Top Tips On How To Become a Film Director

– Posted in: Growing Professionally and Staying Creatively Inspired

Kid holding clapper board in hands

Ever wondered how to become a working film director? Ever asked yourself what it would take to get started on the right foot down the road to becoming a great filmmaker?

When David Fincher was asked recently about what he’d say if he was ever asked to give a lecture at a film school, he retorted: “I’ve always wanted to give a lecture at a film school. I’d go in and see all these fresh faces, and I’d say bluntly:

“Your business is filled with ‘shut-up and sit-the-fuck-down’. You’ve got to be able to tell your story in spite of ‘sit-down and shut-the-fuck-up’. If you are going to let something like that derail you, then stand up, tell me your story. Tell me what your film is going to be about. And once they started, I’d quickly say: ‘shut-up and sit-the-fuck-down!’ And if they do, I’d go: ‘You’re not ready.’ Because what chance do you have against the transportation department? What hope do you have against the fucking development executives?”

Does that scare you a bit?

But let’s look at it this way… you’re asking people to believe and invest in you – your skills, your talent and your ability. These are business people who happen to also be the sharpest observers. Your job is to convince them that you have what it takes.

You’re asking them to trust in your ability to see this project through to its completion.

So, what are the necessary attributes you need to become a film director?

Trustworthiness

No one expects you to be perfect. That’s a big sigh of relief. But, they do expect you to be honest and trustworthy.

The film industry may be a big industry but by making just a few quick calls, someone can uncover a lot of things that might actually surprise you. If you must make a promise, make sure to keep it. Building trust also involves completing projects.

Big or small, a completed project shows them that you’ve been in the trenches and you’ve found success.

Having a Positive Attitude

No victim zone!

Things will not always go your way. But it’s up to you to decide whether you’d fret about it and become a victim or opt to learn from it and spring into action. You’ll have good days, but there’ll also be days when it seems that everything is going wrong.

However, nobody needs to know you’re unhappy. As the director, you’re the leader and leaders don’t wallow in problems, they solve them.  Anything worth doing involves solution and compromise. Remember, it’s not about controlling the process, it’s about achieving your vision.

Filmmaking involves working well with others and that means the need to be flexible and doing some things we’d rather not. All of this helps us achieve the bigger things we really need. People who feel the need to have it their way, all day aren’t directors, they’re dictators. Don’t demand things to be done. Instead, if you inspire people to see your vision, they’ll move mountains for you.

Reliability

To succeed in a very competitive industry is hard. It starts by doing what you say you’re going to do even when it’s uncomfortable. Don’t over promise and under deliver, but instead under promise and over deliver.

Focus on the tasks ahead and don’t allow the drama of your everyday tasks get to you – be the reliable person everyone would love to think about when they want or need something done. You must build good relationships if you want to be a successful filmmaker. Remember that your reputation won’t be about what you can do in the future but what you’ve done in the past.

Develop Thick Skin

This is easier said than done. This is what David Fincher is referring to when he said, “You’ve got to be able to tell your story in spite of the ‘sit-down and shut-the-fuck-up’ mentality.”

Thick skin is a result of clear purpose and time. It’s hard to stand up and say no. But when you find this clear purpose, you’ll have the courage to stand up and fight. It’s about what’s right for the project, it’s about your vision.

When you get clear about your vision, the army of “purpose” has your back. This may not be easy. Hell, it might even sound impossible for some, but with time, you’ll develop this ability. Who gives someone else the right to tell you to sit down? You!

So instead, remain steadfast and tell them why you must be heard. Don’t sit.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share? How about a story that would inspire us? I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment below.