The Director is the driving creative force in a film’s production, and acts as the crucial link between the production, technical and creative teams. Directors are responsible for creatively translating the film’s written script into actual images and sounds on the screen – he or she must visualise and define the style and structure of the film, then act as both a storyteller and team leader to bring this vision to reality. Directors’ main duties include casting, script editing, shot composition, shot selection and editing. While the practical aspects of filmmaking, such as finance and marketing, are left to the Producer, Directors must also always be aware of the constraints of the film’s budget and schedule. In some cases, Directors assume multiple roles such as Director/Producer or Director/Writer. Being a Director requires great creative vision, dedication and commitment. Directors are ultimately responsible for a film’s artistic and commercial success or failure.
Directors may write the film’s script or commission it to be written; or they may be hired after an early draft of the script is complete. Directors must then develop a vision for the finished film, and define a practical route for achieving it. During pre-production, Directors make crucial decisions, such as selecting the right cast, crew and locations for the film. They then direct rehearsals, and the performances of the actors once the film is in production. Directors also manage the technical aspects of filming, including the camera, sound, lighting, design and special effects departments.
During post- production, Directors work closely with Editors through the many technical processes of editing, to reach the final cut or version of the film. At all stages, Directors are responsible for motivating the team to produce the best possible results. Directors must also appreciate the needs and expectations of the film’s financiers.
Directors must have exceptional artistic vision and creative skills to develop an engaging and original film. Unerring commitment and a deep passion for filmmaking are essential, along with the ability to act as a strong and confident leader. Directors must constantly make decisions, but must also be able to delegate, and to collaborate with others. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital to get the best from the filmmaking team.
Directors must inspire and motivate the team to produce the film they have envisioned. They need an extensive understanding of the entire filmmaking process, from both technical and creative points of view. A capacity for long hours of intensive work, attention to detail, and the ability to remain calm and think clearly under great pressure, are key skills for this role. Directors also need great self-belief and the determination to succeed.
While there are numerous training courses and reference books on directing, formal qualifications are not necessary to become a Director. Studying the art and craft of directing is important, but the role can only really be mastered through in-depth practical experience. Writing a screenplay, directing one’s own short film or an amateur play, are all good starting places. Extensive industry experience is also crucial to this role; up-to-date knowledge of filmmaking techniques and equipment is vital, as is learning how to work with actors to create a performance.
As many Directors work their way up over many years from entry level positions, getting work experience as a Runner on a film set or in a production office is an ideal starting point. Observing successful Directors at work, whilst immersing oneself in the practical process of filmmaking, are vital first steps on this fiercely competitive and highly challenging career path.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset’s and the UK Film Council’s Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Film Academies have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film.