First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on taking a decision to become Film Director. The reason you are reading this blog says that you have a deep burning desire to become an extraordinary and professional Film Director. Though thousands of people wish to make film direction as their career, it only remains as a wish mainly because they do not get proper guidance. Have the patience to read this blog post on how to become Film Director (in Hollywood, Bollywood, Sandalwood, Tollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood etc). It will change the way you look at your career planning.
Before reading further, understand that to make a wonderful career in any field takes time. Nothing great has been achieved overnight. There is no shortcut. Disciplined and consistent learning through practice for a deterministic period of time will result in eternal success.
In one of my career building workshops, I was asked by a student to guide him to become Film Director. I felt, there would many such students who are looking out for guidance on how to become Film Director. So, I decided to write a blog post on this topic. As I am not into filmmaking, I decided to meet few real film directors who have already taken the road to becoming successful film directors.
No matter in whichever stage of life you are, this blog post on how to become film director will help you get started. There are no specific qualifications needed to become a film director. You can follow the steps outlined here if you are serious about becoming a film director.
Special mention to be given to Mr. Janardhan Nagaraj Rao – The director of Kannada thriller movie – BB5 who helped me craft this blog post in its present form. He quit his high paying job at SAP as a Senior Architect, to pursue his dreams of filmmaking. He gave me loads of insights about his journey of becoming a film director. This blog post would not have been possible without his immense contribution.
Let’s get started step-by-step.
How To Become Film Director: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first two steps help you in preparing mentally. The primary reasons why many fail are because they do not follow Step #1 and Step #2.
Step #1: Ask yourself, why would you like to become a film director?
This step is the most important among all others. If your answer to the above question is anything other than “Burning Desire To Become A Film Director”, then please do back off from the idea of becoming a film director. Having a burning desire to entertain people through creativity and a strong message is the first trait that any budding film director should possess. And that trait is what has made several directors world famous. This burning desire or barely controllable emotion is called as Passion. History has never produced a great film director without passion. When an individual faces heartbreaking obstacles on his journey to become a film director, it is his passion that makes him overcome those hurdles.
Step #2: Ask yourself, Do you have enough patience?
As said earlier, no one has ever become a master or a professional overnight in any field. This is the truth. You need to maintain patience. This is nature’s rule – evolve step-by-step. In every step that you take towards becoming a film director, you are bound to make mistakes. The true learning happens through those mistakes. According to the famous author – Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour” rule, 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is needed to become an expert in any field. Now, if your question is “How long does it take to become a Film Director”, the answer is “It completely depends on your learning speed and the amount of time you invest in learning and practicing”. Patience is what makes a good film director.
If you are okay with the above two steps, it means you are set out to become a world-renowned movie director. Take it from me, no one can ever stop you from becoming one. Let us proceed to the next steps.
Step #3: Watch minimum 30 movies per month
The best way to understand movie making is by watching plenty of movies. Watch a minimum of 30 movies per month from all genres, languages, countries. Watch the movie from different views. I mean to say, watch the movie from the technological point of view, story point of view, the directorial point of view, cinematography point of view, the acting point of view etc. Try to go deep into the director’s mind through their movies. You will realize that there are loads of things to unlearn and learn.
While watching different movies, keeping asking questions to yourself like – “Why did the director choose this theme ?”, “Why did the director cast this person for this character?”, “Why did the director chose such a climax?”, “What kind of audience was the director trying to convince?” and so on.
While watching movies, do not settle for only those movies that was considered hit at the box office. You are supposed to watch even those movies that had not performed well at the box office. Write down your views in the form of points on what according to you could be the reasons for the success and failure of those movies. These analyses will help you make better decisions when you direct your first movie.
By watching movies for few months like this, you will almost get a fair idea about the logic behind filmmaking. Your heart and mind will say, “Yes, I fairly understand the essence of filmmaking”. This is the transition phase from a regular moviegoer to a film director in the making. This is the right time to move on to the next step.
Step #4: Join A Film Making Academy
Though this step is optional, I personally feel, one should join a professional filmmaking academy to learn filmmaking. The advantage is that you get to meet and interact with many like-minded people whom you can later collaborate with for your work. Also, such academies will help you get in touch with people in the film industry. Learning in an academy can get you exposed to various aspects of filmmaking like script-writing, camera work, acting, costume designing or selection etc. I have observed that many first time directors who made blockbuster movies had taken up a professional course before diving into the world of filmmaking. Having a professional course will also boost your confidence. A google search will give you a list of institutes that offer courses in filmmaking both full time and part time throughout the world. Make sure you join an academy that has good reviews and alumni network consisting of people from the film industry.
Step #5: Make Short Movies Or Web Series
In the previous step, you have learned filmmaking through an academy. By now, you have enough idea about filmmaking. Its now time to put your learning into practicality. Make short movies or Web Series. The length of the short movies can vary from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. This is the time to put your directorial traits into practicality. Select a particular theme (like the thriller, romance, drama, action etc. ) of your choice, collaborate with like-minded people whom you met in your academy or aspiring film actors and make a short movie.
When you make a short movie, do not consider it as a short movie, rather, put complete efforts as though you are making another full-fledged cinema. You should now think like a director and handle all the departments professionally. Once your short movie is done, share it on Youtube and ask people’s opinion. This is where you get your real skill-set tested. Observe people’s reaction to your short movie. If the response is bad, immediately seek out to understand what made people dislike your work. Do not get emotional about people’s reviews. Those reviews will make you an extraordinary director. If people’s response towards your short movie was positive, promise them that you will deliver much better work.
Either ways, start with your next short movie with a different theme and repeat the process or taking feedback. Many individuals make one short short and consider themselves to be a director material. No. That’s wrong. Minimum of six short movies should be made to bring out the actual film director in you. Among six short movies, at least 4 movies should have been well received by the audience. Only then, you will have the confidence to become an acclaimed film director in the future. Keep this in mind – Audience is your critic.
Step #6: Participate in Short Movie Competitions
There are several organizations around the world that conduct competitions that award best short movies. Participate in such competitions to gauge your movie making skills with that of others. This is a platform to understand what is happening around the world with respect to cinema and how people are working towards achieving their dream goal. Let go winning the competition, mere participation in such competitions will add tremendous weightage to your profile. Such participation will definitely help you while pitching yourself to producers.
Step #7: Understanding the Business Side Of Film Making
Most of the first time directors get too much into the creative art and technicality of filmmaking that they forget the producer. A producer is the one who will help you realize your dream of becoming a film director by funding your project. He funds your idea if you can convince him how your movie can become commercially a success. It is your sole responsibility to choose a script that can bring in more money to the producer.
Selecting a script is an art in itself. As a director, you can either choose to write a script by yourself or direct movie based on somebody else’s script. In either way, it is the ability of a good film director to choose a winning script. This art can be learned by keenly observing people’s changing mindset and growing trends among movie-goers.
Observe film directors who have been giving continuous hit movies for generations together. When you watch their movies, you will understand how these directors could survive multiple generations amid increasing competition. This is what I mentioned in Step #3.
Step #8: Approach and work with acclaimed directors
Now, after a formal training, directing short movies and participating in competitions, it is now time for you to get into the field to experience the real cinematic world. The best way to become a good film director is to first work as assistant director to any acclaimed and well-established film directors. All great film directors were once an assistant director to someone else.
Getting to work with an acclaimed film director may not be an easy catch for newbies, but, definitely not impossible. That is the reason I asked you to join a film academy to build a relationship with people in the industry. Acclaimed directors love to have freshers who have a keen passion towards filmmaking as their assistants. You can pitch your skills to such directors using your short movies. Getting to work with some of the noted filmmakers is indeed a great blessing – The reason is you get to learn a lot.
Once you get an opportunity to work as assistant director, take this opportunity to understand the complete life cycle of filmmaking – Preproduction, Production, and Postproduction. Involve in every aspect of filmmaking. Observe your director and his actions. Observe how he handles, manages and controls various departments of cinema like choosing the cast members, production design, and other creative aspects of filmmaking.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you feel, you have not gained enough exposure, I would strongly suggest you work as assistant directors for few more movies. The reason is by the time you complete at least three projects as assistant director, you would have gained loads of exposure into the world of cinema. You would have become a confident person and the chances of making costly mistakes in your first directorial venture will be minimized. Also, by now you will have enough contacts in the cinema industry and can approach producers for your first movie easily. The credits of working with three acclaimed directors is more than easy to pitch into the producer.
Step #9: Write your own script or choose somebody else’s script
After being involved with cinema as assistant director, you are now a much matured person. It’s now time to realise your dream. To direct your first movie, you need a script. You can either choose to write one by yourself or direct somebody else’s script. Though getting to direct a movie based on well established script writer’s script is quite difficult, it is not impossible. End of the day, the quality of a good film director is to choose a script that will appeal to the audience and bring commercial success to producer.
Step #10: Look out for and convince your producer
There are a lot of people who are ready to invest in a good script. The word “good” for a producer is only based on how much ROI (return on investment) the script can bring in. Getting a producer for a first time director is difficult. But, your vast experience in the film industry in the form of directing short movies, working as an assistant director etc. can be used as a tool to convince producers. While convincing a producer, you should focus and emphasize more on the money-making side of the script.
Step #11: Build your team and direct your first film
Once you have a producer ready to back your project, get started. Build your team and direct your first film. As a director, you are the captain of the ship. Make use of all the experiences that you have gained throughout your journey to make your first movie a grand success. Keep this in mind, until you complete the project and the movie gets released you cannot call yourself a film director. So, work hard every moment in the journey. You will be known to the world as a filmmaker only after the first show of your movie is screened. Hope you understand what I am trying to make. All the very best.
It might look like a herculean task to become a film director, but, once if you become an acclaimed film director, you can make a lifetime fortune. If you can give back to back hits, producers will approach you to make more and more movies.
Hope this blog post gave you a clear insight into how to become film director. Feel free to comment below on what you felt after reading the blog post. If you have any friends or relatives looking out to make a career as a film director, feel free to share this blog post with them. And do not forget to let me know about your first project as a film director.