What is a Film Director?

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  • Originally Written By: R. Kayne
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2020
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A film director is a person who coordinates and oversees the creation of a film or movie, and has ultimate decision-making power over creative and financial decisions. Directors usually get involved with film projects from the very beginning, and are typically invested in things like script editing long before actors are ever recruited or cast. There are a lot of things this person does, including managing daily filming, organizing lighting and sound checks, and deciding when scenes need to be re-shot. On the whole, though, organization and leadership are at the core of this person’s job. There are many different people who must work to put a film together, but the director is the one who has the final say and, ultimately, who assumes the most risk when it comes to the ultimate success or failure of the project.

Personal Vision

Directors typically have the autonomy and power to choose their own projects, which usually starts with reading and selecting scripts that are available for production. In some cases, directors can actually commission scripts, usually as book adaptations but sometimes also as original creative projects, often from writers who are particularly well known or who have a previous working relationship with the director.


When a director reads a script he or she develops a personal vision for how that story should be told. Whether it is a dark tale, a story of triumph, or one of passion, the director's unique vision will be responsible for presenting it in a way that no other director would. A director sees beyond the words on the page to a moving picture with specific shots, lighting, mood, nuance and emotion — all visually created for the screen. In some ways, this “look” can work as a sort of signature from the director. Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Allen, for example, all famous directors, each leave their distinctive mark on every film they make which makes the movies recognizable in a number of subtle ways.

Script Edits

If the initial script needs work, the director will typically make suggestions to the writer and will also usually start putting together a creative team to discuss how to film the various scenes and where and how to arrange the sets. He or she will be responsible for approving each and every camera angle, lens effect, lighting choice, and set design The director may at this point bring key crew members to the project that he or she has successfully worked with in the past.

Casting and Actor Relations

The director also works closely with the cast. This person is usually present during casting meetings and try-outs, and usually gets a chance to meet with actors who are contenders for the starring roles. Teams of casting professionals are usually responsible for actually running these trials, but the director’s influence is often really important.

Once the actors have been selected, the director is typically the person responsible for their work on set. He or she will usually hold a meeting before each scene to do what’s called a “run through,” during which the actors simply read through the script and get a feel for the pacing of the dialogue and the emotions of the characters. In many cases the whole movie is rehearsed this way around a table or in a studio room before the actual staging begins. This sort of relaxed rehearsal gives the director a feel for how each actor will play the scene long before the shooting actually begins. If needed, the director can provide motivational insight or tweak performances by making suggestions. Listening to the ideas and feelings of the actors is also really important.

Although a director is responsible for the vision behind a film, a good director also listens to his crew and cast and works collaboratively. There are many talented people involved in the making of a film and utilizing each person's talent is what makes a director, and the film, a success.

On-Set Duties

Most directors are present for the actual filming, and are usually free to jump in and catch problems as they arise. Directors can pause the cameras to readjust lighting or change a set around, for instance, or can ask that actors try again if something about the scene doesn’t seem right. This professional often spends a lot of time thinking about how things should go, then adjusting them in real time so they fit that vision.

Studio executives and executive producers — the people who are actually bankrolling the project in most cases — often visit the set to make sure the project is on schedule and on budget, and the director usually has to work to manage their concerns, too. He or she often acts as their host, walking them through the film-in-progress, justifying decisions, and answering questions. The director will work with the studio execs to make sure they're happy about how the film is progressing.

Editing and Post-Production

At the end of the shooting day, the director, along with the producer and key crew members, typically screen that day's footage in what are called dailies. Here they can see if scenes will need to be re-shot. The director will also be involved in post-production when the film gets edited into its final form, and will make any final tweaks before the whole thing is approved and sent to the studio.

Getting Started in the Field

It isn’t always easy to become a film director. On a small scale, almost anyone can get started with home movies and independent projects, but actually making money from the position and using it as a full-time career usually involves a lot of expertise as well as a lot of powerful industry connections. Many of the most famous movie directors have university training in cinema arts, as well as years of experience in Hollywood working on films in various capacities. Once directors make a name for themselves — usually by releasing a hit film or getting a good reputation from actors and producers — they typically find themselves with plenty of work opportunities, though getting to this point often takes years of trying.


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Discuss this Article

Post 19

directors in film don't get a fixed salary. It is is closely based in with the budget of a film. They receive credits. I am a degree student studying film and video production. If you love film and are creative, it is the most exciting career to have.

Post 18

i want to become a director. what is the age to join a director's course?

Post 17

I can't find any Employment Legislation (e.g. health and safety, equal opportunities, rights, liability, trade unions and copyright). And that's all i need to finish my media essay.

Post 16

Thank you so much anon62567!

Post 13

I'm having to do a brochure on a film director and I'm kind of having trouble but thanks for the information!

Post 12

Dear c99betty: Being a film director is a creative profession. Making movies is like making art. You can be almost anybody from anywhere in the world and become a successful film director if you have a good creative mind. All you need is some academic course to get familiar with the technical aspects. There aren't many women directors out there, but it should not be discouraging for women to come in the profession.

Post 11

can women be film directors? I am a girl and I'm dying to become a director. It's kind of interesting, but not so many women do it. Can someone tell me if I'm wrong about wanting to be a director?

Post 9

how much do they make?

Post 8

Dear Anon8788, i am a high school student in the montreal area. i have been given a project on film directors and i need a connection or someone i have talked to who works in this field. What are good schools for film making and what are the credits i need to get into these schools?

Post 7

that's not true. i'm a film maker in the barossa. you just have to get every little film you make into as many independent film festivals. you can get your name out there, make your own promotional posters and things.

Post 6

can ya'll please put how much they make?

Post 5

what is the salary? and also what degree you need?

(student) in hs

Post 4

How much is the starting salary?

Post 3

Hey Kamalesh everyone has to start somewhere. If you work hard and are committed anything is possible. Not everyone in the Film making business has made it because of their connections but because of their hard work and talent.

Post 2

sorry kamalesh, but this industry is about who you know, not what you know.

Post 1

hi, am kamalesh.. i want to be a director but i got absolutely no exposure in this area. is it possible for me to make it good in this field.. i have asked few others regarding this and the reply i got was "you can do it if you got the will to".. that's a nice thing to say to boast my self confidence but practically is really possible to become a film maker without having any kind of contacts and past experience. thank you..

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