Friday, May 17, 2013

What Does a Movie Director Do?

Have you ever asked yourself the question "what does a movie director do"? If you have, then this article is for you. I'll explain to you here what exactly it is that this person called "the director" does.

what-does-a-movie-director-doThe director is one of the most important people that works on a movie. He or she is involved in the pre-production, production and post-production phases of creating a film. Basically, the director is responsible for making the movie enjoyable for the audience by organizing it's production at almost every stage.

The modern day movie director grew out of the historical play director. In general, directors of plays had (and still have) a lot of the same responsibilities as movie directors do today (e.g. picking actors, overseeing the production etc). Play directors were often the authors of plays, and they also acted in addition to directing. Movie directors today also have some responsibilities that play directors from centuries ago did not as you'll see below.

Directors are responsible for picking the cast members of the film. You may have seen different movies which were directed by the same person that have a lot of the same actors (certain Christopher Nolan movies for example). The reason for this is because the directors choose who they want to work with and often times they like to pick people whom they've worked with before on previous films because they know those actors' strengths and weaknesses. However, directors will often times pick actors they haven't worked with before. In cases like these they have to figure out, based on auditions and working with them on the film, what any given actor's skills, strengths and weaknesses are and how well he or she would fit a given role.

During the pre-production phase of filming, directors are involved in planning how production and post-production of the movie is going to go. For example, directors will use the screenplay (or script) to structure in what order they will shoot the scenes, where they will shoot the scenes, how they'll shoot them etc. At this time, they also work with the different teams who are working on the film (artists, costume designers, set designers etc) to decide on what needs to be done before shooting begins.

During production the director really is at the centre of everything. A lot of the things that directors are well-known for occur during this stage. One of the most important things that a director is known for is deciding on how the movie is going to look. Among other things, this means getting good shots, making good cuts and providing a good flow to the movie (so the viewer can easily follow the sequence of events). The director works with the cinematographer (the person in charge of the cameras and lighting) to determine how the scenes are shot (camera angles etc). Directors can choose to have either a relatively high or relatively low degree of control over this part of production. Specifically, they can choose to give the cinematographer some artistic freedom as to how they want the movie to look, or they can choose to have more control themselves.

The director also works with the actors to explain to them what their roles are all about and to make sure that they are acting out the scene properly. Here, the actors of course have freedom to do what they like, but the director has to make sure that the scene is done right and that it looks good on the big screen.

Due to the complexity of movie production today, multiple directors are sometimes required. For example, in the recent film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson directed parts of the film during the production phase while Andy Serkis (known for his role as Gollum) directed other parts. In this scenario, because the film was shot across New Zealand, two directors were needed to shoot things in different locations. Usually, the main director works with the main actors while the secondary director(s) will shoot such things as crowd scenes or landscape shots which don't involve the main actors. Also, the director will have people under him or her who are specialists in some area to help coordinate the large amount of people working on the movie. These specialists will head teams of people in some specific area (e.g. costume design, sound mixing, set design etc).

During post-production, the director's work doesn't stop. For example, he or she will work with the editors to take part in the editing process of films in order to make sure that they flow properly. Here, the director approves which takes make it into the movie and which do not. He or she also works with the composer to put together the music for the film. The director even has a say in what special effects are done during the movie even though the actual effects are, of course, done by others.

As you can see, the director is one of the most important people on the set of a film. They have to organize almost everything in production and they also work in pre and post-production too. They're responsible for the look of the movie which is, in the end, the most important thing for the average viewer.

If you guys have any suggestions on what you'd like to see me write about, let me know in the comments and I'll see if I can do it.


  1. I have a friend who is an amateur movie director, but I had no idea being a director would involve doing so much! Have you done a post on the role of the producer? I think that would be interesting.

    1. Thanks for the comment Levi. It's definitely a lot of work being a director, especially on a big budget film (though you have a lot of other people helping you). I may just do a post on the producer, thanks for the suggestion.