How to Be a Good Director for Stage or Film

by Johnny Kilhefner
Good stage and film directors convey stories by guiding various elements, from actor movement to visual concepts.

Good stage and film directors convey stories by guiding various elements, from actor movement to visual concepts.

Whether in stage or film, directors act as the cohesive bond bringing all the elements of the stage play or film together. They work from a script and with actors, attempting to tell a story that the audience experiences visually and thematically. Directors interpret the script and coach the actors, creating a center for which all parts of the film or play come together to best serve the story.


Blocking refers to the arrangement of stage or set movement. It is especially vital in stage plays, as the director and actors have only one shot to make the most use out of the stage while in front of a live audience. Directors teach actors about blocking during rehearsal, using terms such as "exit stage left," which is the left side of the stage from the perspective of the actor facing the crowd. Film directors create a shot list to help map out the shots they want to take and how they hope to achieve them.

Script Analysis

Directors interpret the script, gleaning the intentions from the writer and relate it to their overall vision for the play or film. Good directors analyze a script for plot, theme, logic, exposition, conflict, tension, questions, actions, cause and effect, conclusion, setting and characters. They also analyze each individual scene for its intent, plot beat, climax, resolution, conclusion, character and dialogue.


Stage directors typically earn degrees in theater, where classes include directing, playwriting, set design and acting. Many theater directors also may earn a Master of Fine Arts degree. Many film directors do not have a college degree, such as Quentin Tarantino. It is, however, advisable to attempt a bachelor's degree in film or film directing or a related degree to learn more about the filmmaking process.

Differences Between Theater and Film

Of course, directors in theater and film differ because the mediums differ. In theater the performances are live and therefore more intimate. There is also the novelty of each performance being different, if only slightly. Theater directors tend to also respect the playwright's work, whereas screenplays may be rewritten mere weeks before production starts on a film. In film, the performances are often more polished because the actors and director is given ample time to get a scene just right. What it lacks in a direct audience connection it makes up for in technical spectacle and polish.

About the Author

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.

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