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Skills Needed to Be a Filmmaker

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

From indie film festival hits to Hollywood blockbusters, filmmakers -- also known as directors and producers -- are in charge of creating movies for the public to enjoy. They acquire funding, choose scripts, select cast and crew members, hold rehearsals and direct actors and crew while filming. Competition to break into the industry is fierce, and not every aspiring filmmaker makes it in the business. Possessing certain skills could increase a prospective filmmaker's odds of success.


Since filmmakers spend the majority of their time telling others what to do, they need to possess strong leadership and speaking skills. They must stay organized and multitask as they keep cameramen, lighting technicians, actors and other professionals on track. Creativity is essential for developing new and exciting ways to interpret scripts. Critical thinking skills help filmmakers identify problems and weaknesses, and figure out effective ways to fix them. Since a filmmaker is in charge of ensuring that a film stays within budget, he needs excellent judgment skills to determine where cuts could be made. A lot of trial-and-error is involved in creating a film, and filmmakers need active learning skills to learn from mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Education and Training

Formal education isn't required to become a filmmaker, but pursuing a degree can help prospective directors learn new skills and hone their existing ones. Filmmakers come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Some possess degrees in film, acting, communications, journalism, or even business. Individuals interested in this career often benefit from internship opportunities working in the film industry. Not only do internship opportunities provide training, they also allow aspiring filmmakers to network and gain exposure for themselves, which could help further their careers later down the road.

Applying for the Job

There isn't a set path that all filmmakers take to break into the field. Some filmmakers spend time working as actors, editors or choreographers before switching to directing later in their careers, while others take assistant directing positions early on to hone their skills and gain the experience they need to work on their own. Filmmakers interested in the production side of the business often start out working as business managers in theatrical management offices or as assistants in TV or movie studios. Directors and producers work closely together, so networking is essential throughout a filmmaker's career.

Career Growth

In 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that filmmakers had a mean annual salary of $92,000. In 2010, the BLS predicted that employment for the profession would grow 11 percent by 2020 -- about as fast as the predicted growth for all occupations. The BLS attributed job growth in the motion picture and video industries to growing public demand for more movies. Due to the increased popularity of independent films, opportunities for self-employed filmmakers were predicted to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020 by the BLS. In the United States, job availability for filmmakers is concentrated highest in California, where most movie production companies are headquartered. New York, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania also offer a number of opportunities for filmmakers.

2016 Salary Information for Producers and Directors

Producers and directors earned a median annual salary of $70,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, producers and directors earned a 25th percentile salary of $46,660, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $112,820, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 134,700 people were employed in the U.S. as producers and directors.