What is the path to becoming a film director?

It took me a while to get up the courage to even think the sentence I want to be a film director – let alone state it aloud. It was a very scary sentence and idea that every fiber in my being fought against. But I couldn’t escape it. Every time I tried to settle on something else for a career direction, I found myself right back at film – more specifically, directing film.

I’ve been directing stage for years and not only was it creative and invigorating, but also my comfort zone. Once I realized how I was unique – how I could stand out and have my creative voice heard – I realized I would have to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the cinematic arts.

Part of the reason “being a film director” scared me was that I immediately compared myself to Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, etc. They were all white men with huge movies on their resumes, and I couldn’t picture myself doing their jobs. But then I thought about M. Night Shyamalan and Julie Taymor and took comfort in the fact that I could carve out a niche for myself like they had done. In fact, if I wanted to succeed as a film director, I HAD to create a niche for myself and not try to copy anyone else. I had to trust that my perspective and voice was just as valid and important as Bay’s, Spielberg’s, Shyamalan’s and Taymor’s.

There is no one path to becoming a film director. Each director must carve out a path to success with hard work and relationships. Michael Bay started out directing commercials before getting noticed by Jerry Bruckheimer. Steven Spielberg unsuccessfully applied to USC’s School of Theater, Film and Television, but he eventually made his first short film while working as an intern at Universal Studios. M. Night Shyamalan used money from friends and family to make his first film, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. He then filmed his second film at a school he attended as a child with his parents as the film’s associate producers. Julie Taymor studied puppetry in Japan, which allowed her to attract attention as a stage director before moving into the world of film.

Each journey is unique and completely unlike any other. Your path is the one that you create.

3 thoughts on “What is the path to becoming a film director?

  1. Tamara – I re-read your Christmas card and went to your blog. Thank you for sharing about making a movie. I particularly enjoy your reflections on “finding your way or path” when there is no path. Not only is there not one path, but usually it seems as if there is no path for us… Only in retrospect do we see it. We all must make a way where there is no way… and with insight and grace, we do. It’s a fact that we look back and see this is the way our life “must” go… when that was hardly apparent to begin with.

    Thanks for telling us about the Japanese-American playwright Ms. Houston. I’ll try to see if I can find a play of hers. I think of you whenever I go to Vermont or Massachusetts… as you have some karma in the Berkshires, as well as Queens!

    Blessings and peace.
    Noel Vanek

  2. Thank you Noel for your thoughts and reflections. I so appreciate you taking the time to look at my site and reconnect! I’m currently in Japan (my other home away from home) scouting locations – it’s amazing to be back! Say ‘hello’ to the Berkshires for me 🙂

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