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Filmmaking 101: What Makes A Good Director?

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Success in making a blockbuster movie is the result of collaboration and overall teamwork from the actors, crew, pre-production team, post-production team, writers, cinematographers, and most of all the directors. Directors are the visionaries, whose jobs are more than saying "action" and "cut!"

Famous film directors in one shoot by Hollywood reporter
Credits to Hollywood Reporter

A true filmmaker or director does not rely on budget alone, regardless if there is an abundance or a lack there of, directors will create a film out of their vision. There are a lot of admirable qualities a director should have, however, each director has their unique styles, and abilities, but all of them will possess certain qualities that them will have in common.

To be a great director in filmmaking, and if you are aspiring to work in the film industry someday and be one of the future James Cameron, Stanley Kubrick, or Guillermo del Torro, here are some qualities and skills that make a good director:

Ability to tell a story

Directors must be able to turn the script into a compelling story. The script may read as boring and ordinary, but a director's vision will turn those boring storylines into amazing scenes that will take it to a whole new level. Each film is unique and each director will have a different artistic take that will depend on what type of film they are creating, whether it is a biopic, fiction, based on a true story, and more.

Tom Hanks on Captain Philips close up shot
Credits to Thinking Faith

"Captain Philips Director Paul Greengrass kept Tom Hanks from meeting Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips so Tom would not know who the terrorist leader was in the scene where they first meet. Then Barkhad would feel like a menacing stranger." - David Negrin, Film Professor Executive Director of the NYC Screenwriters via Quora

Being able to tell a story is an essential part of the film's success, that is why directors like Stanley Kubrick are known for their odd style and almost uncomfortable ways of drawing emotions to their lead actors. To tell a riveting story.


A true filmmaker will have the flexibility to accept new ideas and roll with the changes when making the film. A director's goal is not only to make money but to make the art first which is in the best interest of the film. Ideas will burst throughout every stage of filmmaking and every creative input is important.

Nightmare before Christmas 3D Pictured TIM BURTON and Director HENRY SELICK on the set of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Credits to Imago: TIM BURTON and Director HENRY SELICK on the set of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

“We had to start production without a script, which is insane,” Selick tells The Hollywood Reporter about the movie, which was released 25 years ago this month. “We didn’t know what we were doing, but we had total confidence and we had a huge amount of fun.” - Director, Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, directors rely on each member of the crew to make the best film possible, they don't turn down ideas, as a matter of fact, they need more, more, more, to make the film even more interesting.

Strong Leadership: Inspires and Motivates

Directors are much like the captains of the ship, everyone else looks up to them as a leader. Strong leadership is a must attribute of a good filmmaker as they should be comfortable delegating and essentially directing what people should do. They must have the confidence and hire people that will do their specific functions during filmmaking.

The last thing a good director should do is micromanage. Part of having strong leadership in filmmaking is to be able to coach actors in carrying out specific scenes, portraying their characters well, and supervising behind-the-scenes production staff. Also, they inspire and motivate everyone, as filmmaking can be very stressful and each member of the crew needs a nudge, and directors keep that passion burning.

Organizational Skills

Filmmaking is very strict when it comes to organizing a project. A film requires everything to be in order and follows a 5 stage process from beginning to end. Hence, a good director must have organizational skills to keep everyone and everything in line. Directors will need to deal with a lot of schedules from the production staff, facility schedules, and actors' availability down to the technical crew's schedules.

Being able to organize all of this is a must, and it does not stop there, budget allocation also falls on the director's bucket and they are on top of making decisions from the costumes, ancillary services, hairstyling, and down to janitorial service. Directors must keep also investors posted on the status of the project at all times.

Technology Expertise

Filmmakers must know the latest technology there is in filmmaking as part of creating a good film is having high-end equipment that meets the requirement of a specific film. A director's technical experience makes them invaluable. This means you as a director knowcomp the right thing to do and how to execute it well. Every good filmmaker knows the importance of staging, framing, proper lighting, shots, and the actual technology to be used.

Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, action/adventure, and futuristic movies are just a few of the movie themes that highly need a directors technical experience, as they will be involved in choosing the right technology, equipment, editing software, and more to achieve the goals of the film from visual effects down to every small details.

Passion for Filmmaking

The creative process of making a film can be exhausting yet wonderful at the same time, without a passion for it, even with huge budgets a film would not succeed if the director has no passion. Throughout every stage of filmmaking, there will be a lot of setbacks and it can be frustrating, hence, directors need to lead everyone to look at the big picture, that what they are creating is a piece of art that will benefit generations to come.

Directors must hold that passion and pass it on to everyone involved in the creation process as again he leads the entire crew, without the passion for creation, everyone will lose sight to the goals of the film, and can lead to producing a bad movie.

Every great director had their stepping stone

Nobody entered into filmmaking thinking their films are going to be immediate blockbusters a lot of great film directors started as writers or even made their film debut in their late 40s. A lot of the greatest filmmakers are highly recognized now waited for their moment. It is their experience and their faith in the art of filmmaking that makes them great.

No matter how big or how late they have been acknowledged in the film industry what they bring is countless stories we see on the silver screen, the moment every scene makes us feel connected to the characters, the story, and the entire film itself makes a good director.

Learn more about filmmaking and start learning to be a great director, read this article and know more about how to start your one-man crew and create your first film.

Do you think you have all those traits?

We at Cinemagics are constantly looking for talented filmmakers who are passionate and be able to carry our vision to tell a better story. Contact us for collaborations and more.

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