Alfred Hitchcock, nominated five times for the Academy Award for best director.

Federico Fellini

Akira Kurosawa, prolific director and recipient of 1990 Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

A film director is a person who directs the making of a film. A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay (or script) while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking.[1] Under European Union law, the director is viewed as the author of the film.[2]

The film director gives direction to the cast and crew and creates an overall vision through which a film eventually becomes realized, or noticed. Directors need to be able to mediate differences in creative visions and stay within the boundaries of the film's budget.

There are many pathways to becoming a film director. Some film directors started as screenwriters, cinematographers, film editors or actors. Other film directors have attended a film school. Directors use different approaches. Some outline a general plotline and let the actors improvise dialogue, while others control every aspect, and demand that the actors and crew follow instructions precisely. Some directors also write their own screenplays or collaborate on screenplays with long-standing writing partners. Some directors edit or appear in their films, or compose the music score for their films.[3]


The film director gives last minute direction to the cast and crew, while filming a costume drama on location in London.

A film director's task is to envisage a way to translate a screenplay into a fully formed film, and then to realize this vision.[4] To do this, they oversee the artistic and technical elements of film production.[3][5] This entails organizing the film crew in such a way to achieve their vision of the film.[6][7] This requires skills of group leadership, as well as the ability to maintain a singular focus even in the stressful, fast-paced environment of a film set.[8] Moreover, it is necessary to have an artistic eye to frame shots and to give precise feedback to cast and crew,[9] thus, excellent communication skills are a must.[10]

Since the film director depends on the successful cooperation of many different creative individuals with possibly strongly contradicting artistic ideals and visions, he or she also needs to possess conflict resolution skills in order to mediate whenever necessary.[11] Thus the director ensures that all individuals involved in the film production are working towards an identical vision for the completed film.[6] The set of varying challenges he or she has to tackle has been described as "a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with egos and weather thrown in for good measure".[12] It adds to the pressure that the success of a film can influence when and how they will work again, if at all.[13]

Generally, the sole superiors of the director are the producer(s) and the studio that is financing the film.[4][14] The role of a director differs from producers in that producers typically manage the logistics and business operations of the production, whereas the director is tasked with making creative decisions. The director must work within the restrictions of the film's budget[15] and the demands of the producer and studio (such as the need to get a particular age rating).[16]

Directors also play an important role in post-production. While the film is still in production, the director sends "dailies" to the film editor and explains his or her overall vision for the film, allowing the editor to assemble an editor's cut. In post-production, the director works with the editor to edit the material into the director's cut. Well-established directors have the "final cut privilege", meaning that they have the final say on which edit of the film is released. For other directors, the studio can order further edits without the director's permission.

American director Steven Spielberg with Sri Lankan filmmaker Chandran Rutnam in Sri Lanka

The director is one of the few positions that requires intimate involvement during every stage of film production. Thus, the position of film director is widely considered to be a highly stressful and demanding one.[17] It has been said that "20-hour days are not unusual".[4] Some directors also take on additional roles, such as producing, writing or editing.

Under European Union law, the film director is considered the "author" or one of the authors of a film, largely as a result of the influence of auteur theory.[2] Auteur theory is a film criticism concept that holds that a film director's film reflects the director's personal creative vision, as if they were the primary "auteur" (the French word for "author").[18] In spite of—and sometimes even because of—the production of the film as part of an industrial process, the auteur's creative voice is distinct enough to shine through studio interference and the collective process.

Career pathways[]

Some film directors started as screenwriters, film editors or actors.[19] Several American cinematographers have become directors, including Barry Sonnenfeld, originally the Coen brothers' DP; Jan de Bont, cinematographer on films as Die Hard and Basic Instinct, directed Speed and Twister. Wally Pfister, cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's three Batman films made his directorial debut with Transcendence. Other film directors have attended a film school to "get formal training and education in their craft".[20] Film students generally study the basic skills used in making a film.[21] This includes, for example, preparation, shot lists and storyboards, blocking, protocols of dealing with professional actors, and reading scripts.[22] Some film schools are equipped with sound stages and post-production facilities.[23] Besides basic technical and logistical skills, students also receive education on the nature of professional relationships that occur during film production.[24] A full degree course can be designed for up to five years of studying.[25] Future directors usually complete short films during their enrollment.[17] The National Film School of Denmark has the student's final projects presented on national TV.[26] Some film schools retain the rights for their students' works.[27] Many directors successfully prepared for making feature films by working in television.[28] The German Film and Television Academy Berlin consequently cooperates with the Berlin/Brandenburg TV station RBB (Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting) and ARTE.[29]

A handful of top directors made from $133.3 million to $257.95 million in 2011, such as James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.[30] In May 2011, the average United States film director made $92,220.[31]

See also[]

  • Outline of film
  • Alan Smithee (pseudonym for anonymous directors)
  • Filmmaking
  • Auteur theory


  1. ^ "The Average Film Director Salary Per Movie". Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Pascal Kamina (2002). Film Copyright in the European Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-139-43338-9. 
  3. ^ a b "TV or film director". United Kingdom: British Government. April 2017. Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c "Career Profile Film Director". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Employment Film Director". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Career snapshot". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  7. ^ "They must work with producers, writers, cast members, crew members, designers and other professionals in order to implement that vision". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ "A film director needs...". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Film Director Career". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Job Profile". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ McRae, Alex (June 1, 2006). "You have to be a diplomat. You have to marshal a whole load of creative people, who often don't get on with each other, and your job is to stop things turning into a bun-fight.". The Independent (London). Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  12. ^ "What is a Director?". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ "directors work under a lot of pressure, and most are under constant stress to find their next job.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Career as a film director". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The director is bound by financial conditions, which however should not hinder him from developing his own artistic signature.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  16. ^ Hornaday, Ann (May 16, 1993). "Realizing that an NC-17 rating could hurt business (some theaters and newspapers won't show or advertise NC-17 movies), Mr. Verhoeven cut 47 seconds of the most graphic sex and violence". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Princeton review". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  18. ^ "auteur theory | Definition & Directors" (in en). Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  19. ^ "Many are experienced actors, editors or writers". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Many directors get formal training and education in their craft at a film school.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  21. ^ "In the Fiction Film bachelor studio students learn the basic principles, techniques and procedures of film direction and production". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Classes supporting this area discuss and rehearse: preparation, shot lists and storyboards, blocking, protocols of dealing with professional actors, reading scripts, the construction of film sequence". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  23. ^ "We operate from a purpose-built studio facility in Harrow, with two sound stages, a set construction workshop, and extensive post-production facilities.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  24. ^ "An intrinsic element of the education, alongside the transfer of organizational and technical skills, is to provide the students with insights into social contexts and relationships". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  25. ^ "The directing studies 5 years of study : a first cycle of 3 years and a second cycle of 2 years.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  26. ^ "The students' final project is a film produced on a professional level and presented to the public on national TV.". Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  27. ^ "If you're a student and making your film within a film school then you should be aware that some film schools will retain the copyright in the films that you make during your enrollment". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Many successful film directors, including Oscar-winning Best Director of 'The King's Speech', Tom Hooper, began their careers in television, which provided the platform to progress through the industry.". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  29. ^ "The DFFB cooperates with the Berlin/Brandenburg TV station RBB and ARTE and produces 3 short films of 30minutes lengths for RBB and 10 short films of 5 minutes lengths for ARTE". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Stephen Chow earns $100 million". 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  31. ^


  • Spencer Moon: Reel Black Talk: A Sourcebook of 50 American Filmmakers, Greenwood Press 1997
  • The St. James Women Filmmakers Encyclopedia: Women on the Other Side of the Camera, Visible Ink Press, 1999
  • International dictionary of films and filmmakers, ed. by Tom Pendergast, 4 volumes, Detroit [etc.]: St. James Press, 4th edition 2000, vol. 2: Directors
  • Contemporary North American Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide (Wallflower Critical Guides to Contemporary Directors), ed. by Yoram Allon Del Cullen and Hannah Patterson, Second Edition, Columbia Univ Press 2002
  • Alexander Jacoby, Donald Richie: A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors: From the Silent Era to the Present Day, Stone Bridge Press, 2008, ISBN 1-933330-53-8
  • Rebecca Hillauer: Encyclopedia of Arab Women Filmmakers, American University in Cairo Press, 2005, ISBN 977-424-943-7
  • Roy Armes: Dictionary of African Filmmakers, Indiana University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-253-35116-2
  • Philippe Rege: Encyclopedia of French Film Directors, Scarecrow Press, 2009

External links[]

  • Portal.svgFilm portal
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