Anybody who’s ever wanted to learn how to direct a movie has faced that initial “Oh crap” moment…namely, how the HELL do I step on set NEVER having done this before.

Relax, young Coppola-to-be! In this slideshare presentation we offer 12 super-simple strategies for learning how to make a film – even if you have no on-set experience:

How to Direct a Movie (Even if You’re a Total Newbie) Text Transcript

How to Direct a Movie Key #1: When it comes to confidence, fake it ’til you make it
Description: If you doubt your abilities as a director, the script, your crew, or your vision, everyone involved in making your movie will too. If you’re a total newb, you will encounter aspects of the business you’re not yet privy to, but don’t show it! Don’t give them a chance to doubt you.

How to Direct a Movie Key #2: Do Your Homework
Description: Directing is not something you can wing or show up day-of and just see what happens. Make sure you have your storyboard, shot list, script notes and everything you need for each day’s shooting schedule ready before you show up to set. You can’t waste a second of time, and you can’t risk losing the respect of the crew. Stay organized and be prepared!

How to Direct a Movie Key #3: Don’t be Arrogant
Description: Listen to your crew, be open minded, and don’t assume that you know more than everyone else involved. Losing your cool and screaming at your crew will make them far less willing to put in good work. If you’re polite and gracious, you’ll get better performances from everyone involved. Leaders are polite, not egotistical hot-heads.

How to Direct a Movie Key #4: Make sure you have a good producer
Description: It’s widely accepted that the Director is the boss on set since they get most of the credit for a finished film, but the producer is actually the one who calls the shots. They get your movie made and work through all the logistics. They can tell you no whenever they feel like it. Having a producer you work well with, who understands your vision and who is organized will help greatly in your directing role.

How to Direct a Movie Key #5: Be an avid student of film
Description: A good director doesn’t just know what a director does, they must also be well-versed in all things film. To make their vision a reality, they need to be able to communicate to the grip about what kind of lighting they need, what sort of audio they’re aiming to capture, and different editing techniques. Learn as much as you can, wear as many hats as you’re offered, and you’ll be able to communicate and understand what you can and can’t accomplish logistically.

How to Direct a Movie Key #6: Understand the craft of acting
Description: Some of the best directors are ones who have acted before. In order to get moving performances from your actors, you need to be able to understand the art of acting. If this means getting in front of the camera yourself, give it a shot! Being able to emotionally connect with an actor and their associations with the role they’re playing will yield much greater performances.

How to Direct a Movie Key #7: Be involved in a film community
Description: To stay sharp and keep your instincts strong, it’s very helpful to regularly engage with other filmmakers. They’ll help you bounce ideas back and forth, make discoveries and stay inspired. It’ll help you find who you are as a filmmaker and boost your confidence as well. It’s also always good to have a few connections in the business when you need a favor or help along the way.

How to Direct a Movie Key #8: Make sure you can emotionally connect with the story
Description: Even if you didn’t write the screenplay, make sure the film you’re directing is one you can connect to emotionally. You need to understand each character’s emotions, fears, and hopes in order to visually capture the same sentiments and to get those performances out of your actors. If you don’t believe in the story, your crew won’t either.

How to Direct a Movie Key #9: Understand your script inside and out
Description: Don’t just know the lines and the order in which they’re spoken, to really direct well you have to understand the subtext of each line, the blank spaces, and each and every look and pause. You need to understand what the characters are thinking at any moment so you can let your actors know when you want to get a different performance out of them.

How to Direct a Movie Key #10: Have a vision and communicate it well
Description: Your cast and crew wants to be directed. If you can communicate your vision well and your ideas are sound, the crew will listen to you. You just have to be sure that you know how to communicate what it is you see to all the different crew members. Know their language. Be patient and make sure you know exactly what you want so you won’t have any trouble explaining it.

How to Direct a Movie Key #11: Keep talented people in your corner
Description: Yes, you may be a first-time director, but don’t be scared. You’ll catch up in no time. A good way to cover your bases until you do is to make sure you have talented people working with you. They’ll be able to take up the slack where you’re still learning until you’re up to speed. But don’t take them for granted!

How to Direct a Movie Key #12: Don’t get in your own way
Description: With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to make a movie despite what your limitations may be. So there’s no excuse! Don’t talk about how you’ll someday direct, do it! Don’t procrastinate until everything is perfectly in place, just jump in! Don’t get in your own way.


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About The Author

Michael Rogan
Editor, ScriptBully Magazine

Michael Rogan is a former screenplay reader and optioned screenwriter. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of ScriptBully magazine, and has written a few non-sucky books including "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck (and Will Actually Sell)". He has made it his mission to help screenwriters kick ass - and rid the world of films based on action-figure lines.

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