Becoming a Film Director: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
Would you like to know the pros and cons of a film director career? Continue reading to learn about job duties, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a film director is right for you.
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Film Director Career: Pros and Cons

Aspiring film directors must have an artistic eye to frame shots, assemble interesting scenes and give feedback to film crew members. Check out the below pros and cons of the industry to make sure film directing is right for you.

Pros of a Film Director Career
Opportunities for travel*
High potential wages (Median salary around $109,000)*
Predicted growth in the field (3% growth from 2012-2022)*
Potential for fame*

Cons of a Film Director Career
High-levels of stress and deadline expectations*
Inconsistent work may require you to find a secondary job*
Long and irregular work hours (evenings, weekends and holidays)*
Highly competitive field*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Though there are many people involved in making films, the director is ultimately in charge of the creative decisions. Film directors interpret scripts, relay concepts to costume and set designers, plan and coordinate camera movements and frames, select and recruit cast members, organize rehearsals and direct the actions of the film's cast and crew. You also approve sets and costumes, research scripts and work with sound and music crews.

The director ultimately bears a large portion of the film's success or failure. It usually takes a long while for a person to work their way up to film director, often by beginning their career in the industry as an actor or stage assistant.

Job Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the employment of film directors is expected to grow about as fast as average between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Competition for these jobs is fierce, and only the most determined and talented individuals become film directors for production companies. The innovation of new technology has allowed motivated directors to produce their own independent films, which may be the best way to show your ability to major companies.

You may find that many of the jobs in this field are located in media capitals, including New York and Los Angeles. Box office successes, technological advances and interactive media development might help continue interest in this field. Although a very small percentage of film directors make incredibly lucrative salaries, the BLS estimated that the median annual salary for film directors was about $69,000. However, most directors and producers made between $31,000 and $109,000 in 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

Employers of film directors are often corporate production companies that are more interested in an individual's creative instinct, talent and proven pattern of success than formal education. To succeed, field experience is essential. You can gain this by working your way up the entertainment ladder or by completing a degree program in directing or cinematic arts. Some directors may have formal training as actors, as well. Some general skills that you may want to have include:

  • Understanding the audience
  • Finishing products on time and within budgetary constraints
  • Creating productions for business, entertainment and documentary purposes
  • Understanding technical aspects beyond giving directions
  • Directing short and long productions regarding various topics
  • Utilizing multiple angle camera setups

What Employers Are Looking For

When looking for a career as a film director, you may have to look for general production positions that include directing duties. You'll want to have an understanding of audio recording for film, post-production and camera work. Although film directing can be applied to many more positions, the following are details accumulated from a national job listing board sampling in March 2012:

  • An orthodontic company in Utah was searching for a video production specialist that can perform film directing duties. Prospective applicants must possess a 4-year degree and 3 years of work experience.
  • A communications company located in Florida advertised for someone that was able to direct promotional content. The desired applicant would need to be creative and have advanced training in video production, graphics and voice over.
  • A digital production company in North Carolina was looking for a director with a bachelor's degree specializing in visual journalism and corporate filmmaking.
  • A California company was pursuing a newscast director that knows how to establish lighting and create newscasts. The ideal applicant will have a strong foundation in news video and audio production.

How to Beat the Competition

To make yourself stand out in the field, you may want to consider completing a degree program in directing or a related subject. During these programs, you can learn how to tell a visual story using all instruments on a film production set. You'll develop skills in cinematography, film writing, high definition and analogue film cameras, sound to video synchronization and pre-production methods. Additionally, you may want to consider joining a professional organization, such as the Directors Guild of America, to network with other professionals, find film events and gain employment.

Gain Experience

If you would like to be proficient in most areas related to directing, you may want to complete additional training through advanced education or by gaining hands-on experience through working as an assistant. In doing so, you'll familiarize yourself with television and motion picture formats, sound design, broadcasting, non-linear editing and adaptation techniques. You gain proficiency in video editing and creation tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects and Avid Digidesign Pro Tools. This training can be used to compile a portfolio highlighting your best achievements.

Other Careers to Consider

Actor

If you are interested in filmmaking careers and don't want to be a director, you may want to consider a career in front of the camera. Although actors aren't in charge of the entire film, they can suggest performance techniques and make a character their own. To develop a character, an actor needs to understand how to analyze script direction and dialogue, to understand how a character thinks and should act. The education requirements for actors vary, and careers may be gained with no formal training. Wages for actors vary greatly, but the BLS reported the median hourly wage as about $19 in 2011.

Producer

If you are interested in another position behind the camera, you may be interested in a career that assumes producing roles and responsibilities. As a producer, you may be responsible for hiring production staff, reviewing film and dailies, assisting in securing production funds and choosing scripts to be filmed. Depending on the size of the production, you may also be in charge of a producer support staff to ensure production follows budgetary constraints and filming schedules. Producers don't have any specific education requirements, and they earned a mean wage of about $92,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • B.S. - Show Production
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
      • BS - Audio Production
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Film (MFA)
    Bachelor's
      • Digital Cinema & Video Production (BS)
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (BFA)
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (BS)
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (BA)
      • Digital Photography (BFA)
      • Digital Photography (BS)
    Associate's
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (AAS)
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (AS)
      • Video Production (AS)
      • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (AA)
      • Digital Photography (AAS)
      • Digital Photography (AS)
    High School Diploma
      • Video Skills (D)
      • Commercial Photography (D)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Coral Gables, FL

    University of Miami

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Producing
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Script Writing
      • Master of Fine Arts in Script and Screenwriting
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Media & Arts Management and Promotion
  • Syracuse, NY

    Syracuse University

  • New York, NY

    New York University

  • Iowa City, IA

    University of Iowa

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • BS - Film (Campus)
  • B.S. - Show Production

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Film (MFA)
  • Digital Cinema & Video Production (BS)
  • Digital Filmmaking & Video Production (AAS)
  • Video Skills (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Film and TV
  • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Producing
  • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Script Writing

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