How to be a Film Director Without Going to Film School

Ok, yeah, if you want to be an actual film director, you’d have to go to film school. But, for those of you who just want to make cool videos as a side hobby, here are some quick tips! (People making videos for their Idea Farming innovation projects, I’m looking at you!)

I’m a kid. A teenager. I’m 17. I like to make videos. The thing is, I’ve never gone to film school (I’m still in high school) and the only training I’ve had is from a couple months of being in a digital video production class at my school. Yet, I’ve had to film and edit everything from football season highlight films to baseball and basketball season intro videos to commercials and event promotions. How is it possible for me to do things I’ve never done before? Easy.

1. Do your research.
Before my senior year, the only thing I knew about football was “TOUCHDOWN” is a good thing and “QUARTERBACK” is usually a good-looking guy. (Granted, I don’t know that much more now, but I’ve improved.) Still, I volunteered to cover football for my school because I wanted a new experience. I knew I didn’t know anything, so I had to learn. I did the unthinkable — instead of studying, I spent hours on the couch watching football on TV like a true American. I watched football videos on YouTube. I studied the different camera angles, the editing style, and the types of graphics that were used. Somewhere along the way, I also learned how the game of football was played and even rooted for a team in the Super Bowl.


Meet my Maltese, Peyton. Yes, he’s named after Peyton Manning. Yes, the Broncos lost in the Super Bowl. No, I don’t want to talk about it.

2. Storyboard.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Storyboard? Like draw it out? I can’t draw to save my life.” Lucky for you, storyboarding isn’t just drawing. In fact, I do a lot of my storyboards on a Google doc with screenshots or images of  things I want to capture. Storyboarding is useful because it gives you an idea of what you want to do and lets you freely put your thoughts down. Planning is one of the most important THE MOST IMPORTANT part of creating a successful video. If you don’t plan ahead, you won’t know what to do when you’re out filming, you won’t be prepared, and you won’t get the shots you want.

3. Just do it.
I’m a 5’3″ Asian nerd girl who’s never strayed from the comforts of a classroom before. Imagine me on a football field standing next to 6’0″ tall football players on the sideline. Actually, you don’t even have to imagine it, because here’s a video of me getting tackled while filming on the sideline.

Anyway, don’t be afraid. Get out there and just do it because there’s a first time for everything. If you don’t get it right the first time, at least you’ll have gained some experience. Get all the shots you planned while storyboarding. Make sure to get extra footage because it’s better to have too much than too little. Have fun.

4. Edit. 
It’s all about the editing. Trust me. Editing can make bad footage look like good footage (don’t rely on that too much, though). Editing is what creates the final product that viewers will see. Good editing can make all the difference between an amazing video that people will remember and a so-so video that people will forget about the moment it ends. Remember that music choice is key. It sets the mood and atmosphere of your video. Here’s an example of how you shouldn’t underestimate the effectiveness of piano instrumentals:

Another good thing to remember is if you’re uploading your video to YouTube or Vimeo, don’t — I repeat — DON’T choose copyrighted music. That means no Lady GaGa, no Justin Bieber, none of the super popular artists. Why? Because YouTube has extremely strict copyright restrictions. If they detect too much of a copyrighted song in your video, or any at all, they will block it from certain countries or block it from YouTube in general and force you to remove it or your account will receive a strike. Receive one too many strikes and your account will be banned/deleted. Some people avoid getting flagged for copyright by pitching their music higher/lower, using remixes, or using lower quality music. This is not a surefire way to not get caught. To be on the safe side, use Creative Commons-licensed music and properly attribute the creator in your description. If you’re not sure whether you’ll get flagged, upload your video to YouTube and change the privacy settings to “private.” Once it is finished uploading, YouTube will tell you whether your video contains third party content and is blocked.

Honestly, I don’t know how I got away with the music in this video.

A safer alternative is using Creative Commons-licensed music. YouTube even offers some for free, accessible here.

5. Share.

Congratulations, you’re done! You’ve planned, directed, filmed, and edited your very own film. All that’s left to do now is share it with the world. For the best results, upload it to YouTube and share the link on every social media account you have. Ask others to share it. Collect feedback from people, improve your skills, and bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Good luck!

5 thoughts on “How to be a Film Director Without Going to Film School

  1. I think I just read that entire post in your voice. Creepy. But that also means you did something right! If you’re writing (typing) how you speak, then that means you’re using your OWN voice, which is very good.

    On a side note, I just realized that your blog’s background picture is the same as my desktop picture. Super creepy. But I guess we both have an eye for good photography.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s