Just about every student who enrolls in film school has their eye on becoming a film director. It’s the most glamorous job on the set; the person who gets the largest piece of the credit pie in film. Successful directors are called auteurs because their films have a particular brand despite their individual themes or genres; directors like Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Goddard, Paul Thomas Anderson, John Waters and Quentin Tarantino fit the bill. But what does it take to become one of these infamous auteurs?
1. Know how to tell a good story.
Filmmaking is visual storytelling. You create a world and present it on the screen. That means you’ve got to have a strong grasp of story structure and how to translate that structure into images. What will it look like when the hero faces failure, only to triumph at the end? Great directors don’t just read the words on a script, they see them. You’ll learn this in film school by taking screenwriting classes as well as courses in creative writing.
2. Have superb organizational skills.
Films go through three stages of production; as the director, you’ll be involved with each and every one. You’ve got to have a plan, then a back-up plan, then a failsafe plan. Expect all these plans to fail. As long as your knowledge of who will be needed at what stage and for what scenes is well organized (in your mind, on paper), everything that can go wrong will be easily fixed and everything that goes right will make for a speedier production
3. Be a people person.
Filmmaking is a team activity. Not only is there the crew to contend with, the actor’s needs to be guided. How you want a scene to be played, what blocking is required- these are all aspects you’ll need to communicate to your cast and crew. There will be misunderstandings and blowups. Great communication skills and diplomacy are necessary to keep your crew working and your production on schedule. Film school is a great place to start practicing your team building skills and make those connections you’ll need to get a job in the first place.
4. Be a jack of all trades.
To be a master director, you’ve got to know the functions of every job on the film set. Want the bounce to fill in light falling on an actor’s face? Is there a sudden diegetic sound element that needs adjusting? Are the costumes causing cross talk through the viewfinder? Need a translator for a section of dialogue? Not sure if you get a cut of the ancillary rights? While solving these problems are the tasks of particular executives and crew members, you’ll need to communicate effectively with each so your final film product matches your intentions.
5. Be possessed by you passion.
The one thing all successful directors all have in common is they are absolutely obsessed with filmmaking, most of them from a very young age. Some sweet relative gives them a camera and bam! Cue lifelong love affair. That’s gotta be your driving force, you need to be full engaged in your lifelong love affair with life –then express that joie de vivre through the movies you make.
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