How to Direct a Movie
99% of directors are a quirky bunch. Perfectionistic, egomaniacal, and emotionally unstable one day, funny, friendly, engaging, and encouraging the next. These characteristics usually bubble to the surface while shooting scenes that demand the best from the cast and crew.
Directors aren’t usually in the front of the camera, they don’t usually set up the lighting, or handle the boom mics. They’re master delegators, telling department heads what they need with the expectation that their instructions will be followed to a “T.”
Once a director finds a director of photography, editor, or even an actor that understands their vision, it’s not rare for them to work with them, again and again. Why? It’s just easier than trying to break-in someone new.
Spike Lee, Ron Howard, and Steven Spielberg all have 30-plus years of working with “their” editors. These relationships have garnered multiple Academy Award wins and even more nominations. Sure, the director may be the General of the movie but they don’t get very far without a few privates, sergeants, and captains.
For the most part, well-known directors have a laundry list of other Hollywood credits to their names well before getting their big break. They need to learn the guts of how a movie is made, gain some experience, and prove themselves before leading a comic book hero super movie or the next drama to sweep the Oscars.
Directors may have started their careers as production assistants, editors, or cinematographers before donning the director’s cap. These jobs are vital to understanding how to create the right shadows, explain what you need from the wardrobe department, or spotting what’s wrong with the camera dolly set up.
It’s this kind of working knowledge that keeps a director from asking for the impossible and losing the respect/confidence of their crew. Although there definitely are “actors’ directors” who usually entrust their vision to a highly-skilled DP, who tends to work with them on every project they do, directors who are not up to speed or understand the technological advances available to them can find themselves on unsure footing when it comes to making their vision reality and creating a viable, marketable end product.
Those maniacal directors from the top? It’s a good bet they didn’t start out that way. Win an Oscar or make a billion-dollar movie and you can direct just about any way you want. Until then, directors need to develop the communication skills to get their point across and to motivate or persuade the actors, crew members, and producers they work with.
A director who’s just getting their wings knows when to let the scene play out and when to push back. Hollywood can be full of egos, but big personalities can be found anywhere. How a new director deals with these colorful characters will go a long way towards determining success in their career.
This is especially true when working on a small independent film. When hiring crews or renting equipment, it’s a good idea to ask a few in-depth questions of the veterans they encounter along the way. Not only will it make the veterans feel appreciated, but the knowledge and insight they gain during these conversations will also inevitably come in handy at some point in time.
Jump in with Both Feet
Quentin Tarantino dropped out of school when he was 15 and learned nearly everything he needed to know about story and screenwriting by working at a video store. Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan majored in subjects other than Film. Paul Thomas Anderson dropped out of NYU Film School, opting to save his money for making that first film.
An expensive film degree is not the ticket to making movies on your own. In fact, getting bogged down in student loan debt, having to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars every month to pay back those school loans can hurt your future chance of success more than help it.
Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson were production assistants when they first started out.
Nolan worked as a script reader and camera operator before he got to direct. All of them learned as much about the industry as they could by being part of the crew.
Film Connection Cinematography and Film Production & Editing Programs place you inside a real-word production company where you’ll have one-on-one time with an industry professional, your mentor, who will instruct you on those technical industry standards such as camera movement (establishing shots, wide shots, medium shots, Dutch angles). They’ll show you how to develop a shot list, shooting schedule, a workable budget, get enough b-roll, and plan for the inevitable “problems” that pop up on nearly every production.
No matter if it’s a feature-length movie or a short film, ultimately, the director is in charge of all of it. In our six to nine-month programs, you’ll learn about the technical, the financial, and the creative aspects of how a movie gets made. Start now and within a single week, you could be learning about lights, leadership, ledgers, and long days on a set.
But there’s only so much we can teach you. Tarantino, Nolan, Anderson, and every other director you’ve ever admired all worked hard to get to where they are. They all held other jobs and worked with other directors before taking the helm of their first picture.
It will be no different for you at Film Connection. If you know film is what you want to do with your life but attending a traditional 4-year university just isn’t for you, or doesn’t sound like the best use of your hard-earned time and money, take a look at what Film Connection has to offer.
Get your foot in the door by starting from inside of the industry, receiving direct one-on-one instruction, curriculum-backed lessons, career services, and academic support with us.