A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic aspects, while guiding the technical crew and actors.
A new director working on feature films might earn as much as $200,000 a year, while the most successful can earn over $500,000 per film plus a "back-end" percentage of the profits, which in some cases can lift their income to several million dollars.
Directors are responsible for overseeing creative aspects of a film under the overall control of the film producer. They often develop the vision for a film and carry out the vision, deciding how the film should look, in other words they make their vision come to life. They are responsible for turning the script into a sequence of shots. They also direct what tone it should have and what an audience should gain from the cinematic experience. Film directors are responsible for deciding camera angles, lens effects and lighting with the help of the cinematographer and set design with the production designer. They will often take part in hiring the cast and key crew members. They coordinate the actors' moves, or blocking and also may be involved in the writing, financing and editing of a film.
The director works closely with the cast and crew to shape the film. Some like to conduct rigorous rehearsals in preproduction while others do so before each scene. In either case, this process is essential as it tells the director as well as other key members of the crew (director of photography, stunt coordinator, hair stylist, etc.), how the actors are going to play the scene, which enables them to make any necessary adjustments. Directors often use storyboards to illustrate sequences and concepts and a director's viewfinder to set up camera angles.
The director also plays a key role in post-production. He or she works with the editor to ensure that the emotions of the scene and the close ups, mid-shots and wide or long shots appropriately reflect which character is driving the narrative. The director also advises on the (colour) grading of the final images, adding warmth or frigidity to the composition of the shots to reflect the emotional subtext of the character or environment. The director also participates and directs the sound mix and musical composition of the film. In the subsequent promotion of the finished film, if a director is well known his name and image is used to promote the film alongside the stars of the film, but having an image is not the primary function of a director, as they are judged by their creative talent and ability to run a production. It is the second most powerful "behind the scenes" profession in the movie industry, after the producer, but the director traditionally has complete control "on the floor".
Characteristics of film directors
The film director, on the right, gives last minute direction to the cast and crew, while filming a costume drama
on location in London
Different directors can vary immensely amongst themselves, under various characteristics. Several examples are:
- Outline a general plotline and let the actors improvise dialogue. Notable examples include Ingmar Bergman, Christopher Guest, Wong Kar-wai, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Jean-Luc Godard, Miklós Jancsó, Gus Van Sant, Judd Apatow, and occasionally Robert Altman, Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.
- Control every aspect, and demand that the actors and crew follow instructions precisely. Notable examples include David Lean, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Victor Fleming, James Cameron, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Marcus Dillistone, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Roy Andersson, and Alfred Hitchcock.
- Write and/or produce their own films. Notable examples include Woody Allen, Werner Herzog, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Giuseppe Cavallaro, James Cameron, Albert Magnoli, George Lucas, J. F. Lawton, David Cronenberg, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Ed Wood, David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Pedro Almodóvar, John Hughes, Nick Park, Edward Burns, Kevin Smith, Todd Field, Cameron Crowe, Oren Peli, Eli Roth, Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Roy Andersson, Oliver Stone, Terrence Malick, Brendan Moriarty, John Singleton, Spike Lee, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Haggis, Billy Bob Thornton, James Wong, Tyler Perry, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan, George A. Romero, Sergio Leone, Satyajit Ray, DJ Pooh and Stuart Beattie. Steven Spielberg, Scott Spiegel, Jack Neo, Sidney J. Furie, Joss Whedon and Tim Burton have written screenplays for a small number of their films.
- Collaborate on screenplays with long-standing writing partners. Notable examples include Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga, Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams, Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown/Tony Grisoni, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson/Noah Baumbach, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi/Paul Schrader/Jay Cocks, Yasujirō Ozu and Kôgo Noda, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière/Luis Alcoriza, Krzysztof Kieślowski/Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Frank Capra/Robert Riskin, Michelangelo Antonioni/Tonino Guerra, Billy Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond, Sergio Leone and Sergio Donati, Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, and Christopher Nolan/Jonathan Nolan/David S. Goyer.
- Be the cinematographer and/or editor. Notable examples include Nicolas Roeg, Akira Kurosawa, Peter Hyams, Steven Soderbergh, Josef von Sternberg, David Lean, Albert Magnoli, Don Coscarelli, Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron, Ed Wood, Gaspar Noe, Raja Gosnell, Tony Kaye, Takeshi Kitano, Andy Warhol, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kenneth Anger, the Coen brothers.
- Appear in their films. Notable examples include Clint Eastwood, Orson Welles, Mel Gibson, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, John Waters, John Carpenter, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Anger, Woody Allen, Jon Favreau, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Michael Bay, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Charlie Chaplin, Terry Jones, Edward Burns, Sam Raimi, Roman Polanski, Billy Bob Thornton, Sylvester Stallone, M. Night Shyamalan, Will Hay, Harold Ramis, Robert De Niro, John Woo, Kevin Smith, Ed Wood, Warren Beatty, DJ Pooh and Edgar Wright. Kenneth Branagh, Alfred Hitchcock, Scott Spiegel, Shawn Levy and Spike Jonze made cameo appearances in their films.
- Compose a music score for their films. Notable examples include Charlie Chaplin, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Carpenter, Alejandro Amenábar, Satyajit Ray, Robert Rodriguez and Vishal Bhardwaj.
- Cast a certain actor in more than one of their films. Notable examples include Mel Brooks, Tim Burton, the Coen brothers, Guillermo Del Toro, Emilio Fernández, David Lynch, Ed Wood, Robert Rodriguez, Wolfgang Reitherman, Don Bluth, Shawn Levy, Terry Jones, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Rob Zombie, Sam Raimi, James Cameron, Spike Lee, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, David Fincher, John Musker, Ron Clements, Edgar Wright, M. Night Shyamalan, Vincenzo Natali, Baz Luhrmann, Alfred Hitchcock, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Spike Jonze, Eli Roth, Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen, Justin Lin, Jack Neo, Kevin Smith, Ivan Reitman, Manirathnam, Robert Zemeckis, Akira Kurosawa, Ridley Scott, John Waters, Wes Anderson, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Stanley Kubrick, Joss Whedon and Scott Spiegel had recast a small number of actors in their films.
- Be a single-person film crew (collaborating on cinematography, editing and music as well). Notable examples include Josh Becker, Robert Rodriguez, William Eubank, David Lynch, Daryush Shokof and John Waters
- Begin their careers in other parts of the media before crossing to direction. Notable examples include Hal Ashby, Jan de Bont, Mark Goldblatt, Clint Eastwood, Emilio Estevez, Wolfgang Reitherman, Ron Howard, Ben Affleck, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Marshall, and Stanley Kubrick.
In the United States, directors usually belong to the Directors Guild of America. The Canadian equivalent is the Directors Guild of Canada. In the UK, directors usually belong to the Directors Guild of Great Britain.
In Europe, FERA, the Federation of European Film Directors, represents 37 national directors' guilds in 30 countries.
Notable film directors
- Spencer Moon: Reel Black Talk: A Sourcebook of 50 American Filmmakers, Greenwoood Press 1997
- The St. James Women Filmmakers Encyclopedia: Women on the Other Side of the Camera, Visible Ink Press, 1999
- International dictionary of films and filmmakers, ed. by Tom Pendergast, 4 volumes, Detroit [etc.]: St. James Press, 4th edition 2000, vol. 2: Directors
- Contemporary North American Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide (Wallflower Critical Guides to Contemporary Directors), ed. by Yoram Allon Del Cullen and Hannah Patterson, Second Edition, Columbia Univ Press 2002
- Alexander Jacoby, Donald Richie: A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors: From the Silent Era to the Present Day, Stone Bridge Press, 2008, ISBN 1-933330-53-8
- Rebecca Hillauer: Encyclopedia of Arab Women Filmmakers, American University in Cairo Press, 2005, ISBN 977-424-943-7
- Roy Armes: Dictionary of African Filmmakers, Indiana University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-253-35116-2
- Philippe Rege: Encyclopedia of French Film Directors, Scarecrow Press, 2009