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A filmmaker, or film director, is someone who is in charge of making, leading, and developing movie productions. It is a career that allows an individual to use their leadership as well as creative thinking skills to lead and direct major motion pictures or made-for-television films.
A filmmaker spends very long hours making sure the film is being shot in a way that will provide entertainment for the audience and will highlight the actors and actresses' strengths. They will see each film through, from where the film is shot, to how the script will be played out, to what actors and actresses best fit the roles of the characters. The filmmaker also manages the financial end of the production.
A filmmaker is in charge of deciding what aspects of an actor or actresses' portrayal of the scene need to be altered from the script. They provide the creative flair and edge that sets the movie apart. Giving directions to the actors and actresses is very important because often, the filmmaker is responsible for the tone that the movie takes.
Not only is the film director in charge of the actors and actresses, he/she also plays a role in the technical direction of the movie. Filmmakers work with the behind-the-scenes lighting and filming crew to ensure that the shots taken are of the highest quality and provide the most dramatic backdrop.
Being able to lead a large group of actors and actresses, as well as background staff, is definitely a very challenging aspect of the job. There is a huge amount of responsibility and stress placed on the filmmaker to make the production successful.
On the job, many filmmakers put in long hours that extend beyond the eight-hour typical work day. They travel often and must be prepared to work on weekends or alter filming plans based on the weather or locale.
Many new filmmakers are unsure of whether or not there will be jobs available once they complete their coursework. Sometimes, there are opportunities to find work through contracts negotiated locally with filming companies that might be staging small productions or commercial shoots. This is a great way to gain a foot in the door and start building a resume. For filmmakers, a resume is an extremely important part of the job.
Many film directors will find themselves working extremely long hours over very short length films or TV shows just to perfect the work they have created. It really is a self-motivating job in that your production will be a true reflection on how much effort you put into the filming. If the film turns out to be a success, another company might hire you on, or you could move into a larger contractual position. However, if the film is a flop or the TV show becomes unpopular due to lack of creativity, it may be much harder to find a job.
Aspiring filmmakers should begin by independently watching movies, reading film history books, reading websites and blogs on the film industry and top filmmakers, attending film festivals, etc. Even at the high school level, courses in drama, English and photography would be helpful.
Many filmmakers start out as actors themselves, in order to understand various directing techniques and styles from the receiving end. Someone who has a background in acting would be prime for attending a filmmaking program. In fact, many individuals who go on to take post graduate degree classes in either television or filmmaking generally have an undergraduate degree in a field relating to theatre.
There are many film or multimedia programs offered at colleges and universities. Narrative techniques, sound, lighting, cinematography, editing and computer-generated imaging is learned. As well, reading and writing scripts while enrolled in screenwriting classes, teaches the aspiring filmmaker about movie pacing and formatting. Different movie genres such as science fiction, horror, and fantasy are studied. Valuable contacts in the industry and opportunities for internships can be made while enrolled in school.
Qualities that filmmakers should have are a passion for film, leadership, decisiveness, confidence, and organization.
Sheri Candler is the Director of Digital Marketing Strategy for The Film Collaborative and an independent consultant.
This article was published in the magazine for the 2009 Fresh Film Festival.
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