Working as a Motion Picture Director

What Does a Motion Picture Director Do

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Duties

Producers and directors typically do the following:

  • Select scripts or topics for a film, show, commercial, or play
  • Audition and select cast members and the film or stage crew
  • Approve the design and financial aspects of a production
  • Oversee the production process, including performances, lighting, and choreography
  • Oversee the postproduction process, including editing, special effects, music selection, and a performance’s overall tone
  • Ensure that a project stays on schedule and within budget
  • Promote finished works or productions through interviews, advertisements, and film festivals

Large productions often have associate, assistant, and line producers who share responsibilities. For example, on a large movie set an executive producer is in charge of the entire production, and a line producer runs the day-to-day operations. A TV show may employ several assistant producers to whom the head or executive producer gives certain duties, such as supervising the costume and makeup team.

Similarly, large productions usually employ several assistant directors, who help the director with tasks such as making set changes or notifying the performers when it is their time to go onstage. The specific responsibilities of assistant producers or directors vary with the size and type of production they work on.

Producers make the business and financial decisions for a motion picture, TV show, commercial, or stage production. They raise money for the project and hire the director and crew. The crew may include set and costume designers, film and video editors, a musical director, a choreographer, and other workers. Some producers may assist in the selection of cast members. Producers set the budget and approve any major changes to the project. They make sure that the production is completed on time, and they are ultimately responsible for the final product.

Directors are responsible for the creative decisions of a production. They select cast members, conduct rehearsals, and direct the work of the cast and crew. During rehearsals, they work with the actors to help them more accurately portray their characters. For nonfiction video, such as documentaries or live broadcasts, directors choose topics or subjects to film. They investigate the topic and may interview relevant participants or experts on camera. Directors also work with cinematographers and other crew members to ensure the final product matches the overall vision.

Directors work with set designers, costume designers, location scouts, and art directors to build a project’s set. During a film’s postproduction phase, they work closely with film editors and music supervisors to make sure that the final product comes out the way the producer and director envisioned. Stage directors, unlike television or film directors who document their product with cameras, make sure the cast and crew give a consistently strong live performance. For more information, see the profiles on actors, writers and authors, film and video editors and camera operators, dancers and choreographers, and multimedia artists and animators.

Although directors are in charge of the creative aspects of a show, they ultimately answer to producers. Some directors also share producing duties for their own films.

How To Become a Motion Picture Director

Most producers and directors have a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience in an occupation related to motion picture, TV, or theater production, such as an actor, film and video editor, or cinematographer.

Education

Producers and directors usually have a bachelor’s degree. Many students study film or cinema at colleges and universities. In these programs, students learn about film history, editing, screenwriting, cinematography, and the filmmaking process. Others major in writing, acting, journalism, or communication. Some producers earn a degree in business, arts management, or nonprofit management.

Many stage directors complete a degree in theater and some go on to receive a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Classes may include directing, playwriting, set design, and acting. As of May 2015, the National Association of Schools of Theatre accredited more than 180 programs in theater arts.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Producers and directors might start out working in a theatrical management office as a business or company manager. In television or film, they might start out as an assistant or another low-profile studio job.

Advancement

As a producer’s or director’s reputation grows, he or she may work on larger projects that attract more attention or publicity.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Producers and directors must coordinate the work of many different people to finish a production on time and within budget.

Creativity. Because a script can be interpreted in different ways, directors must decide how they want to interpret it and then how to represent the script’s ideas on the screen or stage.

Leadership skills. A director instructs actors and helps them portray their characters in a believable manner. They also supervise the crew, who are responsible for the behind the scenes work.

Time-management skills. Producers must find and hire the best director and crew for the production. They make sure that all involved do their jobs effectively, keeping within a production schedule and a budget.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

Average Salary$64,210
Job Growth Rate5%

Motion Picture Director Jobs

Average Salary for a Motion Picture Director

Motion Picture Directors in America make an average salary of $64,210 per year or $31 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $130,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $31,000 per year.
Average Salary
$64,210

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Sales Director, Motion Picture & Related
Sales Director, Motion Picture & Related
TYG Media, LLC
TYG Media, LLC
09/22/2010
09/22/2010
$139,00009/22/2010
$139,000
Sales Director Motion Picture & Related
Sales Director Motion Picture & Related
TYG Media, LLC
TYG Media, LLC
09/12/2010
09/12/2010
$139,00009/12/2010
$139,000
Television and Motion Picture Director
Television and Motion Picture Director
Tokyo Television Broadcasting Corporation
Tokyo Television Broadcasting Corporation
06/22/2010
06/22/2010
$52,17506/22/2010
$52,175
Directors-Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio
Directors-Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio
Entravision Communications Corporation
Entravision Communications Corporation
Invalid date
Invalid date
$65,000Invalid date
$65,000

Motion Picture Director Demographics

Gender

Male

52.9 %

Female

41.2 %

Unknown

5.9 %
Ethnicity

White

64.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

15.7 %

Black or African American

10.6 %
Show More
Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.0 %

German

25.0 %

French

25.0 %
Show More

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Motion Picture Director

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

How Do Motion Picture Director Rate Their Jobs?

Working as a Motion Picture Director? Share your experience anonymously.
Rate
Do you work as a Motion Picture Director?
Rate how you like work as Motion Picture Director. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.
Rate

Top Motion Picture Director Employers

1. InvenSense
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$84,833
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
2+
2. Dickinson Theatres
3.2
Avg. Salary: 
$32,915
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
1+
3. The Walt Disney Company
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$53,941
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
1+
4. Activision Blizzard
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$89,897
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
1+
5. Paramount Pictures
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$58,741
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
1+
6. Sony Corporation of America
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$70,486
Motion Picture Directors Hired: 
1+

Recently Added Motion Picture Director Jobs

Updated August 27, 2020