Becoming a Movie Director: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a movie director's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read about common duties and see the pros and cons of a movie director career.
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The Pros and Cons of a Movie Director Career

A movie director is responsible for casting actors, overseeing rehearsals and guiding the work of crew members. Directors also work with designers to create sets and choose locations for film projects. Take a look at the most common pros and cons of being a movie director.

Pros of a Movie Director Career
Decent salary (median salary of about $69,000 as of May 2014)*
Good amount of autonomy**
Opportunity for self-expression**
Prestigious nature of work**

Cons of a Movie Director Career
Slow job growth (3% from 2012-2022)*
Budget and time constraints can lead to stress*
Work hours frequently long and/or irregular*
Extremely competitive field*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online

Essential Career Information

Basic Duties

Auditioning and hiring cast members, conducting rehearsals and designing sets are some of the most important duties you'll have while working as a movie director. You will likely be involved with choosing filming locations and you might also help actors with their character portrayals. After completing basic production work on a film project, a movie director will also work with editors to make sure that the final product is acceptable.

A major responsibility you'll have while working as a movie director is keeping a project on schedule and within budget limitations. While interpreting a writer's script to entertain an audience is the primary creative challenge for a director, time and budgetary constraints can sometimes change plans with little notice. Large productions may employ assistant directors to help deal with set changes or other adjustments to a film project's schedule.

Salary and Career Outlook Information

The BLS expected average job growth for producers and directors in the near future, with overall employment projected to increase by 3% from 2012-2022. About 15% of producers and directors were self-employed in 2012, per the BLS. The BLS projected a 3% employment growth for producers and directors from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $93,000 for producers and directors in the motion picture and video industries.


Becoming a movie director generally requires a bachelor's degree and several years of related work experience. Many directors begin their careers in a specific area of film production, such as acting or film editing. They may also spend some time as an assistant director to learn the ins and outs of a major film production. A prospective movie director might earn a bachelor's degree in any number of fields, but a degree in journalism, communication or drama could be especially helpful.

You'll need to have a good deal of creativity to succeed as a movie director. Being able to interpret and then physically represent your idea of a writer's work is a key challenge of working as a director, and obstacles will likely force you to adapt your strategies on the fly. Communication skills are also very important for directors, as they must coordinate the work of many people in order to finish a project on schedule and under budget.

What Are Employers Looking For?

If you have some experience in film production and meet the general education requirements to become a movie director, you might be able to find work with a major studio or with a small independent production. A few job listings open as of November 2012 can give you an idea of the current job market for movie directors.

  • A film production company in Los Angeles looked for producers and directors with experience in action adventure reality TV shows or multi-camera studio performance shows. This project was scheduled to be shot in various locations across the United States, involving high-end race cars and off-road vehicles in extreme conditions.
  • An independent production company in Los Angeles sought a director for its first feature film. The project had a low budget, and samples of directing work were required to apply.
  • A California-based production company looked for a director's assistant to work on an animated feature in Dallas, TX. Job duties included making phone calls, assisting crew members and acting as a link between the director and other departments. A bachelor's degree was required.

Standing Out in the Field

Although usually required only for stage directors, earning a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in theater or drama could be one way to improve your qualifications. The best way to stand apart from other directors is probably by building your reputation through working on small productions. As your reputation grows in the movie industry, you may receive offers to direct film projects with higher budgets and more prestige.

Alternate Career Options

If you'd prefer to narrow your focus to the artistic side of film production, you might want to consider working as an art director. Art directors are responsible for the visual style of movie productions and they direct the activities of set designers and other artists. You'll need a bachelor's degree and some experience in design to become an art director. The BLS projected only nine percent job growth for art directors from 2010-2020. As of May 2010, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $109,000 for art directors in the motion picture and video industries.

Becoming a film editor might be another good career option if the technical side of film making is more appealing to you. Most film editors have a bachelor's degree and experience as an assistant film editor. Slower than average job growth was expected for film editors in the coming years, with the BLS projecting only a five percent increase from 2010-2020. The BLS further reported a median annual salary of about $51,000 for film and video editors as of May 2010.

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