Job: Film or TV director.
Role: Directors are visual storytellers. It is their job to take words from a page and bring them to life through pictures and sound.
Before productions begin, directors are responsible for selecting locations, approving props and costumes, casting for non-recurring parts, and breaking down scripts into scenes and scenes into individual shots.
While on set, the director's first role is to ensure all the necessary elements of the production are in place, before gathering the actors for a rehearsal.
"We essentially run the scene, rehearse it a couple of times, and I will try to nudge them toward the kind of blocking of the scene that I've come up with in preproduction," said Ken Girotti, a Toronto-based Gemini-Award-nominated director whose recent credits include episodes of Vikings, Daredevil and Orphan Black.
Following rehearsal, the director often instructs the director of photography, set designers, lighting professionals and other crew members on the specific elements required for the scene, as the actors get into costume and makeup.
"And then I'll walk around with the cinematographer and camera operators, and we'll start composing shots, and we'll discuss how we're going to cover the scene, which means what shots I will need in the editing room to tell the story of that scene," Mr. Girotti said. "In the cutting room with the editor, I try and tell the story visually by laying the shots in, in the correct order, or coming up with a surprising cut or edit in a way that will illicit the kind of response from the audience that I need."
Education: While there are a variety of schools across Canada that offer diplomas as well as undergraduate and master's degrees in film, Mr. Girotti says attending film school isn't always necessary, and attending film school doesn't necessarily result in a career as a director.
"Starting [a career] in production is one way to go; going to film school is another way to go," he said. "When you get out there in the world, you're going to be doing what you do in any other job; you're going to be knocking on doors and trying to meet people and do your best to network and get a crack at having somebody support you by spending a whole lot of money and let you make a film for them. It takes a long time to gain that kind of trust."
While a film school diploma can be an important asset for aspiring directors, Mr. Girotti believes the most important assets for anyone wanting to work in the industry are perseverance and determination. "I've seen so many really talented people fall by the wayside because they just didn't have the wherewithal to stick it out," he said.
Salary: The annual compensation of a director will range widely based on the type of productions they work on, how many productions they are able squeeze into a single year, and the budgets of those productions and their locations.
The Directors Guild of Canada sets the minimum rate for its members based on the project's overall budget, as well as the production type. Tier A motion pictures, for example, are feature films with a budget over $10.8-million, while Tier F television shows of half an hour in length have an overall budget under $141,755. Each tier has a corresponding minimum rate for directors, ranging from $10,260 a week for Tier A motion pictures to 2.75 per cent of the overall budget of a Tier F television episode.
The Directors Guild of Canada's rate sheet, which provides the standard minimum compensation rates for film, television and new media productions, can be found online.
While the compensation rate for directors may seem generous, Mr. Girotti stresses that most productions require directors to work between 11– and 17-hour days from prep to post-production. "If you were to crack it out at an hourly rate, you probably could make as much money working at General Motors."
While some directors are able to command tens of millions of dollars for high-budget motion pictures, the majority will never see that kind of payday.
"The majority of directors, because you can go long periods without working, will fluctuate between $50,000 a year, and $450,000 a year, depending on how good or bad their year is," Mr. Girotti said. "I know people who make enough to live on just making low-budget films. They end up with between $50,000 and $100,000 a year and just keep telling their own stories."
Job prospects: Online film distribution, as well as a significant drop in the cost of basic filmmaking technology, has drastically changed the career landscape for directors in recent years. The cost of entry has never been lower, but there has also never been more competition.
"Everybody thinks it's a really easy thing to do, but it's not quite as easy as it looks," Mr. Girotti said. "It's really hard, and there are so many people who are going to have their hearts broken by this business, but I think it's really good for the future of visual storytelling in a sense that the opportunities are so available in a way they've never been."
Challenges: Aside from creative challenges, the greatest hurdle that directors face, according to Mr. Girotti, is pleasing all of the stakeholders and managing the demanding schedules of film production.
"When you're in television, you're serving a lot of masters, and that can be frustrating at times," he says.
Another major challenge of working in the North American film industry is the long working hours, which are often more regulated in Europe and other markets. Simply getting enough sleep during projects can be difficult, he says.
Why they do it: Directors have a wide variety of motivations for entering the industry, whether it's the excitement of show business, the opportunity to collaborate with others or a passion for telling stories through a visual medium.
"I guess it's the fire in my belly combined with my ego and my artistic leanings that kind of pushed me here," Mr. Girotti said. "I love working with people, I love creatively interacting with people; I have great fun."
Misconceptions: Mr. Girotti believes that Hollywood has made film production out to be more glamorous than it truly is. He says that some imagine the industry is "paved with red carpets and large burly security guards and that there are photographers and paparazzi around all the time.
"When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, we're shooting in dust-infested warehouses, or clean antiseptic and personality-less studios, and it feels like a job. There are sometimes I go to work with a hard hat because that's the set we're on. There are other times I'm up to my knees in muck, sitting in a rainstorm. So in a nutshell, it ain't as glamorous as everybody might think it is."
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