What does it take to become a film director or producer?

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You too can be a film director or producer! First, produce or direct your film! It’s that easy!

Okay, so maybe it isn’t quite that easy, but depending on your resources, experience, and desire there’s nothing to keep you from  just doing it!

Let’s start with what it takes to be a producer. To do that you need to understand what a producer actually does, and that’s particularly difficult to define.

There may be many different producers on a movie, Executive Producers, Co-Executive Producers, Creative Producers, Co-Producers, Line Producers, Associate Producers.

Often, the Executive Producer is either an investor OR a conduit to financing and/or other essential elements of the production.

The Creative Producer (Producer) is a hands-on above the line crew member who helps oversee many of the creative decisions on the film. The Producer works closely with the director on casting, script notes, the hiring of key crew personnel.

Co-Producers and Associate producers may also be involved in helping to finance or attract high profile cast.

The Line Producer is perhaps the hardest working, least recognized member of the producing team. They are in charge of the production logistics, crew, making deals for equipment, and making sure that the director has the resources available on the set.

So, if you have enough money, you can instantly become a producer, but that won’t give you knowledge of how to make a film.

To learn how to produce you have two main paths. The first is to study producing at a film school - AFI, USC, NYU. The other path, dive into production at whatever level you can find. Start by producing short films and making yourself available for films shooting in your area. Observe, ask questions, watch movies, read trade publications Filmmaker Magazine, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, etc.

Get a general education on as many different departments as you can - take an acting class, study cameras, lighting, set design, editing, makeup, wardrobe, FX, sound, etc.

And that leads us to directing. Everything you want to know about film in order to be an effective producer, you want to know as a director - plus you want to know HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH ACTORS, how to choreograph/block a scene. You want to know about screenwriting, understand story and character arc, how to use symbolism, and develop a visual style.

The path for directing is similar to that of a producer. You can take classes, study, learn the craft in a safe (and expensive) environment OR you can find a script, get a camera, a crew, hire some actors, and shoot.

You can begin with web content, do cinematic shorts and work your way up to a feature, or if you’re not risk-averse tackle a low budget feature. Heck, if you’re not risk-averse AND you’re rich you can produce AND direct a film of whatever budget you can personally afford (please note: I do NOT recommend this course of action).

Bottom line, you have to decide how much time and energy you want to expend to learn the craft and what your ultimate goal is. It’s one thing if you want to shoot something to see if you can do it, and something completely different if you want to take money from someone else. In the latter case you have an obligation to your investor and that’s regardless if that investor is a relative, or a studio.

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