Film Director Major: A Comprehensive Guide for Aspiring Filmmakers

Do you have a passion for visual storytelling and a creative vision you want to bring to life on the big screen? If so, majoring in film directing could be the perfect path for you.

As a film director major, you’ll receive intensive training in the artistic and technical aspects of directing, from working with actors to mastering camerawork and editing.

It’s a journey that allows you to hone your unique voice as a filmmaker while building a robust skillset for a dynamic career in the ever-evolving film industry.

What is a Film Director Major?

A film director major is an academic program that provides aspiring filmmakers with a well-rounded education in the theory and practice of directing for cinema. While curriculums can vary, most film directing degrees cover core areas such as:

  • Directing courses that focus on working with actors, blocking scenes, and realizing your creative vision.
  • Cinematography and camerawork to understand compositional techniques and the mechanics of capturing powerful visuals.
  • Screenwriting for developing compelling stories and translating scripts into dynamic films.
  • Film history and theory to study landmark works, genres, styles, and cinematic movements.
  • Hands-on production work allowing you to direct your own short films, multi-camera projects, and a culminating thesis film.

Throughout the major, you’ll gain experience working in all phases of the filmmaking process, from pre-production planning to the final edit. The goal is to develop a strong artistic voice and mastery of the technical skills required to bring your unique visions to the screen.

Skills You’ll Gain as a Film Directing Major

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in film directing equips you with a diverse skillset that spans creative, technical, and transferable professional abilities. Some of the key skills you can expect to develop include:

Artistic Skills

  • Visual storytelling to craft compelling narratives through camera work, editing, and other cinematic techniques.
  • Working with actors to bring characters to life and elicit powerful performances.
  • Creativity and vision for translating ideas into fully-realized films with a distinct style.
  • Attention to detail for overseeing all aspects of a production.

Technical Skills

  • Camerawork and cinematography techniques like lighting, framing, and shot composition.
  • Video editing and post-production processes.
  • Hands-on experience with professional filmmaking equipment and technologies.
  • Production management to plan, schedule, and supervise film shoots.

Transferable Professional Skills

  • Leadership and ability to manage teams and collaborators.
  • Strong communication skills for conveying your vision and providing clear direction.
  • Problem-solving to overcome obstacles and challenges during production.
  • Collaboration with writers, actors, producers, and crew members.

As you can see, a film directing major prepares you not just for a career as a director, but also with a diverse toolkit applicable to many roles across the film industry.

Inside a Film Directing Program

So what can you expect from the typical 4-year curriculum for a film directing major? While course loads vary between schools, here’s a general overview:

  • Year 1: You’ll take foundational courses in areas like cinema studies, film history and aesthetics, and basic production skills like camera operation, editing, and screenwriting.
  • Year 2: Intermediate classes dive deeper into directing fundamentals, film theory and genres, sound design, and producing short film projects from pre- to post-production.
  • Year 3: Advanced coursework allows you to further refine your directing abilities, delving into areas like working with actors, production design, advanced cinematography, and developing polished screenplays.
  • Year 4: The final year is when you’ll take highly specialized courses geared towards thesis films and your creative directions. You’ll also have opportunities for internships or studying abroad at acclaimed international film programs.

Throughout the program, you can expect a hands-on, immersive education grounded in actually making films and developing your portfolio. Many universities have high-end facilities like soundstages, editing suites, and equipment studios for students to utilize.

Opportunities Beyond the Classroom

One major benefit of majoring in film directing is the ability to take advantage of co-curricular activities and experiential learning opportunities, such as:

  1. Student Film Festivals and Competitions: Get your work showcased and gain real-world experience having films judged and screened for audiences.
  2. Networking Events with Industry Professionals: Attend talks, workshops, and Q&A sessions with working directors, producers, actors, and other creatives.
  3. Internships at Production Companies and Studios: Land internships at respected companies and
  4. 7 Ways to Make Connections in the Film Industry: A Comprehensive Guide while getting on-set experience.
  5. Study Abroad Programs in Global Film Hubs: Spend a summer or semester taking courses at international universities and exploring different filmmaking cultures.

Opportunities like these allow you to build your professional network, earn real-world experience, and create an impressive portfolio of work even before graduating.

Top Film Schools for Directing

When majoring in film directing, the school you attend plays a huge role in the education, facilities, connections, and prestigious faculty you’ll have access to. Some of the most acclaimed film programs in the world for directing include:

University of Southern California (USC)

  • One of the oldest and most respected film schools with accolades like being the alma mater of directing legends like George Lucas.
  • State-of-the-art resources like soundstages, editing labs, and the bygone studios on campus.
  • Intensive curriculum with diverse production opportunities in USC’s sunny California setting.

New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts

  • Located in the heart of New York City with access to unmatched internship and networking opportunities.
  • Exceptional facilities like the brand new 285,000 square foot production complex.
  • Experiential focus with students producing over 20 feature films per year.

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

  • One of the most selective and prestigious public film programs located in Hollywood’s backyard.
  • Cutting-edge technology like motion capture and virtual studios on campus.
  • UCLA’s alumni network includes directors like Sylvester Stallone and Justin Lin.

American Film Institute (AFI)

  • Renowned for its intense conservatory-style training and reputation as a quintessential director bootcamp.
  • Among the smallest and most selective programs with roughly 140 students per class.
  • Collaborations with major studios and renowned alumni directors like David Lynch.

Of course, there are many other highly-ranked public and private film schools to consider based on your criteria like location, cost, teaching philosophy, and program specialties.

Careers for Film Directing Graduates

For those who have the passion, talent, and determination to make it in the ultra-competitive world of filmmaking, a degree in film directing can open the door to some incredibly rewarding careers:

  • Feature Film Director – Many film directing majors set their sights on becoming a feature film director, overseeing the creative vision for major theatrical motion pictures. While extraordinarily difficult to break into, this is the dream for many aspiring auteurs seeking to bring their voice to the big screen.
  • Television Episode Director – For directors skilled at working in the tight production schedules and budgets of TV, opportunities exist as an episodic director for hit shows spanning genres like drama, comedy, procedural, and beyond. TV directing offers more stability than features.
  • Commercial/Music Video Director – With the rise of video marketing, companies and artists need experienced directors to helm high-quality commercials, branded content, and music videos. It’s often an entry point to bigger opportunities.
  • Independent/Documentary Filmmaker – Independent and documentary films allow directors to have maximum creative control, if less budget and resources. Independent work is common early in careers or as passion projects exploring specific visions.

Beyond being a director, film majors can also find success in roles like:

  • Producer: Managing the business side of films and overseeing productions.
  • Screenwriter: Crafting the stories and scripts directors ultimately bring to life.
  • Cinematographer: Skilled camera operators and directors of photography.

The skills gained as a film director student provide a strong foundation for diverse paths across the film industry and the entertainment business.

Getting Started After Graduating

Once you graduate with your shiny new film directing degree, it’s time to take the first steps towards launching your professional career. To get started, most new directors:

  1. Begin building their professional reel and portfolio of work from student films, thesis projects, internships, and any other productions they’ve worked on. A strong portfolio is key to getting hired early on.
  2. Find their first paid directing gigs, which often start small like directing indie shorts, local commercial work, corporate videos and similar lower-budget projects. Every experience helps build your resume.
  3. Connect with local film communities, attend networking events, and look into joining professional organizations like local directors’ guilds to grow their industry connections.
  4. Participate in respected film festivals as a way to gain exposure and potential distribution for their work, as well as meet other movers and shakers in the industry.
  5. Consider freelancing or applying for in-house videographer/director roles at agencies, production houses, or marketing departments while pursuing bigger creative projects.
  6. For those with the resources, some graduates will self-fund or seek investors for their own independent or documentary film passion projects early out of the gate.

The first few years are all about gaining real-world experience, making valuable connections, and continually sharpening your directorial skills in the trenches. Perseverance, taking on any work you can find, and always working to level-up your portfolio are key.

The Life of a Working Film Director

For those who manage to “make it” and establish themselves as working film directors, the career offers a deeply rewarding intersection of creative expression and professional accomplishment … with a lot of hard work and unique challenges as well.

At its core, the life of a film director is an immensely collaborative creative process that kicks into gear once a project has secured funding and is greenlit for production.

It starts with intensive pre-production where the director works closely with the writers to finalize the shooting script and storyboard/plan out every scene and shot in detail.

They cast actors, hire and work with the producer to assemble the rest of the key crew, and oversee set design, cinematography plans, and vision of how the film will ultimately look.

Once production begins, that’s where the director’s leadership and mastery of every aspect of filmmaking is put to the test. On set, they work hand-in-hand with actors, guiding their performances and blocking the scenes to capture the right action, emotion, and drama from the script.

They collaborate constantly with the cinematographer to achieve their distinctive visual style through creative camera work, lighting, and shot composition. And they coordinate all the moving parts to keep filming moving efficiently on a grueling daily schedule where delays can quickly escalate budgets.

If production is grueling, the post-production editing process allows the director to finally shape hours of raw footage into the polished, cohesive final vision.

Editing is where the pacing, rhythm, and structure of the film is perfected by the director through an intense process of reviewing footage, giving detailed notes to editors, refining the cut, and locking in the sound, music, and visual effects.

Once the director’s cut is complete, it’s time to handle the logistics of releasing and promoting the completed film.

So in summary, the real-world life of a working director is an exhilarating yet demanding job overflowing with creativity and major responsibilities:

  • You are the unifying captain steering the entire creative vision of a film across all phases of production.
  • Work is highly collaborative yet you are the final decision-maker making hundreds of critical judgment calls daily under immense pressure.
  • Creative satisfaction comes with intense periods of hard work, problem-solving, and personal stamina demands during filming.
  • Beyond pure storytelling, you must also be a coach for actors, field general for crews, technician, and logistics expert.

It’s a career for true filmmaking fanatics willing to pour their passion into bringing art to life on the screen. But for those who achieve that dream, there are few roles as rewarding in the entertainment industry.


Majoring in film directing is an incredible educational path for creative visionaries and ambitious storytellers hoping to carve out a place for themselves in the always-evolving world of cinema. A directing degree provides invaluable training in the diverse artistic and technical skills required to become a leader on set and realize bold visions on the big screen.

Over 4 years of intensive coursework and hands-on filmmaking, you’ll gain expertise in everything from screenwriting and cinematography to working with actors and editing as you forge your unique directorial voice and style.

Plus, acclaimed film schools open up exceptional opportunities to intern on major productions, network with industry mentors, and build an outstanding professional portfolio.

While landing a career as a working film director requires immense determination, perseverance, and yes, some luck, the rewards make it well worth the journey.

Film directing majors can find fulfillment helming Hollywood blockbusters, crafting unforgettable independent cinema, calling the shots on television hits, and more across the entertainment landscape.

At the end of the day, majoring in this field equips you with a robust toolkit of cinematic storytelling abilities applicable to diverse creative roles in the film industry. Whichever path you choose, you’ll have the foundation to turn your unique artistic visions into reality and leave a mark on the movies.

So if you’re ready to transform your dreams of bringing the silver screen to life into an empowering education and dynamic profession, embrace the challenges of majoring in film directing. Your journey into the Director’s Chair awaits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in to become a film director?

The most direct path is to major in Film Directing, Film Production, or a related field like Cinema Studies or Motion Pictures. These programs provide intensive training in all aspects of the filmmaking process with an emphasis on developing your skills as a director.

How can I become a film director?

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree in Film Directing/Production from an accredited university
  2. Gain experience by directing student films and working on crew for other projects
  3. Build an impressive portfolio of your directorial work
  4. Make industry connections through internships, film festivals, and networking
  5. Start out directing shorts, music videos, commercials, or independent films
  6. Continue honing your craft and seek opportunities to direct larger-scale projects

What degree do you need for filmmaking?

The most common and relevant degrees are:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film Production/Directing
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Cinema Studies
  • BFA or BA in Media Studies with a filmmaking concentration

Many aspiring filmmakers also get degrees in related fields like Theater, Communications, or English to develop storytelling skills.

Can you major in directing?

Yes, many universities offer bachelor’s degree programs specifically in Film Directing as the major. These provide a directing-focused curriculum covering areas like directing actors, cinematography, editing, and bringing a unifying directorial vision to film productions.

Is a film major worth it?

For those passionate about working in the film industry, a film major can absolutely be worth the investment. These programs provide invaluable training, access to equipment/facilities, ability to build a portfolio, and networking opportunities that give graduates a major head start.

Do film majors make money?

The film industry offers diverse potential earnings based on your specific role:

  • Major feature film directors can earn millions per project
  • Directors of hit TV shows can make low-six to seven figures per season
  • Independent filmmakers and music video directors often start out making $10,000-$100,000+ per project
  • Entry-level production roles post-graduation may only pay $30,000-$50,000 starting out

Overall, salaries can vary tremendously but the upside potential is very high for successful directors and filmmakers.

Are film directors paid well?

Yes, established film directors can get paid extremely well, especially for successful major studio/theater releases:

  • Veteran A-list directors can earn $5-20+ million per big-budget film
  • Many seasoned directors earn $1-5 million per standard studio project
  • Directors of smaller independent films often get paid a few hundred thousand upfront against a percentage of profits

However, in the early career stages most directors take on smaller gigs at lower pay to build their resume.

Do film directors need a degree?

While it’s possible to “make it” without a formal education, most working film directors have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field like:

  • Film Directing/Production
  • Cinema Studies
  • Media/Communications
  • Theater

A degree provides crucial training in the crafts of directing, cinematography, storytelling, and filmmaking skills needed to compellingly realize your creative vision.

Who is the youngest director in the world?

As of now, the youngest professional director in Hollywood is thought to be Saqib Malik from the UK. He made his directorial debut at the incredible age of 9 years old directing the 2021 short film “Uniform.” Clearly a prodigy, he first started writing screenplays at age 6!

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