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What Does a Director Do? Where Do Directors Work? ACR Takes a Look.
|American Film Institute||Los Angeles||California|
|Arizona State University||Tempe||Arizona|
|California Institute of the Arts||Valencia||California|
|Columbia College Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|Columbia University||New York||New York|
|LA Film School||Hollywood||California|
|New York Film Academy||New York||New York|
|Ringling College of Art and Design||Sarasota||Florida|
|University of California Los Angeles||Los Angeles||California|
|University of Southern California||Los Angeles||California|
What Does a Director Do?
Directors help create films, television shows, videos, live theater, animated productions, and other performing arts productions by supervising actors, camera crews, and other staff. In a nutshell, the director “directs” the entire production. In some cases, the director is also the creator of the project, so he may provide the vision and determine the visual style of the production. If the director has not already written the piece, he will work closely with the filmmaker, screenwriter, designers, and producers to come up with a final design and direction for the piece before production begins.
Directors have a lot of responsibility. The final product is largely in their hands and it must be delivered according to clients’ desires. If the piece is the directors own creation (from screenplay to final product), he still has to answer to investors, meaning, the final product must be good enough to turn a profit. In addition to producing a film, television series, commercial, or video that sells, directors must also handle management, budgeting, scheduling, hiring, and firing.
Where Do Directors Work?
The industries with the highest levels of employment for directors are the Motion Picture and Video Industries; Radio and Television Broadcasting; Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services; Performing Arts Companies; and Cable and Other Subscription Programming. A significant number of directors also work in the Sound Recording Industries and many are self-employed.
What is the Job Outlook for Directors?
The U.S. is home to 134,700 directors. For the 2016-2026 decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an impressive 12% increase in employment for directors, which is faster than average for all occupations. At a 12% increase, the industry will add 16,500 new jobs by 2026.
The BLS says:
Some job growth in the motion picture and video industry is expected to stem from strong demand from the public for movies and television shows, as well as an increased demand from foreign audiences for U.S.-produced films. Consumer demand for reality shows on television is likely to increase, so more producers and directors will be needed to create and oversee editing of these programs.
In addition, the volume of TV shows is expected to grow as the number of Internet-only platforms, such as streaming services, increases along with the number of shows produced for these platforms. This growth should lead to more work opportunities for producers and directors.
Theater producers and directors who work in small- and medium-sized theaters may see slower job growth because many of those theaters have difficulty finding funding as fewer tickets are sold. Large theaters in big cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, which usually have more stable sources of funding, should provide more opportunities.
Other Schools to Consider:
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Animation Career Review Rankings:
- Top 25 International Animation Training Programs (#25) - 2022
How Much Do Directors Make?
It takes years of experience to become a director. As such, directors are among the highest paid artists in the entertainment industry. The mean annual wage for directors is $89,840. The highest paid directors average more than $163,540 annually and the lowest paid average less than $34,450. Note that average salaries do not show the total picture. Individual salaries vary based on geographic location, industry, type and size of company, and many other factors. Just think, some of the world’s top directors—Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, and James Cameron—are worth hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
When it comes to geographic location, the highest paying states and metro areas for directors are:
- New York - $115,610; New York-Newark-Jersey City - $117,160
- California - $115,080; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward - $112,830
- New Jersey - $92,180; Trenton - $97,010
- DC - $89,390
- Connecticut - $84,900; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk - $98,280
Some of the lowest paying states for directors are North Dakota ($42,570), Mississippi ($44,310), Wyoming ($45,930), Iowa ($46,610), and Nebraska ($51,620).
The top paying industries for directors are:
- Other Personal Services - $140,600
- Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $118,190
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services - $106,420 (third highest employment level for directors)
- Motion Picture and Video - $104,600 (highest level of employment for directors)
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $103,270
- Sound Recording Industries - $95,210
- Cable and Other Subscription Programming - $88,950 (fifth highest employment level for directors)
- Radio and Television Broadcasting - $78,740 (second highest employment level for directors)
- Performing Arts Companies - $63,650 (fourth highest employment level for directors)
How Do I Become a Director?
Director’s typically have a bachelor’s degree or higher in film or cinematography, art, drama or theater, acting, writing or journalism, communications, business, arts management, nonprofit management or related area. Some programs offer a concentration in directing. Directors in the animation industry may have a degree in animation, computer animation, illustration, fine art, or other related degree.
While a degree is important, directors rarely graduate from college and go right into directing. Directors typically have a proven track record in the industry. They also have proven leadership abilities along with advanced business and financial skills. Even the most talented directors might work their way through various departments for years before catching a break.
Which Schools Offer Programs for Aspiring Directors?
Some of the top schools for aspiring directors include:
- American Film Institute, School of Film/Video, MFA or Certificate of Completion in Directing
- California Institute of the Arts, MFA Film Directing
- Columbia University School of the Arts, MFA Screenwriting/Directing, Creative Producing
- Columbia College Chicago, BA Filmmaking, BFA Cinema Art Science, Concentration Directing
- Herberger Institute School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, MFA Theatre, Concentration Directing
- LA Film School, AS, BS Film, BS Digital Filmmaking
- New York Film Academy, AFA, BFA, MFA Filmmaking, BA Media Studies, MA Film and Media Production. The school also offers one- and two-year filmmaking programs, along with more than a dozen 2-day to full semester filmmaking workshops and programs.
- Ringling College of Art and Design, BFA Film (Directing, Screenwriting, Cinematography, and Editing)
- UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT), MFA Directing, Film or Production, Emphasis Directing, Certificates in Directing or Producing
- USC School of Cinematic Arts, BA, BFA Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production, MFA (Producing, Directing, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and Sound)
Awesome Animation Fact: Speaking of famous directors/filmmakers and their multimillion/billion dollar salaries: Did you know that Walt Disney mortgaged his house for the $1.5 million budget for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? While this is still a pretty penny today, it was a colossal amount of money in 1937. Fortunately for Mr. Disney, when adjusted for inflation, Snow White still ranks as the top grossing animated film of all-time.