Do You Want to Become a Director?

Be a Motion Picture, Television, Stage, or News Director

Director
Marc Romanelli / Blend Images / Getty Images

Some famous names come to mind when we think of directors. Most people have heard of Steven Spielberg, Joss Whedon, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ridley Scott,  who are known for their work directing motion pictures. Not all directors are famous, however, and many are not even involved with movies. They instead work in other venues in the entertainment industry, like television shows, the theater, broadcast and cable news programs, and television commercials.

Movie, television, stage, and news directors are charged with making sure the creative aspects of the productions for which they are responsible run smoothly. Their job includes hiring talent, selecting scripts and other material, and managing the work of crews and casts. They oversee the work of set designers, costume designers, makeup artists, actors, news anchors, broadcast meteorologists, camera operators, reporters, writers, audio and video equipment technicians, and film and video editors. They collaborate with producers to whom they typically report.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, directors earned a median annual salary of $70,950 or $34.11 per hour.*
  • There were 123,000 people employed in this occupation in 2014.*
  • Most of them worked in the motion picture and film industries. Others worked in the television broadcasting, performing arts, and radio broadcasting industries.
  • Directors often work on short-term assignments and may be unemployed for extended periods of time between them.
  • The job outlook will be good, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The federal agency expects employment to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

*The BLS combines salary and employment statistics for directors and producers.

Typical Job Duties

Employers listed the following job duties in employment announcements:

  • Newscast Director: "Direct newscasts, preproduction, and special projects; post video content to the web" (Indeed.com)
  • Film Director: "Review and approve concepts, outlines, scripts" (SimplyHired)
  • Animation Film Director: "Translate scripts into storyboards/animatics" (Fabelizer, Inc.)
  • Newscast Director:  "Collaborate effectively with executive producers and producers to execute crisp, well-paced newscasts and productions" (Indeed.com)

How Some Famous Directors Got Their Start and How You Can Get Yours

  • Most of the well-known directors discussed earlier have bachelor's degrees in film, but not all of them do. Joss Whedon earned a film degree from Wesleyan University and Kathleen Bigelow earned one from Columbia University School of Arts. Ridley Scott studied at Hartlepool College of Art and London's Royal College of Art, founding the film department at the latter. Steven Spielberg did not earn a degree in film, but instead dropped out of college (IMDB).
  • Although it is not required, if you want to become a director, you should consider earning a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to the area in which you would like to work. For example, you can study cinema and film, television, radio, communication, theater, or performing arts. It will improve your chances of finding work.
  • According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, directors often begin their careers working as actors, animators, dancers, writers, and film and video editors.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

  • Active Listening: Strong listening skills will allow you to understand what others are telling you.
  • Reading Comprehension: Directors have to read a lot of written material, including scripts.
  • Verbal Communication: You must be able to orally convey information so they can understand what they need to do.
  • Interpersonal Skills: In addition to having strong verbal communication and listening skills, you must be able to coordinate your actions with those of other people. You need the ability to negotiate with and persuade your cast and crew, as well as empathize and sympathize with them.
  • Management: As a director, you must be able to provide instruction, give useful feedback, and assume responsibility when things don't go well.
  • Critical Thinking: To solve problems, you will have to identify and evaluate possible solutions before choosing the best one.
  • Time Management: This skill will allow you to complete the multitude of tasks for which you will be responsible as a director.
  • Creativity: You will call upon your creativity to interpret scripts and other material.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

The following requirements come from actual job announcements:

  • News Director: "Ability to simultaneously direct and technical direct fast paced newscast and other productions" (Media General)
  • Film Director: "Able to anticipate and resolve conflict diplomatically" (SimplyHired)
  • Film Director: "Should be energetic, resourceful, have strong communication skills and be self-motivated" (Indeed.com)
  • Newscast Director: "Exceptional ability to multi-task under heavy pressure" (Indeed.com)

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Related Occupations

 Description

Median Annual Salary

(2016)

Required Education/Training
Program DirectorCoordinates the activities that go into preparing sports and news programs on television and radio stations.$70,950Bachelor's Degree
CinematographerDetermines what angles and equipment to use to best capture a shot when filming a movie.$55,080Bachelor's Degree
ProducerMakes decisions regarding business and finances for a movie, television or stage production.$70,950Bachelor's Degree
Camera OperatorRecords the visual elements of a live event, movie, television show, or news broadcast.$55,080Bachelor's Degree

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited August 16, 2017).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online  (visited August 16, 2017).

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