Filmmaking / Directing : How can a screenwriter be a director ? by Jack White

Jack White

How can a screenwriter be a director ?

Hello everyone ! :) I'll be finishing shortly a script and I think I've really come to a point where I'm feeling that I would really like also to direct it, the only problem is that I have no experience in directing and I know I wouldn't be able to direct a movie all by myself. Let's say in a miraculously way a studio would pick up my script,is it possible for me to tell them that I would also like to direct it ? Can there an arragement be made that would let me I know it sounds silly be a co-director ? The thing is that I have so many particular visions for scenes and casting,I even have an idea for soundtrack and I feel that I couldn't just leave it in a director's hand but I know that I couldn't do it all alone.What I need is someone who would agree to direct the movie with me,someone collaborative with experience that could tell me how things are done and from whom I could learn,but would let me express artistically in some situations my way.Is that possible ?

David Trotti

You can certainly write and direct a film. It's actually quite common.

What is rare is being granted a waiver to co-direct a studio film because the DGA (Directors Guild of America) is very much against multiple directors on a project because it represents a diminishment of the directorial position. There have been cases where waivers have been granted, but usually a collaborative history has to be established (like the Farrelly brothers who did Something About Mary or the Wachowski siblings who did The Matrix).

The reason the DGA is against it is for exactly the reasons you want to do it. As the writer, your ideas about casting, performance and editing end when you turn in the script. There needs to be one captain on the ship once it sails and that captain is the director. The studios also prefer it that way because a production is less likely to founder if there's one vision that is being followed.

Draw storyboards. Workshop your script at a local theatre with hungry actors who are dying to practice their craft for free. Learn how to talk to them, block them and get the best out of them. Get a cheap video camera and just shoot that raw staging like you were shooting your film. Forget that it's on a stage. Just practice. Then go and cut it on Final Cut Pro. Then pitch yourself as a director with cut footage to show you know what you want and can deliver it.

Sounds like too much work? If you don't have that passion, you aren't ready to be a director. And believe me when I say there are hundreds of young hungry directors who do that and a lot more just for a shot at the brass ring. But it can pay off. Go watch Monsters by Gareth Edwards. He did that for something like $50k in 2010. And you know what he got to direct last year? Star Wars: Rogue One.

Good luck. Work hard.

Stephen Foster

Jack White if you want to direct go indie and do it yourself.

Aaron Falvey

Hey Dan. There is no reason why you can't direct. If its a feature however I would recommend getting a few short films under your belt so you can learn what its like. Being a director is tiring work and requires a lot of brainpower, thinking all the time, making sure that what is being film aligns with your own vision as well as making sure the actors are bringing your characters to life and portraying them as you see them. One thing I will add which works in your favor is, as the writer, you know the characters and story better than anyone, its just a case of having the skill-set to get the results you want. Working as a Co-Director is also great, you can learn a lot if you have an experienced director working with you, you can pick up some great techniques just by observing, you just both have to be on the same page when it comes to the story and the characters.

Indie film is the ideal path but obviously funding is a complex beast unless you are paying for the film yourself. It takes some courage to do that, but you need a strong script that 'other' people like, not just yourself.

Anyway, anything is possible. All directors had to start somewhere, this could be your first stepping stone. All the best.

Jack White

Thank you David Trotti !

Jack White

Thank you so much Aaron !!

Michael Yurinko

If you go the Hollywood route, write a KILLER script and hold it hostage until they let you direct it. It's happened before. Although I would suggest getting some directing experience with a short even if you shoot it on you phone. Best of luck, Dan!

D Marcus

We got a couple of examples of a writer being hired to direct. Any examples of a studio hiring a co-director for a first time writer/director? I can't think of one.

An excellent suggestion, Michael. Dan, it will take nine months to a couple of years before you are sitting in a studio office working out the details of your script sale. In that time you could build some experience and skills as a director by making a couple of short films. That way when you are talking with the studio exec's about maybe directing (or co-directing) you will have some work to show them.

Jack White

Thank you both Michael and Marcus,I appreciate the advice !

Raja Riaz M Khan

I think you should assist or associate this film with the director first and get some experience about direction, dont take solo flieght, GOOD LUCK

Keith Wilhelm Kopp

Hey Dan,

I just wanted to say you should attempt to direct it yourself, be brave mate! find another person who has some directing experience and ask them loads of questions and get some local crew to cover down on roles. The main thing is attempt a small project first, I did a string of shorts that had high concepts that had budgets but to be honest one of the films I shot in six hours with 50 pounds ended up being my most successful film. here is a link if it helps

Best of luck to you and kick some ass!

Shawn Speake

Have a S32 Meetup and build a team willing to work with you in your city. Meetups work!

D Marcus

Hugh, there is a big difference between a director and an assistant director. Very different jobs. Very few established directors have the skills to be an assistant director.

Jeffrey S Karantza

Find a Great DP that can help you with the camera movement, lighting ect... and a great 1st AD to help with blocking and scene set-up and just handle the way it looks on the screen with the actors delivery. Having a good team that supports the director and the story is essential and will give you the ability to focus on what matters. Those with experience will help to guide you the rest of the way.

Paulina Lagudi

I would say if you want to direct it, then make it yourself. produce it or find a producer that will help you. definitely keep it low budget. i can say that no studio will have you direct a feature without directing experience. best to make it yourself as indie as possible. look up Diane Bell. she did this for her first film she directed "obselidia".

Shane Sheridan

Honestly, I feel screenwriters would make the best directors. You've created a living, breathing world from nothing. Now you're going to hand it over to someone who's just going to be like: "yeah, we could possibly do this...or that." You'd know best how to present it, in my opinion.

C Harris Lynn

I think screenwriters would be the best directors if they knew everything directors know about blocking, directing the actor, camera placement, editing, and so forth. If you do not know those things as well as whomever is being considered for director, I'd give the job to the person who does. Even if it veers from your vision (hopefully not too much), what gets through will be better.

D Marcus

Writing and directing are very different. Yes, many writers make great directors. But there are many great directors out there whose ideas ("possibly do this...or that") are terrific. Just because you can create a living breathing world on paper doesn't mean you can adapt that living, breathing world to visuals. You don't always know best how to present it because making a movie is so different from writing one.

Michael Yurinko

I second what Jeffrey said. Go for it Jack!

Benjamn Mwanza


Doug Nelson

I think it's against the law for a screenwriter to become a director.

Daniel Stilling, Dff

Try having an editor as the director... You will have 20 hour days as he shoots every conceivable angle and frame size, so he can chose in the edit room.

Shane Sheridan

I may be a little biased on writers being directors because my process involves a lot of research and development. Some for 10+ years. Down to knowing how these worlds smell. If it was just a money thing, I imagine the experience would be a tad different. I haven't spit one out solely for a paycheck yet, but I'm not opposed to it. Haha.

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