Famous Movie Directors
Author, filmmaker, and political activist Michael Moore has developed a trademark style of tackling major issues with a sharp sense of humor while maintaining a regular-guy attitude, an approach that has helped him secure a reputation as both a razor-sharp humorist and one of America’s most fearless political commentators. Michael Moore was born in 1954 in Davison, MI, a suburb of Flint. Show more
Director/screenwriter/actor/producer Quentin Tarantino was perhaps the most distinctive and volatile talent to emerge in American film in the early ’90s. Unlike the previous generation of American filmmakers, Tarantino learned his craft from his days as a video clerk, rather than as a film school student. Consequently, he developed an audacious fusion of pop culture and independent art house cinema. Show more
Peter Jackson was born in New Zealand on Halloween 1961. He was raised in Pukerua Bay, a little town west of Wellington by his parents Bill and Joan Jackson. Being the only child, Peter was forced to come up with games, ideas and things to keep himself occupied. On Christmas 1969, Peter’s parents got an 8mm camera and his life was forever changed. It didn’t take long for Peter to get his hands on the camera. Show more
It should come as no shock to the fans of director Tim Burton that he spent his formative years glued to the tube, watching old cartoons and horror flicks. Such early influences no doubt helped to form the deliciously ghoulish and artfully warped sensibility of a director who was to become known for his forays into the bizarre outer regions of mainstream celluloid. Show more
The bread-and-butter of the film industry is the action movie. Each summer, audiences can expect to see car chases, gunfights and explosions, and studios can expect to see millions and millions of dollars in return. Though most viewers and critics see these movies as "fluff" entertainment (and rightfully so), there is one director that puts as much heart and soul into his "fluff" as any number of talented directors put into their "serious" movies. His name is John Woo. Show more
Robert Zemeckis began making home movies as a child in Chicago. He eventually attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television where he befriended budding filmmakers like George Lucas and John Milius. Zemeckis directed a pair of well received student films while at USC (The Lift and A Field of Honor). He soon met a man who would change his life, a burgeoning young star director named Steven Spielberg who was then based at Universal Pictures. Show more
One of the most unique voices to emerge during the American independent filmmaking renaissance of the 1990s, Kevin Smith was born in New Jersey on August 2, 1970. Smith later attended the New School for Social Research’s creative writing program, dropping out after administrators contacted his parents to report that their son had been caught launching water balloons out of his dormitory window. Show more
Stanley Kubrick was born in New York, and was considered intelligent despite poor grades at school. Hoping that a change of scenery would produce better academic performance, Kubrick’s father Jack (a physician) sent him in 1940 to Pasadena, California, to stay with his uncle Martin Perveler. Returning to the Bronx in 1941 for his last year of grammar school, there seemed to be little change in his attitude or his results. Show more
Spike Lee was born Shelton Lee in 1957, in Atlanta Georgia. At a very young age he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from a proud and intelligent background. His father was a jazz musician, and his mother a school teacher. His mother dubbed him Spike, due to his tough nature. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he developed his film making skills. Show more
The most renowned filmmaker of his era, Martin Scorsese virtually defined the state of modern American cinema during the 1970s and ’80s. A consummate storyteller and visual stylist who lived and breathed movies, he won fame translating his passion and energy into a brand of filmmaking that crackled with kinetic excitement. Show more
How to Become a Movie Director?
Brainstorm to come up with any potential contacts in the film industry. Work as an apprentice under anyone currently directing student films, TV commercials, music videos or feature films.
Consider applying to film school to gain both knowledge and industry contacts. Some top film schools can be found at New York University, the University of Southern California, the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California Institute of the Arts and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Apply for work on movie sets, in entry-level jobs such as production assistant or as anyone’s assistant. If you work hard and make friends, you can move up the ladder.
Target jobs directing TV commercials or music videos, where many film directors get their start.
Develop a reel. Make sure it is of professional quality.
Shoot films on your own; to start, they can be short (10 minutes long) and in black and white. If necessary, cast and write your films by yourself to build your experience and resume.
Send postcards and updates regularly to industry contacts you have made, including directors, producers and actors. Constant networking leads to opportunities.
Be creative and persistent, and understand that there isn’t one right way to become a film director.
Read "The Hollywood Reporter" and "Variety" to find out about upcoming productions and possible job openings.
Network, network, network
Movie Director Job Description
It’s a non-stop, stressful job description. From the finalization of the script to the finalization of the star cast, coordinating their schedules with his own unit’s shooting schedules and choice of locations, are some of the complex issues he/she has to take into consideration. Throw into that the rehearsing actors have to do under his supervision before the camera rolls, and the number of times the camera rolls before he is satisfied, and you have a potentially explosive and even mind-numbing situation.
The ‘movie’ image of the director is very powerful and attractive, sitting imperiously on the hot seat with ‘DIRECTOR’ printed behind the seat, and holding a megaphone in his hand, shouting instructions to the light boys and cameraman, and the sound engineer. Apart from all this he’s got to get the actors to emote well…to reach out and touch the audience. Being the nucleus of the Unit, everything and everyone revolves around him. A philosophical Director would probably make highly thought provoking art movies, some make commercial movies, some director’s shuttle between both genres.
Qualities of an Ideal Director
Being creative oneself and bringing out the creativity in another is a rare mix of talent. That ‘s what a director does all the time (with his actors). An actor, however talented is always apprehensive about a new role. An actor is like an uncut diamond…it’s the director who has to round of the rough edges and bring out a polished and shiny gem.
Renowned French filmmaker Jean Renoir once stated, "One category is the directors for whom the work starts from the camera. I am the opposite. I like to start with the actors."
It is important for a director to know the strengths and limitations of an actor. Identifying these traits helps the director to bring out the best in an actor. A mediocre performance can be expected if a director is not able to guide individual actors to assess themselves and motivate them to bring out the best in them.
Some directors are very strong willed and do not compromise with actors. It only helps to lend a listening ear to the actors’ views, as it can only enhance one’s performance levels.
The need to make sudden changes during filming is another task a director has to shoulder. This is where the spontaneity of a director comes in handy. Changes also bring along with it a huge element of risk. Mistakes can prove costly, whereas a successful venture will bring in rich dividends.
The Director – Producer relationship assumes an importance of very high proportions. There should be an instant chemistry between them. Their interactions should be as smooth and contribute to the venture. The focus of their relationship should be to live a common dream…Make a good movie and believe in it.
A Director also needs to have a great inclination towards the technical aspects. He should have a clear idea in his mind about the position and the angle of the camera for each shot, the sets that have to be erected and the location for shooting. A Director should be able to create a clear and entertaining mental picture of the scene that’s going to be shot.