Want to Direct Movies? Here's How to Get Started

Elias Hubbard
September 10, 2020


The rise of independent film in recent decades means that you no longer need studio backing in order to make a movie. While that might mean filmmaking is easier if you're a nobody than it might have been in the past, easier isn't the same as easy. Like any creative field, film directing is a tough business, but with talent and determination, you can rise through the ranks and succeed in the world of movies.

Is Film School Necessary?

Film school is certainly not mandatory. Director Quentin Tarantino never went to film school although few could argue with the breadth of his knowledge. However, there are some advantages to attending film school, including the connections you'll make and the exposure to film history. Without film school, you may find yourself reinventing the wheel to some extent, painstakingly teaching yourself some technique that would have come easily otherwise. One of the big barriers can be cost. Keep in mind that you can get grants, scholarships and federal as well as private student loans to pay for college. Online lenders in particularly have positioned themselves to be user-friendly and may be able to offer you lower interest rates since they lack the overhead of traditional financial institutions.

What Not to Do

There are a few streaming sites that anyone can upload a film to. Note that this is an entirely different thing from a production or distribution agreement with a streaming service, which can launch careers and has attracted filmmakers as accomplished as Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese. If you're a beginner, this may make your head spin with excitement: this means that are no longer any barriers to getting your film out in front of people. Unfortunately, hundreds or even thousands of people are thinking the same thing, and because most of what goes up is poor, it is extremely unlikely that you will become a recognized filmmaker in this way. It has yet to happen to anyone. Take heart, as there are hundreds of festivals that are eager to discover a debut filmmaker, and your time is better spent knocking on these doors. It's also worth learning as much as you can about contracts and scraping the money together to get a good lawyer to review anything before you sign it.

What to Do

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Many people long to be writer/directors but their strength really lies in directing. Be realistic about your shortcomings and consider working with a good screenwriter instead of trying to do everything yourself. Understand the business, but don't be afraid to try something different. Don't dismiss the idea of making your first film on a microbudget; filmmaker Mike Flanagan made his debut with just $70,000, and a portion of that was raised on a crowd-funding site. You can do it for even less. Go to film screenings and festivals and network, but don't take everyone introduced to you as a producer at their word; find out what their track record is. Submit your work to festivals, and keep going. Have a clear plan: do you want to conquer your corner of the indie market or direct blockbusters someday? Stay on top of news and trends and don't give up.

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