Technical Director

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Technical Director


The lighting, special effects, sound, three-dimensional animation and set designs are all the work of technical directors. In film and theater, technical directors are in charge of the technical activities and staff on stage during a production. They prepare all of the technical aspects for the production of plays and movies. Without them, productions would not have the proper look or unified feel. Technical directors do everything but direct the actors. They consult with the main directors about all aspects of a work.

Technical directors consult with producers about everything technical and make sure that they are staying within the company's budget when purchasing props, set designs and other special effects items. Technical directors bring stories to existence through the visual components. They work with art directors and other crew members to plan camera angles and lighting.

In film, due to the increase in animation and technological special effects in many fantasy and adventure genres, technical directors are hired on films to supervise animators, clay designers and makeup artists. Technical directors work in all stages of filming -- from pre-production to post-production. During pre-production, technical directors consult with producers about everything from lighting to sets and props. Once all of the details have been figured out, they move into the production phase, or the filming stage. Technical directors work closely with crew members, giving advice and instructions. In each scene, technical directors must work with the director to plan the shot's framing, composition, camera movement. 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 New York's Times Square, chances are they will only be able to shoot for a short time. In post-production, technical directors do a lot of work with sound.

In theater, technical directors prepare plays for production. They arrange the details of the stage settings and all stage effects. Technical directors consult with set designers, props artists, costume designers, choreographers and stage managers in the weeks before the production comes to the stage in order to make sure that everyone is working towards the director's vision and interpretation of the play. During rehearsals, directors work very closely with behind-the-scenes workers. Every small detail is a large detail in the director's eyes. A play must go off without a hitch. Like authors, they get to shape a play into their own vision. A successful production will have a tremendous emotional and maybe intellectual effect on viewers. Usually when a play debuts, the director's job is complete in most cases, whereas in film, technical directors help in the post-production stage as well.
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  Interests and Skills  
Technical directors must be able to command respect from all crew members so that they will want to work towards the director's vision. They must also 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 of putting a play or film together. Finally, successful technical directors enjoy controlling and coordinating the work of others and dealing with a multitude of different people.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Appoint designers, directors and technical staff for employment on new productions
  • Consult with producers about crew (e.g. art director, cinematographer, costume designer, production coordinator)
  • Discuss work with set designers to determine a stylistic approach for the production on stage
  • Identify needed props, costumes and locations
  • Work with stage managers to arrange schedules for rehearsals, costume fittings and sound and light development
  • Work with producers to establish and administer budgets
  • Make all final decisions regarding the production, from props and furnishings to makeup
  • Work with the cinematographer on potentially difficult shots or scenes
  • Work with the art director to create storyboards
  • Work with editors and sound editors in the post-production stages
  • Keep up-to-date with what is happening in the arts
  • Technical directors work long and very irregular hours. Since rehearsals take place during the day and performances are usually at night or on weekends, directors sometimes work right around the clock. In film, hours are also based on shooting schedules, which jump from early morning to overnight filming. Therefore, 10- to 12-hour days are very common including working seven days a week. In theater, they may often rehearse a production in a separate studio or warehouse before moving into the theater where the production is taking place.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Technical directors work for film and theater companies and theater troupes. Some are also independent freelance directors who move from company to company on different productions. They work from Broadway theaters and Hollywood studios to small community centers and independent film companies. Some are also hired by the government to direct sponsored and funded works for cultural celebrations or documentary films.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Breaking into theater and film technical directing is quite tough. Therefore, becoming a technical director is in itself an accomplishment. Some technical directors become technical teachers and trainers and possibly move into the production and management side of theater. Some may decide to focus alter their careers and also direct actors. The possibilities are varied and usually depend on the individual. In this industry, individuals must work hard and establish as many connections as possible.

  Educational Paths  
Technical directors usually come from some type of formal training. Most have undergraduate degrees in English, theater and film studies. The university environment will introduce future technical directors to a creative and technical outlet of similar minded people and give students the opportunity to take part in the production of plays. Once students get a degree, they should get as much experience as possible, including volunteer work, which is the likely possibility. Many theater companies will take on apprentices, which may open doors in the long run.

Many technical directors have experience as writers, set designers, artists or actors, but this is not at all imperative. The most important advice is to make as many contacts as possible. In this industry, networking is extremely important. People must be willing to face rejection, but that is all part of the artistic process.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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