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What Does a Movie Director Do?

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You've made up your mind and have chosen a career in film. Perhaps you’ve opted to try your luck in Hollywood, but want to put your creative juices to work rather than play roles on the big screen. If that's the case, there are a couple of different routes to take. One of the options is becoming a movie director. Maybe you've envisioned yourself in Spielberg's director chair, calling takes for a fantasy-adventure film.

The Daily Tasks of a Movie Director

While movie directors do not write the script, they do decide how it is portrayed on the screen. Some of the major factors in putting the story in motion include: setting up rehearsals, selecting cast members and coordinating the set crew. On a daily basis, the director helps the actors understand their characters' motivations, including unique quirks and ultimately, how to deliver the lines to convey the story with the proper vision.

Behind the scenes, the director works with set design, costume designers, location scouts and artistic visionaries to help pull together each scene. After these various tasks are tweaked daily, the post-production work begins. Beyond production, the director works with editors and music producers to work out the final details of the film.

Skills You Need to Become a Movie Director

With all of the technological components that go into movie-making, it’s helpful to also be tech-savvy in areas that involve computers, cameras, lighting and so on. While schooling will teach these various techniques, you can also receive this education through on-the-job training. Directors often start out as set assistants when they first break into the business.

For official training, pursue a degree in theater or at least study film and cinema at a university. Other degrees that directors might have relate to writing, acting or communications.

Beyond schooling, however, directors must innately be able to command a room. Being able to communicate with a variety of people while making decisions under deadline is helpful as well. While directors are in charge of many of the decisions behind the scenes, they must also be able to collaborate with producers and other team members, thus, keeping an open mind is key.

How Much Do Movie Directors Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for film directors was $76,400 in 2020. Of course, big-budget films can have directors pulling in numbers like $500,000. There are times when the director collects a portion of ticket sales, but not always.

Directors also work long and irregular hours rather than a structured 9 to 5 job. So if a strict routine is what you’re looking for, this job may not be for you. But if you long to bring a story together on the screen like Quentin Tarantino or James Cameron, surely the early mornings and late nights won't matter much.


Erinne is a freelance writer living in Maine. Her work has been published by The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Prevention Magazine, Parents Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Chicago Tribune, Men's Journal and more.

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