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What is a Director?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/15/2010

Learn what a Director does, and what kind of tasks are expected of them during a film or digital video project.

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    More Than A Title

    When people are talking about digital film and video they often throw around titles like Director. Because this is such an over-used term, some people may not know what a Director actually does and all that this position entails. A basic understanding of this “above the line" position is important for understanding how to streamline responsibility in digital video projects.

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    What They Do

    A Director is in control of all of the creative aspects of a film or video’s production. They decide all of the story and visual elements that are put into play, from pre-production all the way through post-production. In pre-production the Director will help interpret the scripts, if there is one, and make changes as needed. In a documentary they will decide who will need to be interviewed and what angle the film will diagram the story. They will help select all the other people involved, choosing individuals that will help bring their own unique vision to fruition. They will begin to plan the visuals and set-design that will be in the film and start working with the actors so they are on the same page as to how the characters will interact. During the actual production of the film they are the most significant person in the process of making the film. They coordinate the movements of each scene and how the story is translated onto the screen. In news or documentary production they will decide what is captured, how the subjects will be interviewed, and how the studio set-ups will be managed. Essentially they use all elements and people as a way to craft their own film. In post-production they work with editors to put the film together, with a special eye to how they want the story to be told and how the visuals are represented. They make choices as to how the sound is cut together and what kind of music and sound effects are employed.

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    What They Don't Do

    They have a little less control after the production process once the film is ready for marketing and distribution. Though they have some say, this begins to go up to the producers and executives that have a financial stake in the project. Though they are in charge of the creative aspects of the production, they may not be in a position to coordinate shooting schedules and contacting all the necessary people and locations. They tend to not have to deal with budgets quite as much, unless they are taking multiple roles, as may be the case on smaller productions.

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    Not Set In Stone

    These positions are not set in stone and it is common for a person labeled with one role to occupy a variety of them. Even if you have a Director set there is no guarantee as to what limitations may be set on their control. The reality is that each production is different, and therefore each Director is as well.