Director Interview Questions
Directors oversee the production of stage plays, films, television, and commercials. This involves managing a cast of actors, set designers, costume department, technical crew, and camera and sound crews in the case of film and television. Directors then produce a finished product, either based on their own vision or the needs of a client.
A director is responsible for:
- Organizing and presiding over auditions
- Ensuring a clear production schedule including rehearsals and performances
- Coordinating cast and crew.
- Coordinating a creative team including writers, set designers, and costume department
- Providing hands-on feedback to cast and crew
- Organizing funding through producers
- Coordinating publicity.
A director’s skills should include:
- Good interpersonal and managerial skills
- An eye for the big picture and fine details
- Extensive knowledge of the technical aspects of a production (camera work, lighting, sets, etc.)
- Writing skills for analyzing and editing scripts
A director will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a theater-related field and sometimes a post-secondary education. Several years of experience as a director or in other theater roles is often expected. Theaters, film studios, and television studios will vary greatly in their requirements, but a degree and several years of experience is usually the standard. Hiring will also depend on the portfolio of past work.
Salaries for directors range between $105K and $176K with the median being $137K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a director include:
- Degrees (apprenticeship certificate, associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Previous Film Credits
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the producer you report to and number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Director Interview Questions
Question: When did you become interested in working as a film director, and what influenced your decision to pursue this career?
Explanation: This is an opening question which the interviewer will ask to get you talking, learn more about your background, and collect information they can use for subsequent questions. This provides you the opportunity to present the narrative of your career and guide the interview in a direction in which you are comfortable.
Example: “My interest in filmmaking began at an early age when my friend and I decided to make mini-movies. Our productions were crude and unrefined, but we enjoyed writing the scripts, filming the scenes, and even doing some editing. This and subsequent experiences creating films for my own enjoyment influenced my decision to pursue a degree in filmmaking while in college. During that time, I was able to participate in several professional productions and was fortunate to get an internship at a local studio. This launched my career. I have held many minor roles in production teams, eventually becoming an associate director and finally a director.”
Question: What do you hope to accomplish as a director with our organization?
Explanation: When an interviewer asks this type of question, they are not only interested in what you hope to accomplish and what your career goals are, but also what you can contribute to their organization. Keep in mind that you are interviewing for a role that will contribute to the organization’s success. Any answer you provide to an interview question should demonstrate how you will do this.
Example: “By joining your production company, I hope to be able to create films that carry a strong message, are inspirational, and tell an interesting story. I believe my directing style matches that of the production company, and I am confident I will all be able to contribute to your ever-expanding library of quality productions.”
Question: Tell me about how you effectively communicate your directions to the cast and crew of a movie production.
Explanation: An interviewer will ask you this type of question to understand some of the skills needed to direct a film production. As a director, you need to have strong communication skills and the ability to convince your team of what needs to be done and how they should go about doing it. You’ll also be involved in negotiations with the studios, backers, and other critical stakeholders of the films you are working on. Being able to communicate with this diverse group of people is critical to your success as a director.
Example: “Communicating with the cast and crew of a film production I am working on is critical to my being an effective director. I have learned that the best way to go about this is to communicate clearly and frequently with everyone involved with the film. I also take time to understand each crew member’s motivation and what they are hoping to get out of the production. When I ask them to do something or provide directions, I always make sure it aligns with their motivations.”
Question: Can you discuss your favorite movie or TV show and what you like about it from a director’s perspective?
Explanation: By identifying your favorite movie or TV production, you are giving the interviewer an idea of your style and preferences. You can prepare for interviews and these types of questions by researching the organization’s films and productions they have worked on in the past. Your answer to this question should identify a film which is similar to the ones they produce. If you choose to identify something different from the work they do, you should have a strong rationale for why you like it and how you can incorporate the film’s style and production qualities into the work you will be doing for the organization going forward.
Example: “My favorite film genre is classic movies and film noir. I like the work of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart. My favorite production of theirs is The Maltese Falcon. I like the camera angles they used, the way the characters interact with each other, the use of expressions over dialog, and the minimalist sets they used. I also follow the less-is-more philosophy and work hard to get the actors to carry the story without any special effects, intricate sets, or complex dialogue.”
Question: What experience do you have with video editing and production software tools?
Explanation: This is an operational question. Operational questions help the interviewer understand your capabilities and how you go about accomplishing tasks required by this job. Operational questions should be answered directly and succinctly with little embellishment. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need any additional information.
Example: “I have a great deal of experience working with software editing and production tools. As I mentioned earlier, I started doing this when I was still a child, making my own films using my dad’s cell phone. I’ve watched the development of both amateur and professional film-editing tools made possible by computers and software technology. The thing I like about these tools is that they allow me to review our work daily rather than having to wait for the film to be developed and edited as it was done in previous eras.”
Question: How do you stay fresh when your inspiration is low and you don’t feel highly creative?
Explanation: Everyone has low points during their career or while working. Most people can wait these out and then move on. However, artistic people like film directors need to maintain high levels of creativity and inspiration throughout the production of a film. Being able to inspire yourself to do the work even when you don’t feel like it is an important trait you need to possess.
Example: “While it is rare, I sometimes do lose my inspiration while working on a film. This normally happens midway through the production and while we’re shooting what I like to call fill-in scenes. However, I never allow my lack of inspiration to become evident to the cast or crew. I continue to work hard at finding inspiration where I can. Examples of this include getting an actor to emote in a certain manner, working with the lighting director to make sure things are illuminated perfectly, or taking the time to answer non-film-related questions from a production assistant or other crew member.”
Question: What influence do you think commerce has on the art of making a movie?
Explanation: This is a tricky question. Film production companies are in business to make money, not art. However, for films to be successful, there has to be an element of art incorporated in the production. Finding the balance between these two is essential for directors. You should be able to describe how you make tradeoffs between the art you want to produce and the necessity to make a product that provides a return on investment for the backers.
Example: “While my inspiration to become a film director was based on my desire to produce good art, I recognize this is a job and the company is in business to make money. I carefully balance the quality of the production with the need to make a commercially viable product. I keep an eye on the production costs, understand what audiences like, have a clear picture of what the industry is currently producing, and try to stay ahead of trends occurring in films and entertainment in general.”
Question: What is the biggest mistake many filmmakers make while shooting a movie?
Explanation: Being able to identify mistakes and having the ability to self-criticize is an important character trait. The key to answering this question successfully is to describe the mistakes and then discuss the lessons learned or ways to avoid mistakes going forward.
Example: “I believe the biggest mistake any director can make is thinking they know it all and have nothing else to learn. Our industry is always evolving, both technically and creatively. People are developing new ideas daily as well as new technologies used to produce scenes in films that were once thought to be impossible. I take time to keep abreast of industry trends, technology, and creative ideas. I also go to work each day intending to learn something new.”
Question: At what point do you recognize a film is finished and ready to be released?
Explanation: Knowing when a film is finished is one of the more challenging aspects of being a director. Many people involved in film production believe you can always tweak something and make it slightly better. Good directors recognize when a film is done and it’s time to move on. This also helps contain the production costs, which is something studios look for.
Example: “While it’s always hard to know when a film is complete, I use a metric that helps identify when it’s time to stop editing, tweaking, and adjusting the film. My metric involves how many times I have reviewed and attempted to edit a particular scene. I limit myself to two edits per scene. I believe that any more than that and you are rapidly approaching what the original movie looked like. I also try to minimize the production costs by trying to get each take correct, thereby minimizing additional takes and editing.”
Question: Do you think all the good stories have already been made into films?
Explanation: There is a common belief that all the stories in the world have been written by Shakespeare, and everything else is just a variation on his themes. However, new movies continued to the produced, and as each of these is a little different from their predecessor. The key to being a director is taking a familiar story and presenting it in a new light or different manner. Your answer to this question should reflect your ability to do this.
Example: “While it’s probably true that there are only a limited number of core stories to be told, the telling of these stories has infinite possibilities. You can always change the location, genre, characters, theme, actions, and other aspects of the story. These alterations make it relevant to specific audiences, bring it up to date, and help make each telling different from the previous ones. This is where the creativity of writers, producers, directors, and actors comes in.”
Additional Director Interview Questions
Describe the last production you worked on in a directorial capacity.
How would you deal with an actor or crew member who failed to comply with directions?
Describe how you would make sure that a production remained on schedule.
Describe the actions you would take to ensure that a production remained on budget.
Describe the different communication skills you use with both individuals and groups such as cast and crew.
What is your experience in directing musical theater and working with musicians as well as actors?
Are you comfortable working long hours to ensure a schedule is kept?
How would you ensure a cast and crew stays focused and productive through long hours?
What experience do you have in directing a film?
How does directing a film compare to directing a stage production?
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