What is a Movie Director?

Sheri Cyprus

A movie director is a person who gives a film creative direction by guiding actors through each scene. Film directors often have the final say in which actors are cast in the film as well, although they do have the producer to answer to in most cases. While a movie producer usually initiates a film project, handles financing and oversees the production from behind the scenes, a movie director is directly involved with the film’s cast and crew. Movie directors have a creative vision of what the finished movie should be and must make sure that the cast and crew work together effectively to fulfill that creative concept.

A director guides actors through each scene and provides creative direction.
A director guides actors through each scene and provides creative direction.

Department heads often report to the film director. Movie directors approve the lighting, music, costumes and other creative details that make each film a unique production. Some film directors are also scriptwriters or they may approve the movie’s scriptwriter. All movie directors interpret the script creatively and instruct actors in order to carry out this interpretation.

Movie directors usually have the final say over which actors are cast in a film.
Movie directors usually have the final say over which actors are cast in a film.

For example, if a director feels that a script about a couple’s relationship breaking up should be shown with more psychological rather than physical action, this would affect how a script’s line such as “I’m leaving you, Billie — this time for good" would be emoted by the actor in the role. If the action were to be physical, the movie director may instruct the actor to throw an object to the floor in anger or shout the line and slam the door. If instead, the director wanted a more psychological focus, he or she may direct the actor to let the character’s feelings show in the eyes and face when voicing the line and ask the cameraperson for a close-up shot.

In some cases, a movie director may also act in the film — usually in a small role. Many film directors were actors for several years before they branched out into directing. This acting background can be helpful because directors must work very closely with actors. Understanding acting and all the other creative aspects of film production is important for aspiring movie directors. Not all movie directors have been to film school, but most have connections with producers in the film industry.

A movie director receives a lot of glory when a film is well received, but usually gets bad criticism if the movie doesn’t do well. The director must also deal with problems that arise during filming such as bad weather for outdoor shoots or not getting a much needed film permit in time for a scheduled location shoot. While the movie’s producer may approve the shoots, it’s usually the director who manages them.

Movie directors are directly involved with the making of a film project.
Movie directors are directly involved with the making of a film project.

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Discussion Comments


I also create films and movies. I also write my own scripts, and also music and actors that I want for that script.


If you want to become a movie director you should start out making small, independent films. If you are good at it, you will win awards and eventually become noticed. Sometimes actors or producers make the jump to director, but that seems like a long road to take.

Of course, it also helps to have the experience of producing, acting or doing other jobs around the set, because then you will have a much better understanding. But that's another reason short films are a good way to get started. Since the budget is so small, everyone pitches in to help with all the aspects of production. So you can learn on the job.


@bythewell - The most famous director for cameos has to be Alfred Hitchcock. He appears in almost all of his films and people have a great time trying to spot him in the background. He's usually carrying a musical instrument of some kind.

He was a great director but I hear that he was really awful to the actors on the set. He would traumatize them in order to get them to appear really stressed or scared in the films. Of course, it worked, but I doubt he could get away with the same thing now.


One director who always appears in his movies is Peter Jackson. Nowadays he usually has a bit role, or a cameo unlike when he was younger and making independent horror movies and sometimes had a bigger role. If you look carefully during the first movie, he's in the scene at the pub in Bree, eating a carrot. He also has his kids appear in some of his movies as well. I can't blame him, I'd do the same thing if I was a film director and it is fun to watch his new movies and try to spot the cameo.

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