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Movie Directing Made Simple: How To Direct Movies

Learn how to be a movie director and how to work with a actors and a production crew in a professional manner!
Leslie Lello
1,911 students enrolled
English [Auto-generated]
Understand the position of director on a movie set, why it is important and what the job entails
Learn to create shotlists and shot maps for scenes you are directing and why they are important
Guide actors and crew through a movie production that is cohesive and has all of its elements working together and making sense
Learn how to be the type of director that producers (the people that hire you) love to bring on to a project




Have you ever found yourself saying:

 “I could of done that [movie] better!” 

“I would have done it THIS way!”  

“They should have ended the movie by ____________.”

“That actor is all wrong for the part!”

Then this course is perfect for you!

In this course you will learn to direct a movie from beginning to end, starting with receiving a script and analyzing it as a director would, all the way through pre-production, principal photography (shooting the movie) and post-production.

You will also learn how to work with different departments at different stages of production and how to communicate and manage a set so that you are giving your crew creative freedom while also keeping the movie together a cohesive creative piece.

No Experience on set?

Direct Your First Movie Using PROVEN Techniques Will Help You Prepare To Direct a Great Movie

  • Pre-Production activities that teach you how to read the script from a director’s point of view and then 
  • Exercises to clarify how you want to tell the story on many different levels
  • Being On-Set, Making the Movie, including the flow of being on set and what is expected of you as a director
  • What you need to know as the director about Post-Production Video Editing, and Film Festivals

Already crewing movies?

If you are already in the entertainment industry and are wondering how to level up, learning to direct is a good choice and this course can help you do it. You may already know the flow of being on set and have observed directors working from whatever set position you have.

This course will give you a more holistic view of the position including the parts you may not see, especially during pre production and post production.

Are you an actor?

Then you already have part of education you need as a director. Directors need to understand acting and communicate well with actors. Since you already know acting and most likely spent time studying your craft, you will know how to get actors to the place they need to be so that you get the performance you desire. Also, all of those Meisner or Improv exercises you did school can now be used to help the actors you are directing get a better sense of the roll.

What are the requirements?

I provide a practice script to learn the directing techniques taught in this course, so really all you need is a notebook and pen.

You may want a printer to print out the script so that you can make notes on the script.

Who is the target audience?

  • People that have always wanted to direct a movie but have not known how or where to begin
  • People that are currently working in the entertainment industry (even theater) who would like to switch positions or would just like to know more about the position of director on set and what the job entails
  • People who have have ever said, “I could have done that [movie] better!” or, “I would have done it THIS way!” or “They should have ended the movie by ____________.”

If that sounds like you, click on the red button on the right!

And remember, this course comes with lifetime “membership” (you own it forever) and a 30 day absolutely no questions asked full money back guarantee – my personal promise of your happiness and satisfaction! 

Welcome to Life as a Director!

Welcome to How to Direct a Movie

Welcoming video about how to direct a movie for the course.

Overview of Being a Movie Director

This video presents some ways to think about the roll of director on a movie set. The intention of the video is to frame the roll of being a director in more mundane terms, especially for those who have not done it, or for those who have not yet been on a movie production set.

What a Director Does & Good Characteristics for a Movie Director

This video talks about what a director does vs what a producer does, and then goes into describing the innate characteristics that makes a good movie director.

Udemy Movie and Filmmakers Network
ASSIGNMENT: Director Self assessment / Video assessment and analysis

This video presents the opportunity to analyze video you have previously worked on as a crew member or actor, or to select a video from YouTube, or to make your own video and analyze it. 

The key is to pay attention to the choices you are making and really to take a look at the many choices there are to be made that you might not have noticed.  

The intention of this exercise will help you to realize the variety of choices to be made regarding a shot or multiple shots in a movie.

Analyzing a Script as a Director

Analyzing a Script (Introduction)

In this lecture I discuss this section of the course which is analyzing a script as a director. I have picked out a simple script and you are going to read it and make decisions about it as if you were directing it.  


Contact the writer, GUILLAUME DUBE, if you have questions about that. 

Guillaume's email is gdube6@hotmail.com .

I do not own the copyright of the script.

He has given me permission to use it for educational purposes in this course. That's it. But I think if you do this exercise it will teach you a lot.

You will be using it for the next few sections.

Your Practice Movie Script: "Before It's Too Late"

This is the script you will be using to do your analysis as a director.

Of course, you can get your own script and analyze it if you like.  Either way is fine as long as you do the work.

One very important note: You may NOT shoot this movie. I do not own the copyright and have only gotten permission to use this script for teaching purposes.

If you are interested in shooting this movie, contact the screenwriter Guillaume Dube at gdube6@hotmail.com.

ASSIGNMENT: First Impressions from reading the Script

As you read a script (or any narrative piece) you will have the scene in your mind and that is often gives you clues as to how you are going to direct the scene.  

In this lecture I have given some questions for you to ask yourself about what you see when you read the script for the first few times and assignment to write those impressions down.  

Capturing your first impressions helps with everything from creating a shotlist to casting your movie.

ASSIGNMENT: Making a Statement through Logline and Thesis for Directing

After gathering your first impressions about what the movie looks and feels like, you will start to get a sense of the greater theme about what the movie is about. 

This is personal and unique to the director. 

I include some examples of logline/theme for some popular movies and then you get an ASSIGNMENT to create a logline/thesis statement for the script that was provided earlier in this course.

(No resource attachments for this assignments. Just start writing)  :-)

Tying It All Together

Now you have an initial idea of how you want the movie to look and feel. The thesis that you worked on in a previous lesson will guide your choices to refine the look and feel so that it is a cohesive whole. 

Again, we are just in the first steps of evaluating the script and you will have a lot of people who are experts in their specific area helping to assist and refine your vision, but it is good to get a clear idea of these elements before you bring someone else in.

This will also inform you as to what you will and will not be emphasizing in the script, which you will show in the way you shoot the movie.

There are a million tiny decisions you make about each moment in your movie and getting clear on your vision for the movie will help you make decisions once others start adding their input.  

This helps you to make faster and more accurate choices when people are making suggestions, which is going to start to happen very soon.  

Note: You may find half-way through pre-production that someone offers a suggestion that blows your mind and makes you look at the script in a completely different way that you LOVE and makes more sense to you than your current vision.

That will make you rethink this first part of the directing process and create a new thesis and start fitting the elements to this new thesis. It’s  not ideal when that happens, but please stay open to those “A-HA!” moments.

In other words, have a strong vision, but be aware that it may change drastically during pre-production.

ASSIGNMENT: Director Self Assessment #2

Pre-Production for Movie Directors

Introduction to Pre-Production for Directors

In this section we will be getting into the “Nuts and Bolts” of pre-production for directors. If the previous section was conceptually driven, and was how you created your vision as a director, this section relates to sharing your vision with all of the departments on your cast and crew and getting as clear as possible about how you want to convey this in  the movie with a variety of techniques and decisions. By making as many of these decisions before getting on set, you will be able to save the precious production time for building quality and problem solving that may be necessary.

There are a lot of different meetings that you will have with your crew and your cast during this time.  

Pre-production for directors consists of making sure each department is on the same page, so you may have a meeting with wardrobe and then another meeting with production design or camera department, or it might just happen all at once with all crew members in one or several production meetings

This introduction talks about the different things that have to get done by the director. This is an overview of pre-production for the movie director and it involves not only a bit of solo work, but also lots of meetings. We will be covering all of this in the following lectures.

Casting Session for Directing Your Movie

Going back to your ideas in the previous section regarding characters, you will be able to get a good idea of how you want to cast the different roles.  I like to look for a balance of acting ability, the acting choices they made for their audition (are they taking this script in the direction that you want / like or is their take completely different from yours (in a bad way), responsible/reliability (do they show up on time or do they skip rehearsals), appearance, friendliness and how well the actor fits the roll (the last characteristic being least important).  Unless you are producing, you will also probably have input from the producer. This is where leadership and compromise come in.

Also, when you were reading the script, you probably had a vision of exactly what the character looked like. While most of the people you call into audition might fit that “type”, I encourage you to bring in a few actors that are different than your vision from the character in appearance if it still fits with your thesis. See if a different “type” works better. Sometimes it does.

This video helps the director look for different aspects in meeting actors during the casting session. It provides a criteria to make decisions, as well as some things that might come up regarding producer choice as well as using a live casting session vs. actor recorded video auditions.

Acting Rehearsals during Pre Production

Acting rehearsals for movies are to make sure that the actors are interacting and are on the same page with each other and with you. It is good to have them build rapport, too. 

In this video we get into some of the details of conducting rehearsals and helping the actors align with your vision.

Scouting Locations During Pre Production

Seeing the location ahead of time will help you create a shot list, shot map, block the scene with your actors and cinematographer and give you an idea of how production design (the look of the setting) will come into play.

It will also highlight any challenges that might be presented by virtue of the set.  This could be technical, or it could simply be that the characters won’t be moving or positioned in the way you envisioned them in the scene.

In fact, this happens more often than not. This is a good time to mention that while you have your initial vision on how the movie should be shot, it will DEFINITELY change, based on the other crew suggestions and preferences, location constraints, time constraints, budget constraints, actor choices and more.

This is the “ART” part in filmmaking. It is an idea that is being brought to creation, but just like making babies, ya never know what you are gonna get until you get to the end.

Do you think that actors deliberately sign on to work on  movies they know will end up being crap? Sometimes for the money they do, but no one knows what the multitude of mini-choices and mini-collaborations within the entirety of a movie production will lead to in the end. WELCOME TO MAKING ART>

Usually the location has already been selected by the time director sees it. Often the director does NOT get to see it until the shooting day, but if you do get to see it beforehand, it will be very helpful to your preparation as a director.  Ask the producer if she/he has the locations and if so, ask if you can see the space ahead of time.

Different Types of Camera Shots

In this video I run through a number of different camera shots that are common in movies.  This information is necessary to know when you are directing, communicating to your actors and cinematographer, and when you are creating a shot list in pre-production.

Storyboards, Shotlists and Shotmaps - What are they and should I use them?
A big part of being a director is figuring out which shots you want to use to tell your story in each scene. This is a overview lecture on when and how to use storyboards, shotlists and shotmaps.
Shotmap - a deeper explaination

This lecture is from my producing course and it is a thorough explanation of how to create a shotmap and how to think it through, as well as how storyboards and shotlists tie into creating a shotmap.

Storyboard, Shotlist and Shotmap
Blocking Rehearsals in Pre-Production

We have already discussed acting rehearsals during pre-production, but I want to make the distinction between acting rehearsals and blocking rehearsals. You may not get blocking rehearsals during pre-production, but if you do, I would like to just give you some idea of why they are helpful.

Working With Crew Departments in Pre-Production

Meetings, Meetings and more Meetings During Pre-Production

This section is just a description of some of the departments you will be working with on-set and during post production.  

Your crew will appreciate that you are mindful of what they do and how they contribute, and if you have some specific choices you would like to clarify, this would be a good time to collaborate and make decisions with your team of experts in each department.

There are hundreds of positions on a big budget movie. Too many to go over in this course and probably too excessive for your needs, so we will be going over the basic indie crew.  And I will be talking about department heads… not the whole department. The department head will convey what is needed to their technicians.

Camera Department Meeting

One of the departments you will be working most closely with is the camera department and especially your cinematographer (also referred to as Director of Photography or "D.P."). In this video we talk about what you need to have prepared for meeting with the camera department and some good topics to discuss during the meeting.

Meetings with Your Producer

You will be in communication with the producer of the movie quite frequently because he or she needs to check in with you for the artistic features of what they are providing for you and to make sure that the choice fits with the whole story / movie. You will also need to check in with your producer for budgetary and logistical considerations.  This video goes into further detail about this.

Art Department Meetings

The details that go into the set are very important to telling the story in your movie. The art department focuses on these details so that it is cohesive with the story of the movie and not only makes sense but also assists in showing nuances of the characters that inhibit these locations and the atmosphere of the movie itself.  Meetings with your Art Department are important to make sure these elements (and more) are agreed upon and prepped during pre-production.

Wardrobe, Makeup and Hair Department Meetings

Wardrobe   of   a   character   will   effect   (1)   how the   actor   feels   as   the   character   and   will inform   the   actor   about   the   character   and   (2) will   tell   the   audience   about   the   character   in   a subtle   way.   Again,   as   director,   you   need   to   draw   these details   in   with   the   overarching   theme   or thesis   of   the   movie   and   the   story   you   are telling.   These   details   need   to   make   sense. Your   choices   should   be   conveyed   to   the head   of   the   Wardrobe   Department.   Actors might   have   input,   too,   since   they   are   making choices   that   could   be   reinforced   by wardrobe.      It   is   likely   that   the   wardrobe person   will   come   in   with   ideas   or   sketches.

Sometimes   prop   department   is   lumped   in with   this   department.   The   producer   will   let whoever   is   managing   props   what   is   needed. Your   job   is   to   say   how   it   should   look.

Post Production Department Meetings (Pre-production conversations about Post Pro

Pre-production conversations about post-production are usually more about informing the department about the "feel" of the piece so that they know where to go with the footage and sound before the "heavy lifting" of post-production takes place. This video gets into detail about the one individual or department you MUST talk to during pre-production in order to make sure your post production process goes smoothly.

Full Production Meeting and Readthrough of the Movie Script

The main meeting that takes place during pre-production is the Full Production Meeting that has all of your crew and cast there. In this video I go over in detail the things that typically happen during  this meeting and why they happen. Usually full production meetings are both festive and informative.

This   meeting   is   awesome   because   often   this is   the   ONLY   time   you   will   have   everyone   that will   be   involved   in   the   production   until   the wrap   party.   Not   all   actors   are   on   set   all   the time   and   your   post   production   crew   (editor, VFX,   sound   editor,   etc)

Principal Photography for Movie and Video Directors

Principal Photography for Directors & 3 Phases of Movie Production
There are three basic phases to principal photography and we do an overview of those phases in this video.
Phase One of Principal Photography: Preparing a Shot

When your crew is setting up a shot, the director is not just sitting around doing nothing.

To the contrary, the director is busy almost every moment of the day. In order to prepare you for the "rhythm" of a set day we talk about what directors do when a scene is being lit and the camera is being set up.

Phase Two of Principal Photography: Shooting a Shot

In this section we are going to be talking a lot about the specifics of what happens when everyone is ready to record the shot. 

There is also specific language various crew members (including the director) use to signal they are ready for the "action" to start and stop!

It is good to know these terms before going to set so that you know when to speak and when to listen.

Terminology: Take vs. Shot vs. Scene

The terms you will hear a lot on set:

  • Take
  • Shot 
  • Scene

Do you know what they mean and how they are different? We talk about this in detail, including how they are used on set and also how they integrate with a numbered script (and lettered shots).

Phase Three of Principal Photography: Oh Crap Something went wrong!

You and your crew have made sure NOTHING could go wrong, but still... something went wrong.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this happens enough on a movie set to make it a phase on its own.  

In this lecture we will discuss what to do when the unpredictable happens and how to handle it internally and when working with your crew and cast.

Post Production for Movie Directors

Introduction to Post Production for Directors

After the movie has been shot, it is time to start on Post Production. This is the editing of your movie into the final piece that goes into film festivals and online and other various forms of distribution.

In this lecture we talk some of the stages of post production and the director's roll in those stages.

ADR and Pickups

Unless you are a director that edits (and there are a lot that do) most of what you'll be doing during post production is approving or giving feedback on the work your post-production crew is doing. 

But with ADR and pickups, the director is a lot more active and we go into this in detail in this lecture.

Video Editing and Visual Effects Software Choices

This lecture will help you to learn about some of the most popular software choices for video editing as well as the most popular software choices for visual effects.

Even if you are not editing your movie, it is a good idea to be familiar with common software used by editors, visual effects specialists and your post production team.

How many Hats do you wear?

The purpose of this lecture is to get you thinking about whether or not you would like to edit your movie and how involved you would like to be or should be in the process.  The more hands on your are, the more control you have over the final project, but it’s a heck of a learning curve to get all this technology under your belt.

Distribution, Film festivals and marketing for Directors

The other part of post-production that might have you very busy is the distribution and marketing of your movie.

In this lecture we talk about the perks of promoting your film and going to film festivals, as well as other things a director should do after the movie has been made.

Directing Actors: Methods to get the Performance You Want

Adjust Audio for this section

This section was recorded with a different method than the other lectures.  While I did my best to match the audio levels, this is just a reminder that you may want to lower your audio a bit (or raise it... who knows) before the first video in this section begins.

Directing Actors: Introduction

This section of the course provides guidance for directors that want to help their actors achieve excellent performances that are also in line with their full vision of the movie.  This section will provide various techniques on how to direct the actor.

Size of Movement
Size of Movement Examples (relates to size of shot)
Inside Out vs. Outside In

There are two ways, historically, that actor presented a roll. Going back over 100 years to theater techniques in which the actors would take the physical body position of the emotion they are conveying to show the audience that emotion.  This is working FROM THE OUTSIDE IN, because the actor is using external gestures to get to the emotion to present regardless of whether the actor was really feeling that emotion or thinking the thought of the character.

I learned about this technique in my theater history class decades ago and it didn’t come up until I was learning screen acting, in which one of my teachers emphasized an "Outside In" technique.

But up until that class. I had always studied and learned to scripts from the "Inside Out". That is because modern actors get to the authenticity of a roll by working FROM THE INSIDE OUT.  (Inside emotions shown outwardly).

Modern techniques ask actors for thoughts and emotions to be based in authentic reactions and those reactions automatically create the actor’s body and facial position.

Later in this section you will be learning to relate to actors from both the Inside Out and the Outside In.

More Clarity about Inside Out vs Outside In
The Director's Job With Actors

Once you have chosen your actors (or maybe before), ask each one how they analyze a character and what techniques they use. This will help you to get an idea of the verbiage that will be most effective for that actor.

This will also give you an idea of how one actor will intereact with another.

Most actors know a number of techniques. It is your responsibility to communicate with the actor in the way that brings him or her technique out the best. 

In this course, I have selected the most common and popular techniques that actors use (and a few less common) .  There are too many to cover them all here, so if, for example, your actor says that he works best grounding the character with Mask work, which is rather obscure, you may have to do some research on that and incorporate it into your directing technique.

Which Acting Technique Is The Best?
The Outside In: An Example from My Own Movie Directing Experience

In the next few videos you will be watching one of my worst movies in its entirety. 


Maybe I will make a bonus section of all of the things that went wrong on this shoot (because "war stories" from set can be rather juicy learning experiences, but regarding the acting, one actor was a total diva and the other had zero acting experience. ZERO. 

I had no idea about this until we got to set because the project was produced in 3 days from script to screen.

Movie: "Scientific Brilliance"

The main thing I want you to notice as you watch this movie is how I edited in her reaction shots and one liners with those body movements.  

It’s not ideal, but I was able to cut somehting that was much better than it would have been.

Before we begin, I want to say again that this is one of my worst movies, but it is fantastic for teaching purposes.

Clips from "Scientific Brilliance" of Actor being directed from the Outside In

In order to cut the picture, I needed reaction shots from her and for her to at least look like she was somewhat connecting with the emotional life of the character.

Even though in the movie her character is supposed to be frustrated with the scientist, not much in her facial expression or body positioning said this. It didn’t show an inner life in any way for the character. These movements gave her an inner life. 

She, as a real life person, was probably a bit overwhelmed by the script, which was complicated with a lot of long paragraphs to memorize, and with the whole situation of being on set and crew watching her was stressing her out, so this is how I directed her at the end of each shot after she did it her way for a take or two. 

The nice thing about working in digital is it is cheap to keep rolling so even if you have to direct your actors line by line. Again, it is not ideal, but it will keep them somewhat connected to the scene while following your instructions.

Stilness vs. Extraneous Movement: An Analogy
Clarifying the Outside In Technique
Overview of The Specific Movements of Outside In Acting for Camera
"Are we going to dinner?" Outside In Technique
The "Inside Out" Method of Acting
Directing Actors using the Stanislovski System
Directing Actors Using the Meisner Technique
Using Improvisation to Direct Actors
Examples of Improvisation Games to Direct Actors
Tips and Caution when Directing Improvisation in Movies
Other Acting/Directing Techniques (like Shakespeare)
The Value of Acting Classes for Directors

Bonus Videos!

Why I do NOT recommend iMovie (except for making YouTube & Talking Head Videos)
Conclusion and Goodbyes (for now)

Thank you for taking this course! I hope it helps you become the director you wish to be. Let me know if you have any questions and keep me posted on your progress and projects!

You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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