Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Median—$52,840 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Directors are the main creative force in the making of films, television shows, and plays. They are responsible for making a wide range of artistic decisions. Together with the producer, the director hires the actors and staff. It is the director who works with the staff from day to day. Thus, the director must be familiar with all of the technical skills involved in producing a film, television show, or play. Directors usually work in only one art form, although some are more versatile.
Motion picture directors choose the location at which the film is to be shot, the setting of individual scenes, the angles of the cameras, and the gestures used by the actors. First, the director reads the script or screenplay and consults with the producer. Next the director devises what is known as the shooting script. This screenplay includes directions for the filming of every scene. Then the director divides the script into a day-by-day schedule. Directors must have a good idea of how long it will take to shoot a film. Budget limitations and the physical and emotional limitations of the cast and crew must also be considered.
During the actual filming process, the director advises and coaches the actors and gives instructions to the camera operator and other members of the crew. After the day's work is completed, the director and members of the cast and crew watch the "rushes." These are the sections of the movie that have been filmed that day. They help to give the director and the others a sense of how the film is progressing. The rushes point out errors and weak spots and lead to necessary changes. After watching the rushes, the director may decide to reshoot a scene.
Unlike movies, television shows are not heavily edited after they are taped. Instead, a process similar to editing takes place during the taping. The director "cues," or gives instructions to, the camera operators during the taping session so that the tape comes out correctly without editing. The director and the camera operators communicate through the headsets they wear.
The stage requires technical skills different from those needed in television or the movies. Rather than decide how a shot should look, the theatrical director must think of how the play looks in the limited space of a stage. Theatrical directors work closely with scene, costume, and lighting directors, as well as with actors. Directors do most of their work when their plays are in rehearsal; however, even after a play opens and has been running for some time, the director may return to make changes or coach the actors.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no formal educational requirements for directors. However, directors must be familiar with all the different aspects of their art form. Many of the technical skills involved are now being taught in college courses. There are many film schools in the United States that offer classroom training and directing opportunities for aspiring directors.
Theatrical directors usually have a great deal of acting experience. Filmmakers and television directors, however, usually arrive at directing by learning the technical aspects of the work. To get a job in the programming department of a television station, candidates may need a college degree.
The Directors Guild administers a training program for second assistant motion picture directors. The program includes seminars and on-the-job training. Applicants must have either a bachelor's degree or three to fifteen years of related production experience. They must be available to work in the United States during the training period. Those who complete the program are listed in the industry Experience Roster. A listing qualifies them to work as a second assistant director but does not necessarily lead to a job as a director.
Getting the Job
There is no single or easy way to get a job as a director. Talent and experience are important. Directors are usually hired because they are known for the quality of their work. Many jobs are obtained through personal contacts.
Those who are interested in television often begin by working for a television station, usually in a smaller market. There, they may start with any one of a number of jobs—such as an assistant to the director—and work their way up to a job with more responsibility in a larger market. Large film companies usually hire only those directors who have demonstrated skills and accomplishments. Small, independent film companies sometimes hire people with little or no experience. Candidates may convince prospective employers of their talent by showing films they have made on their own or for courses in college. Many theatrical directors work as stage managers before becoming directors. Most direct in community and small showcase theaters before working on major productions.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Directors are at the top of their profession. With experience and success, an individual director may achieve fame or critical distinction. Some directors branch out into different art forms—for instance, a theatrical director may become a filmmaker. Others become well known for their work in specialized areas such as documentary filmmaking. A director may also become a producer, which involves more managerial duties.
Directors' assistants, however, advance in a more patterned way. Second assistant directors may become first assistant directors. On the other hand, the move from first assistant director to director is not so assured. These two jobs require different skills. The position of director is basically creative, whereas the assistant director's job is one of management.
There are relatively few jobs available for directors. The job market is very competitive and employment opportunities are expected to grow as fast as the average through the year 2014.
Directors do not work a regular workweek. During the making of a movie, a film director may begin work in the early hours of the morning and work late into the night. Television directors may start even earlier.
The work is strenuous and requires a great deal of time and dedication. Directors may be unemployed for long periods. However, the opening of a play or the completion of a film or television show can offer a great deal of satisfaction.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary widely with each production and each director's contract. Income also depends on the industry as well as the experience and popularity of the individual director. The median income for a director is an estimated $52,840 per year, according to the 2004 survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Directors in the motion picture industry earn more than those in radio and television. Top directors command salaries in the millions of dollars.
di·rec·tor / diˈrektər/ (abbr.: dir.) • n. a person who is in charge of an activity, department, or organization: he has been appointed finance director. ∎ a member of the board of people that manages or oversees the affairs of a business. ∎ a person who supervises the actors, camera crew, and other staff for a movie, play, television program, or similar production. ∎ short for musical director.DERIVATIVES: di·rec·to·ri·al / diˌrekˈtôrēəl; ˌdīrek-/ adj.di·rec·tor·ship / -ˌship/ n.
One who supervises, regulates, or controls.
A director is the head of an organization, either elected or appointed, who generally has certain powers and duties relating to management or administration. A corporation's board of directors is composed of a group of people who are elected by the shareholders to make important company policy decisions.
Director has been used synonymously with manager.