Director (Unscripted TV)

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What does a director do?

Directors are responsible for telling a story visually. In unscripted TV, they work mainly on single camera shoots, capturing the content and creating the right visuals to complement and enhance it. They may also be required to direct two or three cameras simultaneously or to operate a camera and shoot the material themselves.

Directors usually work in tandem with a producer. The director directs the camera operator and technical crew, while the producer focuses on the editorial (story). (More often than not, this role is merged, and one person does both jobs, known as producer director.) Depending on the type and size of the production, directors may work alongside one producer to make an entire show, or they may work with a number of producers on a variety of shoots within one programme or series. They also work with assistant producers and researchers who gather all the information, props, permissions and anything else the director may require.

In pre-production, directors visit a location to assess its suitability and whether any external factors could have an impact on filming, such as being under a flight path or near a busy train line. They may meet potential contributors to build a relationship and ensure they are clear about the filming process before it gets under way. Then they carry out a risk assessment and create a filming schedule detailing what needs to be shot and when.

On a shoot, the director is responsible for communicating what they want to achieve with the camera operators and crew, instructing presenters and contributors and ensuring they are all aware of what’s happening and when. They are responsible for creating a good working environment and time management, keeping on top of what needs to be shot, how long it will take and building in contingency to ensure they don’t over-run.

Some directors go into an edit to edit their material. Directors are almost always freelance, unless working for a very long-term production, and often specialise in certain genres, such as entertainment or documentary.

What's a director good at?

  • Photography: have a good eye for and understanding of composition, light, colour, texture, focus and framing; be up to date with the latest technology, how to operate it and know the best options for different productions
  • Creativity: be quick to understand content and create an appropriate visual style, introduce flair and originality and be able to direct in different styles
  • Communication: explain clearly to camera operators the shots they want, instruct presenters on delivery and put contributors at ease when filming
  • Time management: work well in challenging, changeable environments, achieve what’s needed in the time available, build contingency, problem solve and prioritise
  • Health and safety: be aware of those around you and the environment you are working in when filming, take responsibility for the wellbeing of those involved

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