A film director is a person who directs the making of a film. Generally, a film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects, and visualizes the 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. Under European Union law, the director is viewed as the author of the film.
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 in 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.
Film directors create an overall vision through which a film eventually becomes realized/noticed. Realizing this vision includes overseeing the artistic and technical elements of film production, as well as directing the shooting timetable and meeting deadlines. This entails organizing the film crew in such a way as to achieve their vision of the film. 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. Moreover, it is necessary to have an artistic eye to frame shots and to give precise feedback to cast and crew, thus, excellent communication skills are a must.
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. Thus the director ensures that all individuals involved in the film production are working towards an identical vision for the completed film. 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". It adds to the pressure that the success of a film can influence when and how they will work again. Omnipresent are the boundaries of the films budget. Additionally, the director may also have to ensure an intended age rating. Theoretically the sole superior of a director is the studio that is financing the film, however a poor working relationship between a film director and an actor could possibly result in the director being replaced if the actor is a major film star. Even so, it is arguable that the director spends more time on a project than anyone else, considering that 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. It has been said that "20-hour days are not unusual".
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. 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"). 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.
Some film directors started as screenwriters, film editors or actors. 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. Recently 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". Film students generally study the basic skills used in making a film. This includes, for example, preparation, shot lists and storyboards, blocking, protocols of dealing with professional actors, and reading scripts. Some film schools are equipped with sound stages and post-production facilities. Besides basic technical and logistical skills, students also receive education on the nature of professional relationships that occur during film production. A full degree course can be designed for up to five years of studying. Future directors usually complete short films during their enrollment. The National Film School of Denmark has the student's final projects presented on national TV. Some film schools retain the rights for their students' works. Many directors successfully prepared for making feature films by working in television. The German Film and Television Academy Berlin consequently cooperates with the Berlin/Brandenburg TV station RBB (Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting) and ARTE.
A handful of top directors made from $13 million to $257 million in 2011, such as James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. In May 2011, the average United States film director made $122,220.
Different directors can vary immensely amongst themselves, under various characteristics. Several examples are:
In the United States, directors usually belong to the Directors Guild of America. The Canadian equivalent is the Directors Guild of Canada. In the UK, directors usually belong to Directors UK or the Directors Guild of Great Britain.
In Europe, FERA, the Federation of European Film Directors, represents 37 national directors' guilds in 30 countries.
For each director, one notable film that they directed is given as an example of their work. The chosen film may be their film which won the highest awards or it may be one of their best-known movies.