How Do I Become a Film Director?

The film director brings life to the words on the movie script's printed page. As the person who oversees the work of everyone involved with making a film, from the technicians to the talent, the film director is simultaneously creative and well-organized. Film directors and related professionals may attend film school, attend a special training program, or learn on the job. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Becoming a Film Director Overview

Aspiring film directors often complete a formal education and earn a bachelor's and/or master's degree. Additionally, they may work as assistant directors. The film director is responsible for the overall look and feel of a film. Working from a script, the film director brings the story to life through the performances of the actors and through the craftsmanship of other crew members, who handle the cameras, lighting, sets, props, costumes, and other aspects of production.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Work Environment Constant time pressure
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 12% (for all producers and directors)
Median Salary (2019)** $59,654

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **


Film directors often begin their careers by attending film school. In film school, an aspiring director learns about all aspects of filmmaking. Besides taking classes in directing, he or she will study the following:

  • Screenwriting
  • Acting
  • Cinematography
  • Production design
  • Art direction
  • Production
  • Lighting
  • Sound

As part of their film school education, would-be film directors make their own films, directing several non-feature-length projects before graduation.

Assistant Directors

Some students may aspire to help film directors with important managerial and scheduling tasks. These students can receive training through the Assistant Directors Training Program, a program offered by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

To be admitted to the program, an applicant must be 21 years old, pass a written exam and complete an interview. The two-year program requires trainees to work for 350 days on set. They are paid for this work experience. Trainees also attend seminars and complete special assignments. After graduating, students can become members of the DGA, as second assistant directors.

Professional Experience

Professional experience is vital for an aspiring film director. Working in broadcasting or with an independent film production company is an excellent way to make professional connections and learn about the pressure involved with making a film. Some of today's most celebrated directors began as actors, although acting presents its own challenges. As young directors gain experience, they may move into work on studio productions.

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