Learning directing for first time (without actors?)


New member

I'm a 26 year old guy with absolutely no experience in directing . I always thought I'd be a screenwriter and directing has always seemed like a huge hurdle. But the reason why I want to get into directing is because as a writer you seem to have very little control over your film.

My question is can I learn directing with out a school? Just a cam, editing software and a love for movies? I want to start learning, but at this stage the prospect of directing actors is a bit too intimidating.

How can I best learn camera control, editing and essential directing skills before moving on to directing actors. Is it possible to have a plot without actors? :S

Is there a book I should read to get better acquainted with the terminology and techniques of directing? Remember I have no experience at all, I've barely held a camera lol

It would be great to learn directing, to shoot and write scripts for what I want to shoot, this way I learn both trades at the same time!


Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
books, internet and hands on learning

books, internet and hands on learning

if you are serious about wanting to learn directing start reading everything you can about the filmmaking proccess and more important find a job working on a production even if it is just loading or assisting an assistant. possibly find a good independant filmmaker and work for free. Keep your eyes and ears open and mouth shut and learn as much as you can this way. Also, read directing interviews and watch the special features on movies. I suggest you watch as many movies as you can.


New member
Absolutely. Two books you need to pick up: Rebels On the Backlot and Rebel Without A Crew. The first is about the first wave on indie filmmakers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Only one or two went to film school. But think about guys like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, or Robert Rodriguez.

The thing you have to realize is that ALL directors go to film school, they just don't always go to a conservatory or university. Tarantino watched movies CONSTANTLY, ALL movies, including crappy westerns and B-rolls that nobody today has ever seen except in the bargain bin at their local videoplex.

To be a great director means that you study film, watch a lot of movies. But it's not just about watching movies and recreating the looks from those movies that you want. It is about analyzing those films and television shows and determining the REASONS for using a particular camera move at a certain point, using a certain shot, or a lighting effect, or a special effect, or color, or editing effects. Always remember that at its heart, film is about telling a dramatic story that happens to be on film.

As directors, we don't just set up the camera and point it at the action in standard compositions. Any fool with a video camera can do that by pointing a camera at a local high school play. Cameras allow us to act as magicians, by focusing the eye of the audience where we want it to go. Sound allows us to trick an audience into feeling a certain way about a scene or a character. There is no such thing as a great director who is passive, who simply records their script like they would real life with a video camera.

Directing is about being a magician, being active, even belligerent. Watch movies. But ANALYZE them afterwards. I also highly advocate a study of art history, literature (classical and contemporary), and music as well. The best directors are well-rounded who know what they want and take it. The worst directors have narrow interests who are unsure of what they want and end up not even playing it safe, but only getting it in the can.

And my last caveat? Two things to avoid as a new director: The hallmarks of bad indie films include too many or too few insert shots (they should only focus on essential story items. If it can be ambiguous and still achieve what you want, don't go in for an insert). Also, avoid the "Spielberg." A shot where the foreground dollies in while the background dollies out, it is rarely necessary and too common in too many student shorts.

Other than that, short answer is NO, you do NOT need film school, as long as you are studious and analytical on your own.


I asked myself the same question (Can I learn directing/film production without school?). I found this link:
interesting because 3 of my favorite directors are on that list of successful directors who went without school. I am also more of a "do-it-myself" learner who learns better through trial and error, hands-on experience, reading books...outside of a classroom. It's all about the type of learner you are. I am completely new to this field as well, but I have confidence in my ability and resilience to learn and progress.


New member
Make some flicks is the short answer. You can learn how other people do it by reading books ar assisting but you'll only develop your own style by doing it. Create a goal and achiave it. Then do it again.