directing How to be a director people respect

I just want to put an idea I use out there, and see how people respond.

I've been on a lot of different film projects with a lot of people directing. Especially in the indie world I've frequently run across people that promoted themselves to director based solely on ego, or maybe they inherited money. They direct films, in name, but routinely fail to win the respect of their crew.

When I was a kid in high school, we had an orchestra director that did an excellent job, won the respect of every orchestra he conducted, and took our small school to compete at the national level. So as I matured enough to quit thinking with my ego, I began to look back at his example and study what made him great.

His name was Bob, not Michael Anthony Xavier Excalibur the third. He wore normal clothes, and he really wasn't very nice or political to people. He always looked tired, and frequently lashed out in anger at his crew. So he really didn't follow any of the obvious advice most people immediately go to. I'm not saying that the way he was helped, I'm just making the point that he didn't earn his respect via the color by numbers office etiquette often put forward today. Instead, he showed respect to his people in a different way.

Bob stood in front of the orchestra waving his wand about and flipping furiously through dog eared pages of sheet music parts. but when there was a problem with a section of the orchestra, or an individual, he would stop, go over to them, analyze the problem, and show them how to fix it.

The big difference I see between Bob and many self proclaimed directors I meet is this. He knew how to play every instrument in the orchestra. Not to the level of a first chair violinist, but enough that he actually understood every problem he had to deal with and that his team was dealing with. He yelled a lot, but he never yelled, "You, with the thing, do that better, like I would if I had bothered to learn to play it." He had spent real time and effort learning each persons job, and trying to do it himself. He could pick up a flute and play a lead, or walk to the back and show a new guy how to properly tune a double bass.

It was never "listen to me because I'm in charge of you" it was "listen to me because I know what I'm doing, and because I know what you're doing." That made a huge difference. I don't think any of us respect directors that don't feel like they need to bother understanding the jobs under their command. Not only that, but they do a poor job administrating tasks that they haven't bothered to spend time understanding.

If you want to know if you're doing a good job as a director, ask yourself this question. "if there was no money involved, if no one on the crew had any superior position, would all these people vote for me to direct them?" If not, you need to think about the real level of respect you give them. Not just the hollow respect of pleasantries, but the far more labor intensive respect of taking the time to truly understand what they are going through, literally putting yourself in their position. From what I saw, I think Bob spent many nights alone, just playing a clarinet, or banging on a drum set. You can't replace that kind of effort with an authoritative voice, or a piece of paper that says you're more important. Don't look, or act important. Be Important.
it was, and to be fair, I'm a somewhat moody person. Sometimes I take offense where none is given, and it's admittedly not my best quality. on the other hand, you just went right back to making assumptions that I want or need some approval from others, generally regarded as a sign of weak character. I'm not looking for pity, what could I possibly build with that. Useless. I'm looking for help, and sometimes I'm just looking to vent some frustration, it's not the same thing as seeking pity. So you can at least see why I might react in such a way. Consider the fact that that is the only negative reaction I've posted towards any comment, this entire year. I was a bit annoyed that you came across as a somewhat pedantic based on such a simple original statement as "directors should know what they are doing, and care enough about their art to spend real time understanding the nuts and bolts, as opposed to being lazy and egotistical"

I get the venting side of things. I get I can come across as overbearing. As for pedantic, I can see how you could see it that way... but in all fairness, your topic was about "How to be a director people respect". It's right there in the title of the thread. I guess we both went a little off topic.

Honestly after so many replies, it kind of feels like we all agree for the most part.

Sure somewhat. For me, it's a little too early to tell. I think there maybe some fundamental differences in our views. Not that I think that's a bad thing.
in filmmaking the trick to be a good director is being able to act and being able to know what actors can do and what not. a director should know the limits of the actors he works with and never expect more than the actor can give. if he tries to push actors beyond their limit, the actor will give up and it will effect also the rest of his performance. i only make short films but when i worked in lighting i had opportunity to observe directors like george miller, daphne paris, john woo, pj voeten and phillip noyce. this was a good opportunity to learn but to my credit i have never been the ego type and so directing comes relatively easy. also i should say that i am a trained actor so i can relate to actors. this is especially important when you work with untrained actors. in this short at 3:15 to 3:17 the actress could not give me the emotion i wanted. so i asked her a totally unrelated question and i got this perfect reaction.

Last edited:
Respect is earned, not given away. A lot of "directors" are just nice people and get a lot of crew and cast to help them out. That doesn't necessarily equate to respect. There are many Hollywood A-list directors who have respect for their craft even though they are bona fide a-holes.

I'm personally a HUGE fan of Stanley Kubrick. But I would never ever treat actors they way he did. I respect him more than any filmmaker living or dead, but I do not like how cruel he could be to an actor like Shelley Duvall on The Shining.

Respect is a strange thing. Do good work and respect will follow. Treat people well AND earn respect. That's the hardest part.