- Personality type:
- Being responsible for the look and sound of a production and its technical standards
- Enhancing, refining and realising original ideas into finished programmes
Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
- be able to translate creatively a writer’s, Producer’s and other originators' vision into a coherent, marketable, entertaining or informative programme
- understand all aspects of television production and post production processes
- be aware of and value the contribution of all crew members to the creation of the final programme, and be able to work with them effectively
- be able to lead a team and to motivate actors and crew members
- show diplomacy and sensitivity when working with Writers, Producers, Actors and crew members
- be able to conceptualise ideas and to think visually
- be able to decide about the appropriate graphic style and the music for the production
- pay precise attention to detail
- have a methodical approach to work, along with a high stress tolerance and stamina
- have budgeting and financial skills
- understand when it is appropriate to use visual and sound effects, and how to use them effectively
- understand the difference between multi- and single camera shooting
- know when to use different technical and creative techniques
- have excellent communication skills
- understand the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
What does a Director (TV) do?
Directors are responsible for the look and sound of a production and its technical standards. They work closely with Producers and/or Writers, enhancing, refining and realising original ideas into finished programmes. They are responsible for ensuring that the final programme is faithful to the original concept. They must be able to push boundaries while remaining in total control of their material. They work across all genres.
They make careful preparations in order to ensure the success of each shoot. They must have a clear creative vision of the project and what materials are required to achieve it. Directors should understand the significance of scenes and how they fit into the overall programme structure, as well as knowing what is happening within each scene as it is shot.
They should not shoot endless footage, but prepare a carefully calculated shooting schedule which provides the required footage within budget and to deadlines.
Studio multi-camera shoots are essential elements in producing high-volume drama series and soaps. The Director must prepare carefully in order to provide crew members with accurate instructions and directions.
They read through scripts before their first meeting with Producers, Script Editors, Story Editors, Series Editors, Script Supervisors, and/or 1st Assistant Directors. The other heads of department may draw attention to potential technical, logistical or creative problems with scripted scenes, and suggest alternative arrangements. Once all these factors have been taken into account and changes approved, scripts are returned to Writers and changes negotiated. Final scripts are delivered to the Director so that marked-up camera scripts and/or running orders can be prepared for cast and crew members.
The Director's marked studio script is the blueprint from which all crew members draw their requirements. Once all changes have been approved and implemented, Directors are responsible for the creative and technical aspects of producing finished programmes, working to the Producer's budget.
Directors block all aspects of the script (that is, plot the required camera movements, backgrounds and locations, in relation to the Actors' actions) in order to keep the production safe and under control. Directors and actors attend script read-throughs in order to explain and discuss all aspects of the script and how scenes should be played.
Directors liaise with crew members about all technical requirements, e.g. lighting and camera movements, sound recording requirements, set dressing, vision effects, graphics and transitions. While the crew prepare the sets and set up the equipment, Directors may work with individual actors on specific scenes which require particularly sensitive, dramatic or comedy performances.
During multi-camera studio recordings or live transmissions, Directors work closely with Vision Mixers and Production Assistants (PAs) in the gallery (control room) to create the programme. The gallery is located away from the studio floor and Directors communicate via talkback equipment to technical personnel including Floor Managers, Camera Operators, Sound Supervisors, Boom Operators, Lighting Gaffers and other personnel.
Directors cue all movements, PAs provide countdowns and shot calling, Vision Mixers effect all transitions and, in some circumstances, Producers may offer last minute amendments. Crew members may also provide feedback from the studio floor. Directors must be able to absorb all this information while following agreed camera scripts at the same time as monitoring programme content, performances, and technical quality.
On single camera shoots, e.g. for scenes shot on location or documentary shoots, preparation is equally important. Directors work closely with the Production Manager, Designers, Lighting Directors, 1st Assistant Director and others, to choose suitable locations and plan the shots required. They must ensure that there is sufficient coverage, including appropriate wide shots, mid shots and close-ups, so that the correct emphasis and dramatic atmosphere can be created in the editing process.
Edited sections are then incorporated into scenes shot in studio or on OB during recording or in post production. Drama productions may also be shot completely on single or multi-camera film or tape shoots, and edited in post production. Directors must carry out detailed preparations to ensure that sufficient material is shot or made available from other sources (e.g. archives, stock shots, stills, etc.) for editing and post production.
On documentaries and factual programming some Directors shoot their own material, interview contributors and edit these materials as well. They may work with the support of only a Researcher/Associate Producer and an Executive Producer, and with very small technical crews (camera, sound and editing only). In these cases, Directors must be more self-sufficient, often taking on the dual role of Producer/Director.
On news or current affairs, Directors direct multi-camera programmes from the gallery, under considerable time pressures to produce a smooth running final product. They may need to change the running order at the last minute in order to accommodate breaking news, and must be able to react quickly and effectively in very stressful circumstances.
Will I need a qualification?
You won’t need a specific qualification to become a TV Director. However, a degree in a media-related, drama or specialist subject may give you a good grounding.
You will need wide experience in and knowledge of the production process. You will need to complete specialist training in single and multi-camera directing.
If you are considering taking a TV production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the TV industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a TV career:
TV production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
What’s the best route in?
To become a TV Director, you will usually need to be an experienced member of a production or post production team. You could start out as a Researcher and progress to be a Script Editor, a Story Editor and finally a Director and/or Producer.
Alternatively, you could work as a Runner, 2nd Assistant Director, 1st Assistant Director or a Production Manager before becoming a Director.
Another route in is to start out in a technical role, e.g. camera or editing. You could also work as a theatre director, acquiring valuable experience of working with actors, before moving into television after undertaking specialist technical training on single and multi-camera directing techniques. Gaining the technical skills of direction does not however guarantee the move across to become a TV Director.
Interested? Find out more...
- Directors Guild of Great Britain - works to train, promote and celebrate directors and directing across all media: film, television, theatre, radio, opera, commercials, music videos, corporate film, multimedia and new technology
- BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
- BBC Academy - College of Production - information and advice on the skills required to make engaging television, including interviews with producers in music, speech, factual and comedy about what it takes to work in television
- Broadcast - the weekly newspaper for the UK TV and radio industries
- Televisual - the business magazine for the broadcast and production industry
- Basic Studio Directing - R. Fairweather - ISBN 0-240-51525-0
- Directing Actors - J. Weston ISBN - 0-941188-24-8
- Directing and Producing for Television - I. Cury - ISBN 0-240-80827-4
- Directing Single Camera Drama - M. Crisp - ISBN 0-240-51478-5
- Directing the Documentary - M. Rabiger - ISBN 0-240-80608-5