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Movie directors are the people who are responsible for the creative vision behind a movie. They cast the actors, supervise rehearsals and performances, and make decisions about everything from costumes to scenery to props to lighting and music. They work together with the producer of the movie, who is the one in charge of money and practical details.
Directing a film is very stressful work. You must deal with writers, designers, technicians and financers. On one side you have the producers, urging you to stay on time and on budget, and on the other side you have actors who may be temperamental. It’s your job to coax the best possible performances out of them even while scheduling rehearsals, meeting with costumers, appeasing your donors and supervising the technicians and backup staff. The buck stops with you, for everything.
Directors work very long hours during a film, including evenings and weekends. If filming on location, you might have to be separated from your family for weeks or months at a time. In between may be long periods of unemployment while you look for more work. The film industry is highly competitive, and to succeed you must have genius, patience, stamina and drive.
If you’re successful as a director, the pay is potentially very good. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the middle 50 percent of producers and directors in 2008 earned between $41,890 and $105,07. That’s not bad, but when you’re starting out pay may be extremely low. You might have to work for free initially while you’re establishing yourself and earning a reputation. Director John Dowdle told website The Art of Manliness, “It took me 13 years of destitute poverty to start making a living making films.”
For those who really love the art of movie making and who have a compelling artistic vision, film directing offers high levels of personal satisfaction. The ability to be the one in charge and to bring your own ideas to life then have it immortalized in a form others can view and enjoy, is more than enough to make up for the stress and difficulty of the job for most directors. If your purpose in becoming a director is just to be rich and famous, you’re probably in the wrong field. If all you want to do is make movies, though, then you may do well.
Kate Coen has been writing professionally since 1996. She has written for "The Guardian," "Time" magazine, "SIX Magazine," Reuters, Bloomberg and other media. Coen holds a Bachelor of Arts in modern languages (French and Spanish) from Oxford University.