What is film direction?
A film director is the captain of the ship or the artistic visionary behind every aspect of the film, be it a screenplay, cinematography, editing, casting, acting. He is the person upon whose direction the whole film crew works. He would guide the actors about the scene and what he expects from the shot. The film director is considered as the author of the film. Many times directors play multiple roles in a film like a screenplay writer or editor. Film direction is an extremely creative and management intensive process.
Film directors usually start early in their career by making short films with whatever resources they have. In the initial days of their career, they perform all the roles in the filmmaking process. Some go to film school. Quentin Tarantino used to work as a clerk in a DVD store before coming into direction. Many directors previously worked in other various roles in the movie industry before becoming a director.
What are the skills required to become a film director?
To make a film a lot of creative people have to collaborate together under a single vision of the director. His job is to manage these creative people because oftentimes there would be differences of opinions about various aspects of the film. A director’s job is to mediate these differences and help everyone to give their best shot. So leadership quality goes a long way.
Also, many times the production company would allocate a certain amount of budget for the film, the director has to plan properly to finish the film within the stipulated budget. Many films got cancelled by the production companies because the directors overshot the given budget. Production companies are more business-minded and directors are artists. Oftentimes production companies hire directors to make a film of a certain theme that is popular among the masses. Only very prestigious award-winning directors get the freedom to create without any interference from the production house. Management and people skills are valuable to have to become a film director. They should also have the visual sense to analyze each shot and make sure it is aligned with their vision. Other than that a film director should know how to operate as any role in the filmmaking process and also have an idea about the kind of work he is expecting from the crew which includes editor, casting director, cinematographer, actors, sound artists, visual effect artists etc.
What are the opportunities in this field and what is the future of film direction?
Well, you don’t become a filmmaker to earn money. It’s a very passion-driven career. With the rise of social media, the internet and ridiculously good cameras in everyone’s pocket, anyone can start filmmaking and start posting online. If you want to become a filmmaker you most probably have all the resources at your disposal.
With so many OTT platforms striving for content and India’s rising middle class ready to pay for it, I don’t think filmmaking is going anywhere soon.
Who are the most famous movie directors?
From Hollywood most successful movie directors are:
Christopher Nolan: A highly acclaimed film director. He got nominated for Oscars for best original screenplay for the movie Memento. He is known for exploring themes like the nature of time, memory, space, human morality and personality etc. His films have their own reality and the stories usually revolve based on that established reality. Even then concepts of the realities are mathematically structured and he has a unique unconventional narrative style that demands the audience to pay attention and use their intellect to fully engage with the film. He is one of the most studied directors in film schools and institutions. Almost all of his works are highly critically acclaimed and loved by the audience. Some of his most notable works are Memento(2002), Inception(2010), The Dark Knight trilogy(2005-2012), The Prestige(2006), The Interstellar(2014), Dunkirk(2017).
Rob Reiner: He is the director of some of the most iconic films in Hollywood’s history. He is also an actor and a comedian. Some of his notable films are When Harry met Sally(1989), the icon courtroom drama with many quotable dialogues A few good men(1992) which were also nominated for best picture at Oscars.
Ron Howard: His career started in the movies as a child actor. In the 1980s he focused his interest in direction. He was critically acclaimed for his movie Apollo 13 (1995). He made many popular biographical films like A Beautiful Mind (2001), Cinderella Man (2005), Rush (2013) etc. He is also known for making historical fantasy films like The Da Vinci Code (2006), Angels and Demons (2009), Inferno (2016). He won Academy Awards for best director and best picture for his film A beautiful mind. He also directed some documentaries and a star wars film Solo: A star wars story.
Ridley Scott: He started his career in advertising where he mastered his filmmaking skills by making small ad films for television that had an atmospheric highly concentrated visual style. He won Academy Awards for directing for three of his films Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001). His films have a heavy environmental design that showcases various times in history like ancient Rome (Gladiator), Medieval England (Robin Hood) or War-torn countries like Somalia (Black Hawk down) or Futuristic Cityscapes like in Blade Runner. He was knighted for his services to the British Film Industry.
Paul Greengrass: He is famous for making three of the Bourne movies The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Jason Bourne (2016) which are based on action/thriller novels written by Robert Ludlum. He is known for his signature style of using handheld camera shots in his films. Along with directing he is also a screenwriter, producer and a former journalist. He was nominated for Academy Awards for best director for his films Green Zone (2010) and Captain Phillips (2013).
Quentin Tarantino: He has a particular style of storytelling with a lot of dark humour, profanity, a lot of reference to 1980-90s style and popular culture, long conversational scenes, ensemble characters, signature soundtracks, alternate histories, Slavery and American Wild West. His first film Reservoir Dogs (1992) was hailed as the greatest independent of all time by Empire magazine. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his second film a crime, dark comedy The Pulp Fiction (1994) which was also very well received by the audience and is considered a classic to this day. Tarantino was a massive film buff from childhood and he used to advise people in his neighbourhood about which movies to watch in various genres. He was quite famous as the movie guy in his neighbourhood even before he made any movies. Most of his films are highly critically acclaimed and also immensely loved by the audience. He has said in many interviews that he expects to make only ten films in his career. He also appears as a guest actor in most of his films. Some of his most notable works are Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Django Unchained (2012), The Hateful Eight (2015), The Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2) (2003-2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).
Peter Jackson: He is known for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-3) and the prequel The Hobbit trilogy (2012-14), epic fantasy-action-drama, both are adapted from the novels of J.R.R Tolkein of the same name. The director’s cut of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is 12 hours long, each movie is 4 hours long. The last movie in the franchise The Return of the King won 11 Academy Awards including the best director award for Peter Jackson.
Danny Boyle: He is an English Director and Producer. He is best known for the film Slumdog Millionaire (2008) which was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won 8 of them including him winning the Best Director Award. His first film the Shallow Grave won the Bafta award for the best British film. His other film Trainspotting has been ranked as the 10th greatest film of the 20th century by the British Film Institute. Some of his other notable works are The Beach, 28 days later, Sunshine, 127 hours, Steve Jobs, Yesterday etc.
Martin Scorsese: He is considered one of the greatest and influential filmmakers of Hollywood. Along with being a director, he is also a producer, screenwriter and actor. His films mostly explore the themes of Italian American culture, Crime, Family, Human Psychology and emotions like rage, guilt, faith, revenge etc. He repeats his cast and crew for many of his films numerous times. He made nine films with the actor Rober De Niro and five films with Leonardo Di Caprio. His films are consistently highly praised by critics and have garnered a total of nine Academy Awards for Best Director, second highest most nominated living director. He won the Academy Award for Best Director for his film The Departed in 2007. Some of his most notable works which are icons in the world cinema are Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), Hugo (2011), Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Irishman (2019).
Steven Spielberg: He is also one of the best directors in Hollywood and also one of the most commercially successful filmmakers in History. Along with being a director, he is also a producer and screenwriter. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Director for his film a Holocaust drama called Schindler’s List (1993) and World War 2 movie Saving private Ryan (1998). Twelve of his movies have been nominated for Academy Awards to date. He is also the co-founder of Amblin Entertainment and DreamWork where he was a producer for many television series and films. Some of his most notable works are Jurassic Park (1993), Close encounters of the third kind (1977), E.T the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and the Indiana Jones film series, The Colour Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Artificial Intelligence (2001), Minority Report (2002), Ready Player One (2018), Bridge of Spies (2015), The Post (2017), Lincoln (2012) etc.
Most famous film directors in the Indian film industry
Satyajit Ray: Arguably the most successful and greatest Indian Film Director of all time. He was the only Indian director who won an honorary Academy Award in 1982. He is most celebrated for his first film Pather Panchali which won him much international recognition and 11 international awards including the Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film festival. Ray’s films focused on stories of the common folk of Bengal and their daily challenges which deals with topics like detective crime, Paranormal stories, science fiction, human psychology, folk stories etc. He was also awarded an honorary degree from Oxford University. He was also a screenwriter, editor, illustrator, Magazine editor, music composer, documentary filmmaker, calligrapher and lyricist. He was also a famous author and created many memorable characters in Bengali literature like Detective Feluda, Professor Shonku, Tarini Khuro the storyteller, and the Novelist Lalmohan Ganguly which are still very popular especially among Bengali culture. Some of his most notable works are The Apu Trilogy(1955-59), Aparajito(1956), The Music Room(1958), The Big City(1963) and Charulata(1964), Teen Kanya, Mahanagar, Shatranj Ke Khilari(1977) etc.
Rakesh Omprakash Mehra: He is best known for writing and directing Rang De Basanti(2006) and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag(2013). He started his career as an ad filmmaker through his studio Flicks Motion Picture Company private Limited and worked with many Indian and international clients like Coke, Pepsi, Toyota, American Express etc. Rang de Basanti was his second film which he wrote, produced and directed. Rang de Basanti was very successful at the box office and Mehra won many accolades for it like National Film Award and Filmfare award for Best Director.
Anurag Kashyap: He is a director, actor, producer, writer, editor. He made some of the highly successful and critically acclaimed cinema in the Hindi film industry. His movie Black Friday(2004) on 1993 Bombay bombings got widespread critical acclaim. His two-part crime-drama on Gang wars of Dhanbad, Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1 and 2) was very successful in the box office and was praised by the critics.
Rajkumar Hirani: He directed five immensely popular and iconic Hindi films which are Munnabhai M.B.B.S(2003), Lage Raho Munnabhai(2006), 3 idiots(2009), PK(2014), Sanju(2018). All of his films have been highly successful at the box office and have been praised by critics.
Mira Nair: She is a New York-based filmmaker whose theme mainly rotates on Indian Societies, culture, our customs, family etc. Some of her notable works are The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay which won Academy awards for best foreign-language film. She has been awarded Padma Bhushan (third highest civilian Award by the republic of India) by the Indian government for her contribution to Cinema.
Ashutosh Gowariker: Along with being a filmmaker he is also a screenwriter, producer and actor. He is famous for directing the iconic film Lagaan(2001) which was nominated for best film in the foreign-language category at the 76th Academy Awards. Some of his other notable works are Swades(2004), Jodha Akbar(2008) and Mohenjo Daro(2016)
What does a day in the life of a movie director look like?
Usually during the shoot, for each day there is a plan, like which of the scenes are to be shot that day. It is the assistant director’s job to plan everything for the day. He will also help you manage the actors, extras and other film crews. As soon as you arrive at the set, a meeting with actors and department heads happens to discuss the day’s scenes. The director would have a list of shots he needs to take and all the technicians would prepare the set for the shot. The actors would rehearse a bit and get their makeup done. After that, all the shots are taken. After each scene change of makeup of the actors and change in sets if required and again shots are taken. Directors have to follow the schedule strictly, each day costs money to the producers. Delaying a project is not an option. At the preproduction, stage directors discuss his vision with the actors, help them rehearse, communicate his ideas clearly to the film crew so that on shooting day everything goes smoothly.