How Do I Begin a Career Directing Movies?

Film is a director's medium, but it takes talent and experience to take charge of an entire film's production. Movie directors have to understand the technical and creative aspects of the genre, so most begin their careers by doing other jobs on a film set. Keep reading if you want to know how to begin a career in directing movies. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Starting a Movie Directing Career-Overview

Aspiring directors usually complete a degree program and gain experience in lower-level positions before entering the industry. A movie director is in charge of the creative aspects of a production, oversees casting and works with the actors to guide their performances. Directors also consult with the film crew on sets, lighting and sound effects to ensure that the production follows their plan. Becoming a director requires knowledge of all parts of movie production and calls for years of training and experience. Here is a brief overview of how to begin a career as a movie director.

Important Facts About Film Directors

Required Education Bachelor's degree (typical but not mandatory)
Similar Occupations Producer, actor, art director
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 12% (for all producers and directors)*
Median Salary (2019) $60,596**

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

Studying Film Production

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in film production, which usually includes television production courses. These programs can give you a well-rounded education in the technical and creative aspects of the profession. Introductory courses might help you to understand the history of motion pictures through studying specific directors and artists. Filmmaking history courses focus on the visual part of the medium through silent filmmaking. Later, you will learn to use high-tech sound equipment to film scenes. Editing courses will show you how to synchronize both picture and sound.

Because many people are needed to produce a motion picture, you will work with fellow students to help produce their films, while they will help you when it is your turn to direct a film production. You will learn how to perform the duties of a cinematographer, sound technician, lighting technician and other peripheral jobs. Other courses that will help you to advance your knowledge of film include studies in a number of film genres, such as comedy, film noir, European cinema and documentary productions. All of these genres will give you a wide knowledge of how other directors work.

Getting a Job in the Movie Industry

Many jobs in the movie business can help you on your way to a career in directing movies. A lower-level job as a production assistant could help you to get your foot in the door. Production assistants are responsible for everything from getting coffee to helping with props. Starting jobs as a camera operator, gaffer or cinematographer can lead to advancement in the industry. Camera operators take the cinematographer's instructions in framing each shot and operate the camera. Assistant camera operators are responsible for maintaining the camera equipment, load film and take shot film to be developed. Gaffers make sure each shot is lit correctly. Cinematographers are responsible for planning each shooting sequence with the director. Many cinematographers move on to become movie directors.

Screenwriters take an original or adapted idea and develop a script which will be used to shoot the movie. Screenwriters must think visually and often take their finished scripts and try their hands at directing. An actor is auditioned and hired by the director and works with the director to develop the character for the production. Since actors work closely with the director during every day of the shooting schedule, they learn the good and bad habits that directors have. Many successful actors expand their careers by becoming movie directors.

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