What is Film Directing and What Does a Film Director Do? – American Film Institute
A female AFI Fellow working with an actor on the set of an AFI Conservatory Film School project

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What is Film Directing and What Does a Film Director Do?

What is Film Directing?

Film directing is focused on developing and implementing the overall creative vision of a script, as well as working with actors on crafting performances.

What does a Film Director do?

Once a screenplay is ready to go into production, a film director works collaboratively with heads of the other departments – cinematographers, editors, production designers, screenwriters and producers – to create the film that represents their vision. During the production of the film, the crew looks to the director to make key creative decisions, which can include anything from camera angles to what prop to use in a scene. Additionally, film directors work with the actors to achieve performances that are consistent with the director’s storytelling goals.

Who becomes a Film Director?

Anyone who has a passion for visual storytelling can train to become a film director. People with a background in acting, theater directing, writing, cinematography, photography and other performing arts often transition into film directing.

What are the career paths for Film Directors?

Graduates of the AFI Conservatory Directing program have found success in directing in all mediums, including commercials, music videos, films and television.

What is the Directing program at the AFI Conservatory film school?

The AFI Conservatory master’s degree program in directing gives AFI film students, known as “Fellows” at the Conservatory, the crucial time, space and resources to craft their own distinct voice, while guaranteeing them the opportunity to direct three narrative films and a thesis film over the course of two years. In classes and through critical analysis of each others’ projects and feature films made by award-winning and acclaimed directors, Directing Fellows examine all elements of the directing craft and visual language as they relate to storytelling, including narrative design and structure, performance, camera, composition, mise-en-scene, narrative point of view, editing and collaboration, with a view to developing a working sense of the Director’s skill set.

Learn more about the Directing MFA program at the AFI Conservatory film school, ranked the #1 film school.

10 Directing Terms to Know

  1. Blocking – planning out the movement of actors in relation to each other and the camera
  2. Continuity editing – an approach to editing that uses techniques like eye line, 180-degree rule and matching action to maintain consistency of time and space in film, television or other digital video projects
  3. 180-degree rule – a technique used to maintain proper eyeline matching between characters by ensuring the camera stays on one side of the imaginary axis
  4. Cheating – altering the perspective or angle, or changing the position of an actor, to achieve desired framing or composition
  5. Dailies – raw footage from the previous day of production
  6. Logline – a one- or two-sentence summary of a script
  7. Mise-en-scène– French for “putting on stage”; in film it refers to the setting and everything placed in front of the camera, including composition, sets, props, actors, costumes and lighting
  8. OTS – refers to a camera angle that is shot “over-the-shoulder” of a performer.
  9. Montage – a series of short shots or sequences edited together often to convey information in a short amount of time or show a passage of time
  10. Shot list – a detailed list documenting the various shots needed to be completed each day on set

Recent Projects by AFI Conservatory Directing Alumni

A collage of images of projects by AFI Directing Alumni AFI Conservatory Film School

BEAU IS AFRAID – Ari Aster (AFI Class of 2010)
HALLELUJAH – Victor Gabriel (AFI Class of 2020)
LIFE UPSIDE DOWN – Cecilia Miniucchi (AFI Class of 1984)
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RING OF POWER – Charlotte Brändström (AFI Class of 1982)
MASTER GARDENER – Paul Schrader (AFI Class of 1969).
RAYMOND & RAY – Rodrigo García (AFI Class of 1986)
TÁR – Todd Field (AFI Class of 1992)
THE WHALE – Darren Aronofsky (AFI Class of 1992)
WATCHER – Chloe Okuno (AFI Class of 2014)
WE WERE MEANT TO – Tari Wariebi (AFI Class of 2020)

View more projects by AFI Alumni.

Applications to attend the AFI Conservatory film school open in the Fall. Sign up here to receive all the latest news about AFI’s MFA program and other opportunities.

Comments (1)

Roshni Patel

I’d like to learn more about this film program.


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