Dear Aspiring Director,
From day one you’ve had a dream… to direct your own movie. There’s something about the art, leadership, and status of it. I get it… directing movies for a living sounds awesome, sexy even. But I’m sorry… you’re not a director. I know, you think I’m a dream crusher… that I probably slay unicorns on the weekends. But let me explain myself:
Almost all beginning filmmakers I’ve interacted with have dreams of someday becoming a director. I’ve had those dreams too, and actually did end up directing a few small projects. But what most don’t see is what it takes to be a director, and more importantly, a good director. Here are the 3 things you need to know about directing:
- It’s not always sexy. You’re up late at night, you always have to have an opinion about small details, there are 100 people looking at you for answers and if / when you make the wrong decision, everyone suffers for it. Don’t get me wrong… there are times when directing is all fame and glory; but thinking that being a director will be “glamorous” is like thinking you’ll have a relaxing bath in a giant pressure cooker.
Thinking that being a director will be “glamorous” is like thinking you’ll have a relaxing bath in a giant pressure cooker.
- It’s not enough to be “artsy”. When it comes down to it, your job as a director is so much more than having the creative “vision”. It takes good communication skills, leadership, humility, teamwork, and lots of grit – the ability to make tough calls that not everyone will be happy with. On the flip side, there are times where you’ll also need to be willing to sacrifice your artistic vision for the benefit and health of the team. Playing the role of the director often feels like you’re actually the “Compromiser in Chief”.
- It’s may not be the best use of your talents. People default their “dream position” to director because they view it as the pinnacle of success in the film world. Don’t buy that. You’ll be most successful and happy doing something that you enjoy and that you are good at. Do you love beautiful cinematography? Then perhaps camera department is the place for you. If you long to be the one in charge, making plans and keeping things organized, check out the AD (Assistant Directing) team. Love the psychology of characters and creative storytelling? Perhaps you’re actually a writer or even an acting coach. The point is that there are positions on a film set for almost every type, directing is just one of them, and only a few actually thrive there. That’s why there are a lot of first time directors, and few “long time” directors.
So, Aspiring Director, by all means… pursue your dreams. Give directing a try. Perhaps it truly is what you’re meant to do, and the only way to find out is to give it a go. I only caution you to walk in with clear eyes and an intentional attitude. Search yourself constantly to understand if directing is really where you thrive, and if not, try transplanting yourself to another crew position next shoot; there is no shame in that. It can take a while to find your nichè, but when you do, I promise; you’ll be glad you didn’t settle.
We’re cheering for you!