Film Direction || First advice — Don’t go for it.

Shitiz Srivastava
9 min readJul 6, 2019

“If you have chosen the film direction to earn money and make a career out of it, you have made the wrong choice.” — Martin Scorsese.

Nothing is as glorious as it looks from outside. I hope you know that.

Film direction is the same.

It looks very easy from the outside to many people. It might appear so.

It happened to me as well when I first witnessed the film direction. I thought anyone could do that. I thought it is all about telling people what to do.

Not that hard, right.

But then I made my first film and my whole perception of film direction changed.

I had many misconceptions and assumptions about film direction and one of them was that it is an accidental art. I was wrong. It is a precise art.

There are things that people who have seen film shooting and been on film sets don’t understand.

When a director says, and most directors say this in interviews, that they had no idea what to do once they reached on sets, they are not lying.

Everyone is confused when it comes to film direction. It is because the film direction is devoid of any rules and limitations.

There are thousands of ways in which you can shoot a particular scene, that is where the confusion arises but a great director thinks about all the prospective options and then decides to go with the best one.

I have met producers who turned into directors thinking all that director does is sit and say action-cut.

I have myself been to one shoot where the producer decided to helm the direction seat since he was financing the project when he had no interest or knowledge in it.

He didn’t want to work as a director but he surely wanted the accolades that comes when you are a director. Being a director of a movie comes with lots of perks and one of those perks is meeting beautiful ladies.

Those who are not seriously interested in film direction are mostly interested in its glory, money and the woman associated with it.

Casting couch does not happen because a director forces an actress to sleep with him. There are beautiful accomplished women who would gladly offer to sleep with a director if they get a chance to be part of a film.

The direction is not about sitting on a chair with a spot boy handling you a cup of coffee every hour and becoming the centre of attention on the sets.

It is not about meeting celebrities on sets and going to reality shows to judge talents who never make it anywhere.

There are directors who have turned into celebrities and are paid a hell lot of money for directing films but remember, they are always director first and celebrity later.

They made great blockbuster films first before they were turned into celebrities.

The chances of anyone becoming a successful director is very less because unlike acting, dynasty, money and good connections won’t help you there. You can learn direction but if you are not sincere, it won’t help you.

Apoorva Lakhia and Goldie Bahl are prime examples of that. Even after having all the money, education and connections one can have, they both failed majorly in film direction.

Why?

Because they refused to learn the craft properly and relied on connections and star power.

Sure, a lot of money and good connections can help you make your first project but then that’s it. It won’t go anywhere from there.

There are more directors I have met in my journey of Mumbai as a filmmaker who made their first film and then left film direction forever. Sometimes they cheated the producer and ran away, sometimes they gave a major flop film and made producer sweat and lose so much that he would never come back to Mumbai again.

Some directors just didn’t do much hard work on their films and turned it into a disaster. Some of them didn’t get any more chance because they messed up the first golden opportunity they got.

Look at the career of Shirish Kunder. Every bankable actor like Salman, Akshay, Shahrukh was approachable to him and he churned out one bad film after another.

There was a director I know who was extremely respected because of few award-winning yet flop films he made in Bengali cinema.

He was given three back to back opportunities by Mumbai film industry to make films and show his talent. He had all the money, any star he could ask for but he was so engrossed in his lifestyle that he wasted all the golden opportunities.

He was a lecherous drunkard and would fall every time he would get out of a car. Sometimes he would not even come to film sets because he was so drunk that he dead slept at his apartment.

He wouldn’t even pick phones or answer doorbells. After a while, people lost trust in him and he was lost forever and went back.

Later, he started blaming the film industry for not giving him the chance to show his talent.

After playing victim game, the blame game is the most widely played game in the film industry.

One more thing.

There is no career when it comes to film direction. You are as good as your last film.

It is not me but Martin Scorsese who said that. Read the quote above, way above in the top. If you are here for making a career you are in the wrong place.

You are in films because you want to tell a story.

If that doesn’t excite you, leave immediately. You won’t be able to get a monthly salary out of it unless you chose to be an assistant. There are hundreds of assistants in Mumbai who never become a film director because they are more comfortable in their monthly salaried job. They would rather survive as assistants rather than take a leap of faith in film direction.

However, there is another downside if you become a film director. You can’t demote yourself.

Once you become a film director you can’t go back to the assistant job even if you want to.

You must be wondering why you would go back to the assistant job once you become a director. It is because if the film doesn’t work, money won’t start coming automatically. There are myriad film directors I have met who have tried to assist but never got the job because no one wants an assistant on set who is a film director, otherwise he will start judging the ongoing direction on set which could lead to negativity on set.

The man who is writing these words is telling you from his experiences so trust it. I made my first film and it didn’t get a release. I tried going back to the assistant job but everyone told me that they can’t take me back because I am a film director now.

What a weird irony!!

Here is a hard truth, you can give five back to back hit films but one flop will put you back to where you started.

Kieslowski, the great Polish director, made great films like a Colour trilogy, won several international awards but ended up driving taxis to earn his living.

Filmmaking was his passion but it never turned into a career he expected.

I have lots of film directors who teach in film schools to earn their living. Some start directing Ad films and corporate films while some become consultants in production houses.

After giving an Oscar award-winning film like Crash, Paul Haggis was unable to find a producer for his next film and he had to go on a journey of meeting more than 100 producers to get his next film financed.

Most of the film directors don’t earn their money by making feature films. Feature Film creates brand value for them but mostly the money they get is from directing Ad films. Ad film direction is what you should try if you want to earn money and also make a career out of filmmaking.

Filmmaking is a passion for directors. Here I am talking about successful directors. Everything else is just fruit for their hard work.

Filmmaking is a money-making tool for actors and producers in India.

For the rest of the crew, it is a job of a lifetime. You won’t meet any person on film sets who is enjoying the process of filmmaking, given the better opportunity they would leave the film line immediately.

They started doing it because someone they know was doing it already and they helped them get inside. They needed the job and then they did it for so long that now they don’t have any other option but to continue doing it.

Rohit Shetty and Karan Johar made a lot of money from film direction because they created a brand from films of their own and then started producing it.

Rajkumar Hirani opened his own production house because he knows that it was his efforts that were making his films great and, thus he should reap more benefits and not Vidhu Vinod Chopra, his mentor and co-producer.

Aditya Chopra doesn’t direct any more. He has produced ten times more films than he has directed. He is under the curse of his first success, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the success of which he knows he cannot repeat.

The business of the films he directed are in decreasing order and his popularity as a director is gone. People now solely credit Shahrukh for the success of DDLJ.

Of course, money and fame are the basic criteria’s when it comes to filmmaking which lures most of the youngsters towards this field. If someone says otherwise, he is probably lying.

I have met people who would tell me that they are in the film direction not for money or fame but because they love filmmaking.

I agree.

They might love filmmaking, but the greed of money, power and fame over time always overshadows the passion for filmmaking. If someone saves himself from it, he is the one that goes far.

I am not against anyone making money out of films and from their love for cinema. Any medium of any art could only sustain when there is a constant generation of revenue.

There is nothing wrong about making money out of films, actors have bought bungalows in a city where buying a small apartment is a lifelong struggle for a middle-class family.

You must be thinking that why am I discouraging you for becoming the film director.

I am not discouraging you. I am merely letting you get acquainted with the realities and truth of the medium in which you are about to enter so that you will be prepared for the hardships that are going to come your way and you will be ready for it.

Be prepared for the worst, rather than be afraid.

More than you know what to do in film direction you need to know what not to do in film direction.

The most important tool that you can take to the dream cities of Bollywood, Mollywood, Lollywood, Tollywood, Sandalwood or any other -woods to become a film director is your power of persistence.

Your talent and your luck do not count here.

You either have the talent or you don’t have the talent, there is nothing you can do about it.

Similarly, you either have luck or you don’t have luck, there is nothing you can do about it.

Talent can be developed while luck is just a word to describe the unexplainable success of other people.

Truth is none of the directors were ever talented. No one is born with directors’ capabilities inbuilt.

How can they? It is a man-made art.

There have been long hours of study, practice, shooting, failing, getting up and doing it all over again and again that leads a person to become successful.

If you are ready for it, go for it otherwise do whatever you are doing right now.

I am not going to convince you that this field is for you. You will have to devote the long amount of time and extreme efforts just to become the kind of director you want to be. It won’t happen overnight.

Don’t be lured by the cool life of directors in Mumbai sitting at your home in Gorakhpur. I have met directors whom I thought were super rich and lived in big apartments who had made big films but when I got to know them I realized that they had several overdue credit card bills and pending rent for months and live in small apartments.

Mumbai is all about the show. Everyone is ‘Gemini’ there. Everyone has two sides to their lives. They would show one to public and reserve other for people whom they know personally.

It is not as glamorous as it looks.

Now you have two options.

If you are afraid and scared of moving forward, don’t waste your time but if you are still obnoxious and believe that nothing in this world can stop you from becoming a film director, forget everything and immediately begin a journey that will surely change your life.

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Shitiz Srivastava

Man who dons several hats in one lifetime. Well, good for nothing. B.Tech, L.L.B., M.A. (ENG). Founder of TheHardNewsDaily.com News Network.