How Do I Become a Commercial Director?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

No one path exists to become a commercial director, but most people get into the industry by getting some experience in film or a related industry, or by assisting other directors while working to build their portfolios. A specific degree in commercial directing does not exist, but formal education is possible through related degrees.

Automobile commercials are one of the most popular niches for commercial directors.
Automobile commercials are one of the most popular niches for commercial directors.

Directing is an art field, meaning that anyone who wants to become a commercial director has to be creative and have a sense of vision. This is what allows a commercial or other director to present advertising in a new, fresh and inviting way. Creativity does not negate the need for a basic understanding of marketing and directing tools and terminology, however. Several degrees offer some or all of this information.

Many cinematography schools allow students the opportunity to make their own commercials during their studies.
Many cinematography schools allow students the opportunity to make their own commercials during their studies.

An ideal degree to pursue to become a commercial director is a film degree. It is possible to specialize in a particular area within this degree, such as editing or scriptwriting. Another good option is a marketing degree. Other educational paths such as cinematography, acting, drama, writing, communications or arts management also can work.

Field experience is a must-have regardless of whether a person decides to get formal training toward a commercial directing career. Many people who want to become a commercial director have acting experience, for example, serving in community plays or independent productions. Others take entry-level positions on production sets, assisting current directors. These jobs are crucial only because they build a person's resume, but also because they allow the individual to network within the arts and advertising industries.

Once a person has some education, experience and networking accomplished, he can start to produce some independent commercials, usually for local agencies. They do not provide a lot of exposure, but they count toward the portfolio an individual has specifically related to commercial directing. With these work examples, new directors can submit applications for larger projects.

One thing that often helps a person become a commercial director is concentrating on a specific niche. For example, he could concentrate on food commercials or advertising clothes. This helps the director hone in on how to market a specific product, which results in better portfolio material. This does not prevent a director from exploring multiple options and creating specific portfolios for individual commercial markets. It simply means that the director's value to a commercial production company increases with expertise — knowing one industry well is better than knowing many industries to a minimal extent.

Commercial directors may have different ways to highlight a product.
Commercial directors may have different ways to highlight a product.

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