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What does a director do?

Directors are the creative leads of the film. They hold the creative vision throughout the whole process, from pre-production through to the final edit.

They are employed by the executive producer or producer, who is ultimately in charge of a production. Directors start with a script, and work with a screenwriter and sometimes a script editing team. It’s not uncommon for the director to be the screenwriter as well.

It is the job of a director to imagine the script in a visual form. As soon as a production has raised the cash it needs, either through being funded or commissioned, they work closely with the producers to appoint the heads of department, such as the director of photography, assistant director and production designer.

They then work with producers and casting directors to select the actors and with the director of photography to develop the filming style, including notes about camera shots and script changes. Some directors rehearse actors ahead of shooting, though not all do. They ‘block’ the performance with the actors before filming begins, meaning they choreograph where actors are positioned, where they will move to over the course of a shot and how they will deliver their dialogue.  

At the same time, a director will also be instructing other members of the crew, especially lighting, wardrobe and make-up supervisors. Directors work to get the best performance out of the actors but also need to ensure that all technical aspects are in place to get a great scene filmed.

After filming, they lead the editing of a film, preparing a ‘directors cut’. That cut will be reviewed by producers and financiers before signing off the final cut.

Directors may be employed by TV broadcasters, film or television production companies, or work on a freelance basis.

What’s a director good at?

  • Leadership: share the vision of the film with a range of people from different departments, inspire them to do their best work, manage the cast and crew, make creative decisions

  • Imagination: envisage the film you want to make, see it, hear it, create the vision and execute it

  • Arts knowledge: have a passion for and deep knowledge of film and TV drama, appreciate all genres of art, so as to be able to draw ideas from a range of sources

  • Production: understand the film or TV drama production process from start to finish, from both technical and creative points of view

  • Staying calm under pressure: work methodically within a high-stress environment, make creative decisions when things don’t go to plan

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