Directing movies is exciting and artistically fulfilling--and it can be a big headache. You direct every step of a movie: auditioning and rehearsing actors, supervising the crew and having the final say on scenery and music. You have to stay on schedule, stay within your budget and stay sane when the cast and crew are melting down. If you can handle temper tantrums and typhoons, you may be the next George Lucas or Steven Spielberg.
- Skill level:
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Go to college and major in filmmaking (see 149 Decide Which College Is Right for You). According to the Filmmaking Web site (see Resources), the most respected U.S. film schools include the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the American Film Institute and New York University.
Move to Los Angeles or New York to get close to the action.
Get your foot in the door as an intern or assistant producer on a movie set (see 161 Set Up an Internship). You may not get paid, but you'll gain valuable skills, experience and contacts.
Develop your craft, gain as much experience as possible, learn like crazy and work your way up to film editor. When you have some clips to your name and start pulling down a salary, you can begin showing your work to people in the industry.
Enroll in a training program for assistant directors, run by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Directors Guild of America. (Click on "Training Program" at the Directors Guild Web site, see Resources). You'll get experience handling extras, transporting equipment and making arrangements for food and accommodations. Some companies allow you to shadow a director, which gives you valuable on-the-job training as well.
Think small at first. Directing music videos, educational films or commercials is a good way to get experience.
Raise money to make an independent film. It's much cheaper than it used to be, thanks to advances in digital technology. Enter your film in festivals and pray you get discovered.
Become a well-known actor and step behind the camera to direct your own movies.
Become a stage director and make the movie version of your latest hit.
Tips and warnings
- Study other people's styles but don't copy them. You have to make your own name.
- Deal with people respectfully and fairly. People will remember your reputation far longer than they'll remember some of your films.
- The job is so multifaceted that directors have to delegate. Hire the most talented, dependable people you can.
- Directors' salaries vary widely according to how many jobs they get each year and how successful their work is. You can always dream about Peter Jackson's $20 million plus a percentage of the gross for a single film.
- Don't go into directing for the big bucks--or even for a consistent income. You might strike it rich one year but then barely make ends meet the next.