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Directing Filmmaking How to

How to become a film director

Becoming a film director is one of the most popular roles when it comes to asking any newcomers. It is a cool job, to be honest, but it’s not the most straightforward path to become a film director.

The good news is, it’s very much achievable to become a film director and you can get there in a number of ways. But, it’s hard work, a lot of long hours and will take you years – the wait is definitely worth it!

What is a film director?

A film director is the person who on set directs the action of the film on set and decides the course of the drama and control the artistic aspects of the film on set. They visualise the script and look into how to bring the script to life with the cast and crew.

What does a film director do?

Film director - clapper boardA film director is in charge of bringing the story to life. The director is tasked to collaborate through pre-production, on set and post-production to ensure the story is brought to life in a meaningful, interesting and exciting way.  Above is an overview of what the Director does on set, but there is much more to it than directing the action. So, below we have broken down the role of the director off set.

What does a film director do off set?

A director off set has multiple different roles. We’ll break these down pre and post production to make more sense of it.

Pre-production:

In pre-production the director is tasked with multiple roles.

Reading the script. How can they bring the story to life? The director will read through the script multiple times to see how they can bring the script to life. They make a lot of notes, and try to understand the heart of the story – what drives the character? They will then build this out and help develop the character’s further and build backstories with the actors. The director will also decide whether or not there will need to be any rewrites and choose who is employed to rewrite the scenes.

Breaking down the script further. The director will breakdown the script and work with the AD to decide on shoot schedules. The AD will work with the director to decide on the best locations and logistics to get the film shot efficiently.

Working with the casting director. The director will bring onboard the casting director and work closely with them to tell the story and their vision. The casting director will then go out and start liaising with actors agents and begin the audition process.

Read through with the full cast. Once the cast has been decided a full read-through of the script will be arranged with the cast. This will allow the director to get a feel of the action and drama.

Rehearsal period. Not all directors are keen on rehearsing the scenes with the actors before the days of the shoot but some are. It really depends on your style, if it suits you then get it done and if not, no worries!

Pre-production meetings. The pre-production meetings happen pretty much daily as the film comes close to kicking off. These are usually with the head of each department and the director likes to be presented with ideas from each department.

Post-production:

In post-production, the director works closely with the editor of the film, the sound designer and the composer. They usually collaborate to keep the main story and feel to the movie as close to the idea as possible. However, the director shouldn’t interfere too much as the editor, composer and sound engineer are the specialists.

What are the different types of directors?

light-love-los-angeles-traveling-3379934 (2) (2)Below the director, you have other assistant directing roles. These roles allow people to hone their skills in their directing career and climb the ladder.

  • The first assistant director (AD): The AD supervises the crew and cast as well as keeping track of time and ensuring everything is going at the right pace. They are also responsible for minimising hazards and potential issues on set.
  • The second assistant director (2AD): The 2AD usually assists the AD as they’re needed. They also work with the call sheets, hair/makeup and wardrobe to ensure the actors are all in the right place and ready to shoot when needed.
  • The third assistant director (3AD): The 3AD is needed to direct the extras, helping with the setup and any vehicle movement that’s needed. They are usually put in charge of the background scenes as well, to ensure everyone is in the right place.

READ MORE: Essential tips for an indie filmmaker

How do I become a film director?

There isn’t a set pathway to becoming a director. Most director’s come from another filmmaking profession like a cinematographer or an editor where there’s a lot of cross over skills. One of the main things to get sorted is a showreel. To build this up it’s a bit catch-22. We suggest writing your own short films and get a cast and crew together on a low to no budget and create some exciting work. Once you’ve worked on a couple you’ll have enough footage to start creating a showreel and getting in contact with producers and other filmmakers to form partnerships.

It takes time, but you will get there – enjoy the ride!

Where do I start?

  • Sign up to a class.
  • Take a filmmaking degree.
  • Evening classes.
  • Offer to work on student projects.
  • Start as a runner.
  • Work up through the levels. (Runner, 3AD, 2AD, AD).
  • Look at working on commercials, build your portfolio.
  • Direct on short films.
  • Write, direct and edit your own projects.

READ MORE: Top 6 Film Schools in London


We hope this article was helpful and if you want to find out more – check our latest articles HERE.

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