You’ve just reached a eureka moment. After watching a gazillion awe-inspiring movies, you realize that you no longer just want to be a film enthusiast — you want to become a movie director yourself!
Chris Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Zack Snyder, Peter Jackson — these are filmmakers you look up to and aspire to become. Right now, they are all staring at you from that shelf where you have all your DVD collection stacked, and they want you to go for your dream!
Okay, so that might seem a little over-the-top. But how did these fabulous filmmakers get to where they’re at? What does it take to become a formidable and well-respected movie director? Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Movie Director?
Being a movie director is not just a position of prestige — it involves tackling a lot of roles and responsibilities. It is, perhaps, the ultimate measure when it comes to the art of filmmaking. Directing a film means owning the visual, dramatic, and artistic aspects of the movie.
As a movie director, you get to pick and manage a team of screenwriters, cast members, production designers, etc. and practically lead them in every creative aspect of the process.
Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And he is absolutely right. To succeed as a movie director, you need to be both a visionary and a great team leader.
So how do you begin the process of becoming one? Some filmmakers start at the bottom rung and work their way up by becoming experts in the field. Others begin somewhere in the middle — working as part of a production team, as film editors, or screenwriters. And of course, there are those who pursue their dreams early on by going to film schools.
Whichever path you choose, your goal is to acquire the knowledge and experience required of a movie director in order to meet the lofty standards of the film industry.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Movie Director?
Being a movie director is a herculean feat. It requires a lot of patience and tenacity. To survive and thrive in this industry, leadership, as well as technical and organizational skills are imperative.
1. The foremost responsibilities of a movie director are to translate the script into a full-fledged film and to organize the creative process involved in filmmaking.
2. A movie director needs to have a deep understanding of both the artistic and technical components of film production. He should be able to delegate roles and responsibilities to each crew member in order to achieve his creative vision.
3. Being a filmmaker entails having the creativity, patience, and fortitude for the job. It requires an artistic eye and a lot of imagination. You also need the ability to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively.
4. Filmmaking can be very stressful and fast-paced. As the team leader, a movie director needs to be as level-headed as possible all throughout the process of creating the film.
5. A filmmaker also needs to be a good mediator, especially in dealing with conflicts between crew members.
6. A movie director works with the producer(s) and the studio which finances the project. In the scheme of things, it is the director’s task to make creative decisions while working around the limitations of the film’s budget and the requirements set by the producer and the studio.
8. Post-production is also one of a film director’s major responsibilities. A director needs to work closely with the film editor to realize his vision. The film editor then assembles an editor’s cut based on the director’s initial input.
9. After viewing the editor’s cut, the movie director evaluates the material and gives more input regarding improvements and enhancements. With the director’s feedback in mind, the film editor then edits the material to accommodate the director’s cut.
10. The final cut privilege is often bestowed upon reputable and well-established film directors. However, the producer and the studio can also opt to decide on the film’s final cut without having to ask for the director’s consent.
11. If you’re an independent filmmaker, chances are you will have a limited film budget. Indie film directors often have to wear many hats — they can also be the producer, writer, and editor of the whole project.
Now that you have a clear idea of what it entails to become a movie director, the best thing to do is to get started the RIGHT way. Hopefully, these tips will guide you through the course of pursuing a fulfilling and meaningful career in filmmaking.
How to Get Started
To become a successful movie director, think and act like one. The road to becoming a filmmaker will be paved with a lot of challenges, so you’re better off getting a head start in training yourself to become one.
1. Be Critical of the Movies You Watch
As a film enthusiast and a filmmaker aspirant, you need to start viewing films more critically — the devil is in the details, so to speak. A word of warning though: this may lessen your viewing pleasure and “willing suspension of disbelief.”
Do this exercise by concentrating on the technical aspects of the film and make a list of mistakes you’ll see along the way — note down things like storyline continuity, errors in editing and acting, audio-video lock and all other mistakes you’ll come across.
You can also go about the process systematically. If you want to focus on the continuity aspect, mute the volume so you can focus on the visuals. Then you can focus on the dialog and analyze if there are gaps in the storytelling. Be mindful of the soundtrack vs. the dialogue as well. For example, are there parts of the movie where the soundtrack overpowers the conversation?
2. Read Scripts to Gain a Better Understanding of the Storytelling Process
The filmmaker’s foremost task is to translate a script into a visual story. Reading a script requires a lot of imagination — visualize each scene in your head and how you would go about shooting each of them. What’s the lighting going to be like? How do you work the camera angles? Translating words into visuals is a good exercise in stirring your imagination and honing your technical skills in filmmaking. If you’re planning to write your own screenplays, reading other people’s scripts will also give you a better perspective.
3. Make Your Own Short Films
The best way to train is to get your feet wet. A director needs to be well-rounded in all aspects — screenwriting, filming, editing, etc. You will definitely need a script to work with — you can either write a screenplay yourself or work on an existing one. Round up your friends and form a crew then start shooting scenes with them. Edit your footages with basic editing programs. And while you’re at it, start building an impressive portfolio to showcase your best work. Doing a little photography on the side will also train your eye when it comes to lighting.
4. Take Acting Lessons If You Can
Acting is another discipline you need to dabble in because you will work closely with actors all throughout the filming process. You need to understand the way actors think, the language they speak, and the acting methods they use. You can either take acting lessons or do some self-training by acting in your own short films.
5. Mingle With People Through Networking
This applies to almost every career choice, not just filmmaking. It pays to network with people from the film industry to get your foot in the door. This way, you will also learn to interact and build relationships with people in general. Being a “people person” is a characteristic of a good movie director. Leading a team of crew members is certainly not an easy task — you need all the people skills you can get.
6. Film School Is Always a Good Option
Nothing can be better than educating yourself to the teeth, but not everyone can afford to go to film school. This is not a requirement per se, but a degree in filmmaking is definitely good to have when you’re pursuing a career in the film industry.
Besides learning the necessary skill set, film school also presents opportunities to network with the right people. It’s like buying a VIP ticket to a concert — you will definitely get what you pay for.
In pursuing your dream of becoming a movie director (or any other dream for that matter), the most important thing is to always remain focused and motivated. All these tips and advice can only guide you through your journey. The road ahead can get really challenging, sometimes even frustrating with roadblocks along the way.
But with discipline, patience, perseverance, and a lot of creativity you’ll eventually get there. Start writing, shooting and editing, and just keep at it until you reach your goals.