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Film director

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Film director

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.

Career pathways

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:

  • Those who outline a general plotline and let the actors improvise dialogue. Notable examples include Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Guest, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Barry Levinson, Jean-Luc Godard, Miklós Jancsó, Gus Van Sant, Judd Apatow, Terrence Malick, Harmony Korine, Jay and Mark Duplass, and occasionally Robert Altman, Joe Swanberg, Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.
  • Those who control every aspect, and demand that the actors and crew follow instructions precisely. Notable examples include David Lean, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Victor Fleming, Erich von Stroheim, Frank Darabont, Sam Mendes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Demme, John Frankenheimer, James Cameron, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Andrew Bujalski, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Bay and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
  • Those who write their own screenplays. Notable examples include Claire Denis, Chantal Akerman, Jane Campion, Virginie Despentes, Marleen Gorris, Liliana Cavani, Woody Allen, Werner Herzog, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, George Lucas, J. F. Lawton, David Cronenberg, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Ed Wood, David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pedro Almodóvar, John Hughes, Nick Park, Edward Burns, Kevin Smith, Todd Field, Cameron Crowe, Terrence Malick, Oren Peli, Eli Roth, Harmony Korine, Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Daryush Shokof, Oliver Stone, John Singleton, Spike Lee, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Haggis, Billy Bob Thornton, James Wong, Tyler Perry, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan, George A. Romero, Sergio Leone, Satyajit Ray, Joss Whedon and David O. Russell. Steven Spielberg and Sidney J. Furie have written screenplays for a small number of their films.
  • Those who collaborate on screenplays with long-standing writing partners. Notable examples include Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga, Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams, Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown/Tony Grisoni, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson/Noah Baumbach, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi/Paul Schrader/Jay Cocks, Yasujirō Ozu and Kôgo Noda, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière/Luis Alcoriza, Krzysztof Kieślowski/Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Rajkumar Hirani/Abhijat Joshi/Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Frank Capra/Robert Riskin, Michelangelo Antonioni/Tonino Guerra, Billy Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond, Sergio Leone and Sergio Donati, Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, and Christopher Nolan/Jonathan Nolan/David S. Goyer.
  • Those who edit their own films. Notable examples include Akira Kurosawa, Alfonso Cuarón, David Fincher, Mike Cahill, Jean-Marc Vallée, Steven Soderbergh, David Lean, Don Coscarelli, Charlie Chaplin, Robert Rodriguez, Rajkumar Hirani, James Cameron, Ed Wood, Gaspar Noe, Takeshi Kitano, John Woo, Andy Warhol, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kenneth Anger, Gregg Araki, Gus Van Sant, Xavier Dolan, Ben Wheatley, Kelly Reichardt, Leni Riefenstahl, Kevin Smith, Rodrigo Cortes, Joe Swanberg, Steve James, Jafar Panahi, Ti West, Joel and Ethan Coen and many indie, Internet and arthouse filmmakers.
  • Those who shoot their own films. Notable examples include Nicolas Roeg, Mike Cahill, Peter Hyams, Steven Soderbergh, Joe Swanberg, Tony Kaye, Gaspar Noe, Gregg Araki, Robert Rodriguez, Don Coscarelli, Josef von Sternberg, Shinya Tsukamoto and Kenneth Anger.
  • Those who appear in their films. Notable examples include Agnes Varda, Clint Eastwood, Orson Welles, Mel Gibson, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, John Waters, John Carpenter, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Anger, Michael Landon, Woody Allen, Jon Favreau, Quentin Tarantino, Magnús Scheving, Eli Roth, Michael Bay, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Charlie Chaplin, Terry Jones, Edward Burns, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sam Raimi, Roman Polanski, Erich von Stroheim, Billy Bob Thornton, Sylvester Stallone, M. Night Shyamalan, Harold Ramis, Robert De Niro, John Woo, Kevin Smith, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Takeshi Kitano, Kenneth Branagh and Ed Wood. Alfred Hitchcock, Abel Ferrara, Shawn Levy, Edgar Wright and Spike Jonze made cameo appearances in their films.
  • Those who compose the music score for their films. Notable examples include Charlie Chaplin, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Carpenter, Mike Figgis, Hal Hartley, Alejandro Amenábar, Satyajit Ray, Robert Rodriguez and Tom Tykwer.
  • Another way to categorize directors is by their membership in a "school" of Filmmaking, such as the French New Wave, the British New Wave or the New Hollywood school of filmmakers.
  • Professional organizations

    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.

    Notable individuals

    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.


    Film director Wikipedia