How To Become A Film Director – 7 Tips For Success

How To Become A Film Director – 7 Tips For Success

Do you wish to work as a film director but are new to the industry? Who doesn’t want to be a part of one of the coolest occupations on a movie set?

However, I would caution you that being a film director is not as simple as you may believe. Let’s add some pros to this piece on being a film director now that I’ve given you the warning.

If you want to be a film director, there are a variety of paths you can take to get there, one of which is to be the captain of the ship known as the film set.

The first step is to have a positive attitude and recognize that being a film director will require a significant amount of time and effort. When you get the chance to direct a picture, however, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences a filmmaker can have.

7 tips to become a successful Film director
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On Set, What Does A Film Director Do?

The director is in charge of giving support during pre-production, production, and post-production to ensure that the story is brought to life in a meaningful, engaging, and compelling manner.

But the director is accountable for a lot more than just directing the action on the set; he or she also has a lot of obligations off the set.

Offset, what does a film director do?

On and off the set, a film director wears numerous hats.

A quick summary of the many diverse responsibilities played during the pre- and post-production stages of filmmaking is provided below to assist you better understand the position of a film director.

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Pre-production

The film director uses pre-production to work out how to bring the story to life on screen. It all starts with many read-throughs of the screenplay to grasp all of the tale’s main parts and determine the best ways to bring the story to life. 

During pre-production read-throughs of a screenplay, I try to take as many notes as possible as the material is broken down. The most crucial note I make at the outset of the screenplay breakdown process is to figure out what motivates the story’s key characters.

From then, I try to explore the characters’ backstories in order to help the actors understand the character’s motives, and then I try to determine whether or not specific parts in the screenplay need to be rewritten. 

Side note: I am not a well-known filmmaker, and the majority of the films I direct are modest independent features on which I collaborate closely with the script throughout pre-production. So, because I have the screenwriter on set with me during production and changes tend to happen on the fly, I rarely have to deal with large rewrites.

Once you’ve worked out the character’s motivations and backstory, it’s time to go deeper into the screenplay with my 1st Assistant Director and Director of Photography to build a shot list and shooting schedule. 

The 1st AD plays a crucial part in the filmmaking process, as they assist the director in determining shooting schedules, the best sites for filming, and the logistics of completing the film production on time.

Related Article: 10 Important Tips for Directing Actors – How To Direct Actors

Casting

It’s time to start casting the movie when you’ve figured out the essential logistics of the screenplay. The first step a film director should take is to hire a casting director who will work closely with you in the audition process to find the perfect actors who will be able to bring the characters to life on screen. 

Rehearsals with the rest of the cast 

A read-through of the script with your casted actors is an essential part of the pre-production process. This allows the film director to gain a greater sense of the script’s tone and action, as well as how it could appear on the screen.

While some film directors dislike rehearsing scenes with the actors before the film begins shooting, it is an essential part of the filmmaking process if you are directing your first film. 

Why? Because you’ll have ironed out all the wrinkles in the screenplay and the actors will have a better knowledge of what you’re looking for when you call the action on set as a film director. 

Meetings to plan the production 

As the film approaches the first day of filming, pre-production meetings with the rest of the staff that will be working on the set will take place on a regular basis.

Most of the department meetings I’ve attended have included the chiefs of each department, who then debate any ideas they might have for improving the story beyond what I had imagined. This is something I noticed when I was watching Ron Howard’s Masterclass sessions (Click here to sign up for Masterclass.) Ron Howard encourages everyone on set to participate in the filmmaking process.

If you’re directing a scene and you think everything went well and you’re ready to move on, asking the grip, gaffer, and assistant camera person what they thought of the take will reassure you that everything went well and it’s time to move on, or they might add something you didn’t notice and you can readjust and do another take. 

I’ve shot some gems by just readjusting the scenario based on so much amazing input from people in these departments.

Post-production

Post-production is, in my opinion, the most crucial aspect of filmmaking since a bad edit or bad sound design may undo all that everyone has worked so hard to achieve. 

Side note: They’re lying when they say we can fix it in post! You might be able to fix problems in post, but it’ll cost you a fortune to do so. As a result, get it correctly the first time. 

The director collaborates closely with the film’s editor, sound designer, and composer throughout post-production. They work together to keep the story’s mood and vision as authentic as possible.

Just remember to leave these crucial folks alone unless you’re an expert in editing, music composition, or sound design. Let them be. There’s a reason they were chosen in the first place. 

I’m only saying this because, as a 1st AD, I just finished a film in which the film director messed up the post-production process by fiddling with things that shouldn’t have been tinkering with, and we ended up with a mess that may never see the light of day.

Are there different types of directors on a film set?

To have a well-oiled machine on the set, some directing roles are needed to help the film director create the best film possible.

The following roles are great roles for those looking into becoming a film director but need to hone his/her skills before becoming the captain of the ship known as the film set.

First assistant director (AD)

The 1st AD oversees the crew and cast as well as keeping track of time and ensuring everything is moving at the right pace. 1st ADs are also accountable for minimizing risks and possible issues on the set.

Second assistant director (2 AD)

The 2 AD normally assists the AD as they’re needed. They also work with the call sheets, hair/makeup and wardrobe to guarantee the actors are all in the correct place and ready to shoot when wanted.

Third assistant director (3 AD)

The 3 AD is required to direct the extras, cooperating with the setup and any vehicle movement that’s needed. They are normally put in charge of the background scenes as well, to secure everyone is in the right place.

Ways To become a film director

Many outstanding film directors in this field began their careers as directors of photography or editors, therefore I don’t have a secret recipe for becoming a film director.

However, if you are ready to put out the time and effort necessary to implement the following advice, you will be able to place yourself on the road to success.

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with along the route to get to where I am now.

To be clear, I’m still working my way up in the industry and am far from becoming a household name, but I’m getting there.

Watch as many movies as possible

The cheapest method of film education is watching movies. Why? Because you’ll be able to dissect the films of your favorite directors and learn why they’re the finest in the business. 

However, one of the most important aspects of watching movies is to pay attention to the details. While watching your favorite movies, take a pen and paper with you and try to figure out what shots you prefer, how many mistakes are made in the film, and what editing choices you like or don’t like.

Pay attention to how the story unfolds; is there a three-act structure in the picture, or is there a line of dialogue that you particularly enjoy? 

Shane Black, the director of Nice Guys and Iron Man 3, advised me to try viewing movies without the sound and see how the story progresses only by looking at the images on the screen.

Get Some Filmmaking Gear And Make Short Films

“Practice makes perfect!” as the adage goes. To become a film director, you must first begin making films and learn from your failures. Short films are the greatest way to get started since they allow you to discover your style while also teaching you how to work well with a crew. 

Get some filmmaking equipment (click here to learn more), write a script (or find someone who can), enlist the support of friends for your film shoot, and finish the project.

I love making short films because it forces me to learn all the aspects of every position on a set. This way when you have the opportunity to work on an actual budget production, you won’t look out of place.

Take some acting classes

When you are directing a film, you need to build trust with your actors so they can give the performances you want.

What made me a better film director lately has been I have been taking acting classes along the way not only to experience acting but understand how to better communicate with the actors on a set.

Want to Learn More About Filmmaking?

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Read scripts

If you’re planning to make a short film, you’ll almost certainly be working from a screenplay you wrote. However, I believe that reading other screenwriters’ scripts is an excellent approach to learning how to bring someone else’s tale to life.

When you’re reading other screenwriters’ work, attempt to imagine how each scenario would be filmed. Consider how you would set the cameras to capture the scene.

Consider what kind of lighting you’d use in the situation. How would you instruct the actors to achieve the best shot possible?

Think about film school

While I have a blog post that explains how to get into filmmaking without film school (click here), there are things you can learn in film school that is extremely valuable.

In film school, you have access to crews, on-set experience, and valuable contacts. Plus with film school, you have access to internships, workshops, and networking opportunities that you wouldn’t get if you learn filmmaking online.

The great thing about going to an actual film school like USC, UCLA, NYU, and AFI is that if you are chosen to direct, you have a crew given to you. 

Sure beats calling in favors which I have to do all the time in Victoria, BC, where I live.

But, if you are a great networker and don’t mind taking some online classes through Masterclass or Udemy, you can learn valuable information from them that will help you along the way.

MasterClass All-Access Pass for only $180 USD

Get on a set as much as you can

To become a film director, you must first work as a member of the production crew, as becoming a film director is not a quick process. 

Many established filmmakers began their careers as production assistants, camera operators, and a variety of other duties on set. It’s the next stage in becoming a film director if you can get on set and do anything. 

People will want to work with you again if you are a diligent worker and trustworthy. Then opportunities will start to come your way more quickly, and your projects will grow in size.

It’s all about experience and time, or just being a nephew or niece to an industry executive that will get you the opportunities to become a film director.

Related Article: One Person Film Crew – How Master Filmmaking By Yourself

Start networking

You’ve gotta network to get work!

Once you’ve completed a few short film projects, you’ll need to put together a demo reel to show off your skills. A demo reel is a sales tool that can help you gain access to new opportunities. 

However, because this article is about networking rather than demo reels, you must network and begin creating relationships for others to see your demo reel. If you have contacts who are willing to share your demo reel with the world, it will be easy to get it into their hands. 

Before the epidemic, I began networking by attending as many industry events as possible. Attend mixers, conventions, parties, premieres, and other events where you can meet as many people as possible.

The first year I went to the Austin Film Festival and Conference, one of the things I did was play a game to see how many business cards I could swap with other filmmakers. 

This game provided a fantastic method for me to meet new people and share my experiences with other indie filmmakers who are going through the same ups and downs you are. 

I’ve formed good ties with various filmmakers around the country during the past five years of attending the Austin Film Festival and Conference, and they know that if they ask for support, I’ll be there for them.

I don’t rely on them for work, but if someone came across his/her path and asked if they knew somebody that is an up-and-coming director to call, I know they would mention me.

Conclusion

If you are looking at becoming a film director, all you need is determination and experience and you will get to where you want to be in no time.

Just remember these key tips for success:

  • Learn as much as you can by taking online film classes, or in-person classes.
  • Study films and dissect them to understand how to make a perfect film.
  • Start shooting your own short films and learn from your mistakes.
  • Network and build strong relationships that will help you along the way.
  • Get on a film set and do any job you can.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

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