TV/Film Director

The Job and What's Involved

Directors have overall creative responsibility for an entire film or television production. They transform the written script into images and sound on the screen.

Directors can work for both film and television. The work usually involves:

  • Discussing the budget with the producer or other financiers (In a small company, the director often acts as producer as well).
  • Commissioning a scriptwriter or, in some cases, actually writing the script.
  • Developing the storyboard - a sequence of drawings representing the shots planned for the production.
  • Finding a suitable location.
  • Selecting the cast and crew.
  • Calculating how to fit in the shooting within the schedule.
  • Directing the camera crew - choosing the angle of the shots.
  • Directing the sound and lighting departments.
  • Directing the cast and helping them to interpret the script.
  • Editing the final 'cut', selecting which shots will remain.

Television directors involve themselves in a wide range of programme's, such as:

- Soap operas
- Reality TV
- News programmes
- Children's TV
- Political discussions
- Dramas
- Documentary series - for example, nature films
- Live broadcasts

Film directors can work for well known film production companies, making blockbuster movies, or for independent film or video companies, making:

- Advertisements
- Low-budget 'art-house' movies
- Animated short films
- One-off documentaries

The pressures of finishing a project on time and within budget determine the hours worked. Directors may have to get up very early to travel to a location, and work late into the night preparing for the next day's shoot. Working at weekends (including public holidays) is common. In live television, directors may work shifts.

Film locations are not always in exotic places. Directors are just as likely to find themselves standing for hours in freezing conditions during a shoot. There can be a great deal of travel involved in the job, with periods spent away from home, perhaps abroad.

Directing a television programme in a studio can mean working in claustrophobic conditions, with little or no natural light. In live television work the director often sits in a gallery overlooking the action.

Directors at the start of their careers may earn around £20,000 a year, but salaries are likely to vary considerably.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most jobs involve working freelance on short-term contracts with independent film production companies or with cable and satellite broadcasters. Very few directors will find themselves directing the latest blockbuster for a major film studio.

Like other jobs in the media sector, openings for directors are mostly located in London or one of the larger cities. There are also some areas with strengths in particular types of work; for example, south-west England has a strong track record for animation.

Although some vacancies for directors appear in periodicals such as The Stage and Broadcast and on websites such as www.mandy.com, www.productionbase.co.uk and www.productionwizard.com, it is very difficult to get that first break. It's important to build up useful industry contacts as people often find out about potential work opportunities through the people they know in the industry.

Education and Training

There isn't a standard career path to becoming a film director. Personality and the ability to make contacts are crucial, and often more useful than qualifications. There is no substitute for practical experience. Most aspiring directors start off by making short films (shorts) which are often self-funded. They choose the best samples of their work to put onto a 'showreel' to demonstrate their talent to agents.

Courses in media, film and television studies are available at a variety of levels:

GCSE, BTEC First Diploma and A level.

The Diploma in creative and media which is relevant to this area of work.

BTEC National Certificates/Diplomas and HND's, available in a number of related subjects.

Foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate courses, e.g. in media studies, film studies and video production.

Course entry requirements include:

One A level or equivalent qualifications for an HND course. A minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications, for a degree course.

There are also specialised directing courses ranging from part-time, weekend or week-long introductory courses, to one- or two-year full-time postgraduate courses. Most of the full-time courses expect applicants to submit an example of their work.

Some broadcasting organisations offer work experience placements or opportunities to submit ideas for new films (e.g. BBC Talent). These may sometimes lead to employment.

In partnership with the UK Film Council, Skillset has developed a training and education strategy for the UK film industry and oversees industry-specific careers advice provision, professional development and a network of screen academies (centres of excellence in film education and training).

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A number of organisations offer funding and training support, including national organisations such as the British Council Arts Group and the UK Film Council, and many smaller regional organisations.

Courses and training schemes give students the chance to work on writing, producing and editing short films. Students may work as part of a film crew and become involved in:

- Script writing and storyboarding
- Camera and lighting
- Production management
- Editing techniques

The national occupational standards for directors are available from the Skillset website.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Directors should be:

  • Creative and artistic.
  • Determined and decisive.
  • Assertive in dealing with different and demanding personalities.
  • Mentally and physically energetic.
  • Able to think on the spot, especially when directing live television.
  • Able to work to deadlines.
  • Knowledgeable about all aspects of the film and television industry.
  • Able to inspire others.
  • Familiar with new technologies.

Your Long Term Prospects

Directors must keep abreast of developments within the film industry. The Directors Guild of Great Britain (DGGB) offers short courses and master classes for experienced directors.

Film and television directors may move into training, production or management posts within their organisation. Some directors set up their own independent film production companies, commissioning new work.

There are also openings for directors abroad. Hollywood in the USA and Bollywood in India are traditional destinations, but there are also expanding film industries in other parts of the world.

Get Further Information

BBC Recruitment, HR Direct,
PO Box 1133, Belfast BT1 9GP
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/newtalent

British Council Arts Group,
10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN
Tel: 020 7389 3194
Website: www.britishcouncil.org/arts

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph
and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Website: www.bectu.org.uk

Directors Guild of Great Britain (DGGB),
4 Windmill Street, London W1T 2HZ
Tel: 020 7580 9131
Website: www.dggb.co.uk

New Producers Alliance,
NPA Film Centre, 7.03 Tea Building,
56 Shoreditch High Street,
London E1 6JJ
Tel: 020 7613 0440
Website: www.npa.org.uk

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland)
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 0800 0121 815 (Wales)
Website: www.skillset.org

The UK Film Council,
10 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JG
Tel: 020 7861 7861
Website: www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

Women in Film and Television,
Fourth Floor, Unit 2, Wedgwood Mews,
12-13 Greek Street, London W1D 4BB
Website: www.wftv.org.uk

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