Unlike television where the writer is in charge, in the movie world, the Director is king. The director of a movie is the commander and chief of a set. What he or she says goes everything from the look of the overall picture to the action contained within. They literally direct the movements of the actors, the choices of the shots, the rewrites of the script and the final edits. The director works closely with all major departments to make sure the project has all the elements they need. From the Cinematographer to the Gaffer to the Editor, they all take their direction from the Director.
Major Motion Picture Director:
If you’re lucky and talented enough you will have the opportunity to direct a major motion picture or Blockbuster. A major motion picture is any movie that is backed by a major studio such as Warner Brothers, Paramount or 20th Century Fox, has an A-List cast (e.g., Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt etc.) and most importantly a large budget. These films cost a studio millions and millions to produce, but for them the risk is worth the potential reward because they can reap hundreds of millions in potential revenue.
As we all know, just because a film has a high profile group of stars and a monstrous budget does not insure it will succeed. But with a great director attached, the chances of success can go up dramatically. But most “blockbuster” directors are not first time prodigies. These are men and women who have already proven themselves in one way or another either by having directed numerous past blockbusters, or a brilliant independent feature, or established themselves on the film festival circuit.
Studios don’t just fund large budget mega-blockbusters they also fund much smaller films as well. This is their way of “hedging their bets” against some of the more major blockbusters. They hope that if two or three of their smaller films strike box office gold with an audience they will avoid the financial disaster of a blockbuster dud (e.g. ISHTAR) The process for choosing directors on these films is much the same in the respect that either the studio executive or the producer will bring a director to the project. In many of these films the project is often written and directed by the same individual.
Independent Feature Film Director:
A director who is just starting out may find themselves on the set of an independent feature. Independent features are certainly not the wasteland they used to be. There are numerous examples of those who have achieved great success by working as a director on an independent feature film. Usually the budgets are smaller, the cast a bit less known (if at all) and the production support staff a lot smaller. But it’s an opportunity for an unknown director to get an opportunity to show the entertainment community what they are capable of.
Although by no means mandatory, film school is a good option to consider if you are hoping to become a Film Director. Aside from the numerous technical skills you learn, you will have the opportunity to truly hone your creative craft before setting out into the entertainment community. Additionally, as with any entertainment job, it often comes down to whom you know. Considering many of the other people you meet and work with in film school will go on to successful entertainment careers, knowing them on a personal basis will help you as well.
The job of a Film Director can be a high profile, highly lucrative career with many well known film directors who are just as famous and making as much or more than the stars they direct.