What Does a Director Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Some famous names may come to mind when we think of directors. Most people have heard of Steven Spielberg, Joss Whedon, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ridley Scott, who are known for their work directing movies. However, not all directors are famous and many are not even involved with movies. They instead work in other parts of the entertainment industry, such as in television shows, theater, broadcast and cable news programs, and television commercials.
Director Duties & Responsibilities
The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:
- Direct the creative aspects of a production.
- Hire talent.
- Select scripts.
- Manage the work of cast and crew.
- Collaborate with producers, to whom they typically report.
Movie, television, stage, and news directors oversee the creative aspects of a production and make sure those parts run smoothly. Depending on which types of productions they work on, producers may also oversee the work of set designers, costume designers, makeup artists, actors, news anchors, broadcast meteorologists, camera operators, reporters, writers, audio and video equipment technicians, and film and video editors.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines salary and employment statistics for directors and producers:
- Median Annual Salary: $71,680
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,540
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $34,450
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
The path to becoming a director can look different for each person and in each part of the entertainment industry.
- Education: Although it's not required, many directors earn a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to the area in which they'd like to work such as cinema and film, television, radio, communication, theater, or performing arts. Many stage directors complete a degree in theater, according to the BLS, and some may even go on to earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.
- Experience: Directors may start by working as assistants or interns in television or film studios or theatrical management offices and work their way up. Networking is often key to getting work on bigger jobs.
Director Skills & Competencies
To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:
- Active Listening: Strong listening skills allow directors to understand what others are telling them.
- Reading Comprehension: Directors have to read a lot of written material, including scripts.
- Verbal Communication: They must be able to orally convey information so people can understand what they need to do.
- Interpersonal Skills: In addition to having strong verbal communication and listening skills, directors must be able to coordinate their actions with those of other people. They need the ability to negotiate with and persuade the cast and crew, as well as empathize and sympathize with them.
- Management: A director must be able to provide instruction, give useful feedback, and assume responsibility when things don't go well.
- Critical Thinking: To solve problems, they identify and evaluate possible solutions before choosing the best one.
- Time Management: This skill allows them to complete the multitude of tasks for which they are responsible as a director.
- Creativity: Directors call upon their creativity to interpret scripts and other material.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in this field will grow 12% through 2026, which is faster than the overall employment growth of 7% for all occupations in the country.
Directors must be able to work in high-pressure situations. Even though they're responsible for the creative process of productions, directors are ultimately driven by production deadlines and budgets. They also need to be willing to travel, either to film on location for a movie or TV show or to tour with a theater production.
Directors often work on short-term assignments and may be unemployed for extended periods of time between projects. The number of hours directors work during a day and week can also vary, but generally, directors' workdays are long. About one-third of directors work more than 40 hours per week, according to the BLS. They sometimes work nights, weekends, and holidays to keep a production on schedule.
How to Get the Job
This is a popular job and networking site for the film and TV industry. Job opportunities are not only in the U.S., but also Europe and South America.
This is a paid, membership-based job search platform for people in the entertainment industry, and it includes jobs in TV and film production.
This website offers job listings for the theater and live entertainment industry.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People who are interested in becoming a director may also consider other careers with these median salaries:
- Art director: $92,780
- Film and video editor: $58,990
- Multimedia artist and animator: $72,520
- Writer and author: $62,170
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018