With some bad films getting anger directed at the director, how much of a films success really lies on the shoulders of a director?

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With some bad films getting anger directed at the director, how much of a films success really lies on the shoulders of a director?

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More than you think, but having a good director can make or break a film. Directors decide about what actors play what role, have a lot to decide when it comes to camera work. Have to decide on the, by normal audience often unnoticed, stylist choices of filming a scene and sometimes rewriting entire sections of a scrip/book original in order to make the source work as a movie.

Directors are overall in charge of what you see on the screen. If there’s no corporate intervention, pretty much everything seen on the final cut will be the Director’s vision.

Directors aren’t necessarily directly responsible for anything you see on screen, *but they’re responsible for hiring and managing the people who are*. If you watch a movie and think “Everything else was great, but that editing was terrible”, the editor bears some responsibility, but it’s also fair to ask if the director should have hired someone else or perhaps that they told the editor to do something stupid. If you’re considering any creative decision, like an actor having a weird accent, it’s fair to assume it was the director’s decision, or at the very least that they needed to sign off on it.

The big caveat here is money. Even the best director can’t hire good people if you only give them $5 to make a movie. However, for any wide release, the director was almost certainly given a reasonable amount of money to work with.

So in film and television, producers are in change of managing the business end of production, while directors coordinate the creative side. As such, directors are sort of like a project manager. They come in with a vision and direct a team of people working under them to execute that vision.

So the director will be working with the writing team on the script and developing story boards. On set, they’ll be providing instructions to the actors on how they want a scene performed. They’ll also be providing instructions to the heads of cinematography, sound, and lighting to determine how the scene will look. In post-production, they’ll give instructions for how they’d like the film edited. These teams do have some autonomy, as the director cannot possibly specialize in every aspect of filmmaking. But pretty much everything you see and hear on screen ultimately lies on their shoulders, once a project has been approved by the studio.

But like any project, regardless of the environment, even if you have the best people, having the wrong person lead them can result in disaster. In some cases, that person may be genuinely incompetent. However, it’s also possible to choose a competent person who just doesn’t have the skills or experience that a particular project demands. I’ll give a recent, well known example: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson was mostly known for making high concept artsy films, some of which were pretty decent. However, he admitted in interviews he didn’t really understand Star Wars. But LucasFilm’s executive producers hired him to direct a blockbuster action-adventure film for a general audience, which he had zero experience doing. So what the public ultimately got was exactly that; a high concept art film, set in the Star Wars universe, made by someone who clearly didn’t ‘get’ the franchise. Fans hated it. Is he a bad director? Probably not, but he was the wrong choice for the project. That was a failure on the business end. But the way Hollywood works, the director is the public face of the film. Much like a CEO is the public face of a corporation. So they’re going to get the most heat when things go wrong. That’s just part of the job.