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Film and Television Director


Ron Howard, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are among millions of talented film directors who create cinematic works of art. These four directors have produced some of the finest film our eyes have yet to witness. Directors bring life to their interpretations of film productions by making artistic decisions about the production.
Whether directing an actor on how to laugh in a particular scene or arranging a helicopter crash, directors ultimately have the final say in the creative interpretation of a script. Like authors, they get to shape a film into their own vision. Directors also attempt to make the audience feel emotions, such as anger, laughter, fear or sadness. A successful film will have an emotional or intellectual effect on viewers.

Directors consult with producers about everything -- from selecting the story, idea, cast and even sometimes the crew, to overseeing rehearsals and technical aspects of the production. Using the film and television mediums, directors bring stories to existence. They take a script (which they may have written) and can foresee what the film will look like through a technical planning process. One method is to use storyboards (a series of drawings that lay out how a script will be shot) to help with planning camera angles and lighting.

Film directors take part in almost every stage of a film's development -- from pre-production to post-production. Depending on the film, it is impossible to say which of these stages will take the longest. During pre-production, directors consult with producers and casting directors about everything from the actors to locations, sets and props. Once this has all been figured out, they move into the production phase, or the filming stage. In production, directors work closely with actors and crew members, giving advice and instructions.

In each scene, directors must plan the shot's framing, composition, camera movement and actor blocking to provide visual and sound continuity during the editing process. This process takes a very long time and makes movie-making seem less glamorous than Hollywood and the red carpet. Yet, since films are on a budget and often rent out locations for a short period of time, scenes must get filmed within the allotted time. For instance, if a film is shooting a scene in Central Park, they will only be able to shoot for a designated time.

At the end of each long day, directors review the day's work on film to check the work in progress and make necessary changes in future shoots. Films are shot out of sequence, therefore directors must be able visualize the entire story and judge if everything is on track. Post-production is the final stage of a director's job. They collaborate with film and sound editors to edit the entire movie and add the soundtrack. Directors also work closely with composers to share views on musical scores.

Film directors work in many different genres such as dramatic feature films, comedies, television programs, documentaries, training and promotional films, and animated shorts. With experience, they become well known a gain respect and recognition within the industry.
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  Interests and Skills  
Directors must be able to command respect from all cast and crew members so that they will want to work with him or her towards the director's vision. They must also be able to help performers each their full potential as actors, be able to visualize the finished product, and develop a network of supporters and contacts. They must convey their vision, energy and enthusiasm to others but also be willing to accept financial, artistic, psychological and emotional risks on putting a picture together.

Since the director is one the head "honchos" they must be knowledgeable in all aspects of film production, and well-read film history and different styles of the medium they work in. This is why formal training is recommended -- it helps directors use vantage points to start from. Finally, successful directors enjoy controlling and coordinating the work of others and dealing with a multitude of different people.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Meet with producers and screenwriters and may suggest changes to the script
  • Direct actors and scenes to coincide with their vision
  • Identify needed props, costumes and locations
  • Consult with producers about crew (e.g. art director, cinematographer, costume designer, production coordinator)
  • Hold auditions for all acting roles and contract larger roles to actors considered right for the part
  • Work with the cinematographer on potentially difficult shots or scenes (e.g. make plans for location shots and weather contingency plans)
  • Work with the art director to create storyboards
  • Work with editors and sound editors in the post-production stages
  • Directors work long and very irregular hours. Anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day is standard. They work in offices and sound studios but also on a variety of sets and locations which can be both indoors and outdoors. During shooting, workweeks can extend to seven days. They also work both indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather and sometimes in foreign locations, which can be very exciting.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Directors either work for production companies or independently. They may work in the film, television or video industries. They work in studios and on location, which includes lots of outdoor work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Becoming a director in itself is a huge career advancement. Within the film industry, directing is one of the top jobs for an artistic visionary. Therefore, some directors will become producers and deal with the money and more managerial side of filmmaking. Building a reputation and producing feature films will help directors get more and more work. Another way of geting known is to enter a film into a renowned film festival. Some directors may also move into theater or specialize more in television directing for a change.

  Educational Paths  
There is no standard path for becoming a director. Many have university degrees or college diplomas in broadcasting or film studies and some actually go to film school. Many film directors are experienced actors or writers or have moved up within the film industry. Many young production assistants or assistant editors eventually move on to become directors with training and experience.

Formal training is definitely helpful when looking for work. A producer will probably hire a trained and experienced director over one without schooling or experience. Therefore, prospective directors should obtain hands-on experience in as many areas of production as possible and make as many contacts as possible in their field.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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