive director
  • senior film director
  • mid-level film director
  • junior film director, and
  • entry-level film director

The level of the director on the production affects their compensation, in addition to their notoriety.

Directors who earn money for their work reach their position through hard work, skill, persistence, and also a certain level of luck.

Reaching producers with the ability to make movies, and the agents and managers with connections to these producers are necessary for the aspiring director to connect with funded projects and to have the ability to influence actual productions.

Achieving paid work as a director is the hardest part. But, upon reaching that level, the work becomes easier to acquire the greater the level of exposure of the director.

The Importance of Consuming Film

To add to your potential value as a director, it is important to both read and watches films and related theory on an ongoing basis.

A common question is whether aspiring directors should both watch and read more, with experts suggesting reading and watching are a part of the progression of a director.

Observing successful films is a fine way to observe expert actors performing their craft. And to then consider the role of the director behind the lens who facilitated the performance.

Studying Scripts

Throughout the initial development process of the aspiring director, reading scripts is essential. Scripts provide the building blocks of film, and it is through the interpretation of the script that the director generates the visual representation of the film.

Reading scripts encourages the aspiring director to visualize the way in which scripts are depicted, and can then refer to the actually produced film to see how the director did, in fact, visualize the ultimate production of the film.

Understanding the style of various screenwriters is important for the director, as no two screenwriters are alike.

It is the task of the screenwriter to interpret the vision of the screenwriter through their own understanding of the story.

Through reading a number of screenplays, the director is able to better recognize the style of a screenwriter to in turn inject this into their interpretation of the story.

To translate the script into reality, it is also essential for the director to understand people, as it is through the direction of actors, people, that the director realizes their vision.

Gaining Exposure

A truly fantastic film may never achieve notoriety without exposure, which is achieved through the comprehensive efforts of many elements of a film’s production.

The marketing and advertising of a film are essential to its success, with the fame of key elements of the film, including the actor and directors, further driving the exposure of a film.

For a film by an unknown director to gain broad exposure, entry into film festivals can provide a useful strategy.

Film festivals expose films by largely unknown directors and actors to producers with the ability to realize broader distribution of the film, supporting its prospects for success.

For the upstart director, film festivals provide a competitive means of demonstrating directorial ability in low-budget productions that can lead to larger productions and control over bigger projects.


The director is one of the essential building blocks of a film.

Essentially the producer provides the money, the screenwriter provides the story, and through production design and the directing of actors, the director brings it all to life.

The style of production and the performance delivered by the actors is all guided by the director, with the director being the individual who ultimately impresses the most upon a film.

To become a director, you must understand the importance of the story, and be able to tell a story through a unique lens.

A Tim Burton film is decidedly a film by Tim Burton, whether in Claymation or shot with real actors, demonstrating the versatility of directors, and their ability to maintain a consistent style across mediums.

Notorious directors reach the position through a thorough understanding of all aspects of the film, and their specific role in the creation of fine cinema.

Becoming a film director takes dedication and vision, get to studying film today if you dream of seeing your visions on the silver screen.



Featured Image: CC0 by Klaus Hausmann via Pixabay

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