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What Are the Skills Required for a Film Director?

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A film director interprets a book or script, then translates that interpretation into a film. This mission means the director must manage all creative aspects of a production while also working with producers, who tackle the business end of films. Actor, editor, camera operator, sound engineer — a director must speak the language of each to successfully accomplish a film. Directors must then use technical, creative, interpersonal and leadership skills on the job, while shouldering responsibility for the financial and creative success of a film.


Creativity is a necessity since directors tell stories through films. How the story is told -- the mood, timing and pacing, visual style -- requires strong creative vision and imagination. Additionally, being creative allows the director to work with others who use creativity on the film, including writers, musicians and actors.


Communication on a movie set keeps things running smoothly. The director must, for instance, be able to give understandable instructions to actors, eliciting powerful performances. The technical crew -- those in lighting or camera work or props -- look to the director, as well. The film itself can be considered one long communication from the director to the audience, accomplished in the medium of cinema. A fundamental aspect of communication is having something to say and choosing the best way to say it. Verbal and visual fluency allow directors to assertively and persuasively communicate.

Leadership and Management

With so many aspects of a movie under a director's control, management skills are vital. Keeping the big picture in mind while attending to particulars, deploying appropriate personnel, organizing, scheduling, delegating, decision-making -- such management skills get a work-out on a daily basis. Additionally, a director must lead, inspiring trust and respect so that others support and fulfill the director's vision.


Without technical know-how, a director would be hard-pressed to give instruction or even understand how to start to accomplish the creative requirements of a film. Deciding shots, an understanding of the role light plays, knowing how to edit what was captured during production -- such considerations take technical knowledge that must come through training and experience. Technology changes rapidly in the film industry and directors must stay abreast of trends.

Education and Training

There is no standard course of training to become a film director, though any real-world or academic experience that adds to communication, leadership, management and technical skills helps. Undergraduate and graduate courses exist in each of those areas, and there are whole schools devoted to film. Online offerings, DVDs and books, many created by film professionals, also serve to guide. With or without school, prospective directors need liberal exposure to film sets. Taking entry-level jobs, such as production assistant, gives would-be directors access to sets where they can observe the moving parts of a production and study how directors make it all come together. Creating independent projects lets budding directors apply knowledge in real-world settings, learning from trial and error.


Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.

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