Similar Titles

Television Director, TV Show Director, Episode Director, Series Director, Television Episode Director, TV Program Director, TV Series Director, Television Show Director

Job Description

Television Directors work closely with writers and producers to create the shows we love to watch on TV! Many shows use multiple directors so they can get the filming done on a compressed timeline. They may also use guest directors to inject some freshness and unique perspectives, without veering too far from the show’s general aesthetic. Sometimes a show may bring on a particular director who has expertise in things like car chases or other action scenes. 

Unlike Film Directors, TV Directors may have less input into the stories. Instead, it's their job to capture the vision of the showrunner (aka the executive producer) while doing the legwork to plan and film shoots while overseeing the crew and cast. Different types of TV Directors include Factual TV Director, Entertainment TV Director, Drama TV Director, and Live TV Director, each of which has slightly differing duties and responsibilities. They may also film commercials, working with ad agencies to raise awareness of a brand’s product or service! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working in a fast-paced creative environment 
  • Capturing performances on camera for shows watched by potentially millions of people for years to come
  • Helping keep cast and crew working together in harmony
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Television Directors may work full-time when assigned to direct a whole season of a series. In this situation, they may also have to put in a lot of overtime, depending on schedules. Not all TV Directors direct every episode of a show, and some don’t direct any series at all. If a director is brought in to do a single episode, or to film a commercial, play, or other relatively short production, they may have to supplement their income with other work. 

Typical Duties

  • Review TV show and commercial scripts 
  • Discuss ideas with the show’s writers, producers, and other stakeholders 
  • Collaborate with sound, lighting, camera crew, the director of photography, the first assistant director, unit directors, and others 
  • Ensure the showrunner’s creative vision is understood and captured
  • Work with casting directors, if necessary. Most series have their core cast pinned down already
  • Work with art departments, wardrobe, hair and makeup, special effects prosthetics, and many other teams to make sure everyone is working cohesively   
  • Approve set or stage designs, as applicable (some shows have several regular interior sets they use repeatedly, while others may not)
  • Go over budgets and financial considerations before production starts. Work with the unit production manager, as needed
  • Help actors and other talent understand desired outcomes for each take, without micromanaging performances
  • Direct scenes in a variety of settings including interior sets, outdoor location shots, green screen studios, and many more  
  • Ensure filming stays on schedule and within budget

Additional Responsibilities

  • Talk with location scouts to find suitable places for filming particular scenes
  • Go over anticipated technical or logistical difficulties such as inclement weather or physical hazards requiring stunt coordination
  • Oversee post-production, when necessary (i.e., editing, and Foley sound effects, and adding visual effects such as CGI, compositing, and motion capture)

A Sample Day in the Life

  • Arrive before 7am
  • Answer last minute questions about what the team will shoot that day
  • Conduct private, short rehearsal with actors for the first scene
  • Show the scene to the crew
  • Get marks on every position where the actors stand
  • Talk to the DP about how the scene will be shot
  • Watch a camera rehearsal with the stand-ins
  • Conduct a camera rehearsal with the actors
  • Shoot the scene
  • Move onto the next scene
  • Will shoot on average 5-7 scenes per day
Skills Needed

Soft Skills

  • Ability to inspire others 
  • Active listening
  • Ambition
  • Calm under pressure
  • Collaborative 
  • Conceptualization skills
  • Confidence 
  • Creativity
  • Decisiveness
  • Detail-oriented
  • Empathy
  • Flexibility
  • Intuitive
  • Leadership 
  • Patience
  • Persistence 
  • Persuasiveness 
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Visual and written storytelling

Technical Skills

  • Knowledge of video camera equipment and filmmaking software, including professional editing tools 
  • Technical knowledge of framing and staging shots
  • Familiarity with sound and lighting technologies
  • Familiarity with design, special effects, and post-production processes
  • General understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and challenges of all critical departments and crew members, including production design, wardrobe, art, makeup, sound, special and visual effects, set decor, stunt coordinators, cast directors, etc. 
Different Types of Organizations
  • TV and motion picture studios
  • Independent Productions
  • Advertising and PR firms
  • Performing arts industries
  • TV broadcasting
  • Video industries
Expectations and Sacrifices

Without Television Directors, we wouldn’t have anything to watch when we turn on our TVs! Although they don’t have the same level of creative responsibilities as Film Directors, they have complicated jobs that require a huge amount of leadership and multitasking. Luckily, the showrunners, producers, and writing teams take off a lot of the creative burden so that TV Directors can focus on their myriad other duties! 

They don’t have to be away as long as Film Directors when shooting on location, but there are still plenty of sacrifices. Hours can be long, with hectic schedules and untold production problems ranging from budgets to logistics. Sometimes TV Directors even have to deal with unruly actors or crew. 

Another potential sacrifice is that there may not be a steady paycheck if a director is only brought in for one or two episodes or a brief production such as a commercial. That’s why TV Directors often have to do other work to bring enough yearly income. 

Current Trends

TV shows are becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to the rise of streaming platforms. This has attracted big-name actors who are now more willing to do TV than ever before. Producers have risen to meet the challenge, upping the ante by hiring top-notch Television Directors to make shows that look and feel more like movies. 

From Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max to Disney+, Apple TV, and Amazon, the floodgates have opened and viewers are met with a barrage of exciting new digital content they can binge from their living rooms. While Hollywood is still fighting to reel audiences into movie theaters, streaming has forever changed our viewing habits…which is great news for TV Directors who have more opportunities than ever before! Streaming has also opened things up for documentary makers and independent directors. A few other things: 

  • Increase in the amount of product for viewing
  • “Binge watching” is growing
  • Realignment of release windows
  • Increased demand for female-focused films
What kind of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Television Directors were almost certainly huge movie and TV buffs growing up. They may have enjoyed using camcorders or smartphones to shoot amateur videos for YouTube, showing early indications that they weren’t content to simply “watch” but instead had a burning desire to create! 

Like all good directors, they were likely innovative and driven, good with both people and technology, and comfortable being in charge of things. In school, they might have been involved in student projects, extracurricular activities, and audiovisual clubs. 

Directors tend to know at least a little about a lot of things, and thus might have been voracious readers on a variety of subjects. Perhaps above all, they are storytellers who love to use visual media to share and inspire. 

Education and Training Needed
  • Most directors need a bachelor’s degree in film, cinema studies, or a similar field. Many complete master’s degrees, too
  • Independent directors of small films have no formal educational requirements, but many also hold college degrees or attended formal training
  • Film schools such as New York Film Academy offer short programs as well as full degree programs (see our list of Resources > Film Schools)
  • Additional ad hoc certifications such as the New School’s Documentary Media Studies Certificate can bolster your credentials 
  • Directing requires a slew of people and project management skills, so consider taking courses in communications, leadership, team building, conflict resolution, and project management 
  • Most film studio directors have years of experience working on sets in assistant director or other roles. Many get their start through studio internships
  • The Directors Guild of America offers a highly competitive Assistant Director trainee program 
  • Directors may also need training on various health and safety issues, as well as state, local, federal, international, and studio policies regarding filming and human resources
Some Reputable Film Schools
  • American Film Institute
  • Boston University College of Communication 
  • Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
  • Columbia University School of the Arts
  • Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts 
  • Full Sail University
  • LA Film School 
  • Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television
  • Motion Picture Institute of Michigan 
  • New York Film Academy
  • NYU/Tisch School of the Arts 
  • San Diego State University School of Theater, Television and Film
  • Seattle Film Institute 
  • UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
  • UCLA Extension - Entertainment Studies
  • USC School of Cinematic Arts 
  • University of New Orleans Film and Theatre
  • University of Texas at Austin Department of Radio-Television-Film 
Things to do during high school/college
  • Stock up on courses in art, English, communication, speaking, psychology, design, and photography
  • Volunteer for school activities where you can learn how to work effectively as a team, practice leadership skills, and manage large projects 
  • Consider signing up for confidence and resiliency courses, so you’ll be able to direct teams and actors even under stressful circumstances 
  • Join audiovisual clubs to get hands-on experience
  • Participate in school and local theater productions 
  • Start making your short films for YouTube or Vimeo. Look for friends and community members who want to join your projects!
  • Borrow or rent video cameras, sound gear, and lighting equipment to get practice 
  • Become familiar with video editing techniques and software, plus special effects software 
  • Advertise your freelance filmmaking services in the local area or online 
  • Launch an online portfolio to showcase your skills and work
  • Apply for film internships until you land one!
  • Study books, articles, and video tutorials (see our list of Resources > Websites)
  • Don’t just learn about directing. Get to know the ins and outs of every major department involved in filming TV shows, ads, documentaries, etc. 
  • Attend film festivals and film school open events
  • Check out Keanu Reeves’ documentary Side by Side, featuring interviews with some of the biggest directors in Hollywood
  • Submit your film to a film festival. 
  • Join professional organizations to learn about trends and grow your network 
Typical Roadmap
TV Director roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Move to where the most movie and TV jobs are! Per BLS, the states with the highest employment for these jobs are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia
  • Work with actors and Direct plays
  • Chances are you’ll have to apply for entry-level jobs and work your way up to Assistant Director roles
    • Many Directors start as production assistants or interns. Even these are coveted positions, so contact your state film commission learn about to upcoming opportunities 
  • Let your network know you are looking for jobs or internships! Per CNBC, “Research shows that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on jobs sites and as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections”
  • Build your reputation and ensure your work is seen! Enter film festivals, promote your work on social media, and get published in industry journals or on popular websites 
  • Check out film job sites and forums as well as job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, and Glassdoor
    Ask your professors, supervisors, and peers if they’ll serve as personal references 
  • Once you have a reel, apply to television director development programs
  • Join the DGA union when you’re eligible and can afford the steep initiation fee
  • Hop on Quora and start asking job advice questions and requesting answers from working directors 
  • Talk with your film school or college’s career center for help with resumes, mock interviews, and job searches 
Recommended Resources



How to Climb the Ladder
  • Build trust by delivering episodes on time, on budget
  • Capture the producers’ imaginations and make them want more work from you
  • Continue to hone your craft while also learning more about everyone else’s roles
  • Treat everyone with respect, always be well-prepared for the day’s shoots, and stay calm and in control
  • Build your reputation as a director that actors and crew love to work with
  • Direct as many things as you can to expand your portfolio of work
  • Knock out additional education and training that can improve your technical and creative skills
  • Watch and learn from more senior directors 
  • Listen to assistant directors, department leads, and crew members  
  • Keep growing your professional network and tackling larger, more ambitious projects 
  • Make yourself available for film festivals, local events, conferences, and workshops
  • Join professional organizations like the Directors Guild of America
  • Try to win award and other recognitions that’ll look great on your resume
Words of Advice

”Directors direct! If you have an iPhone and a computer, you have the first tools you need to make a short film.....” Mary Lou Belli, TV Director

Plan B

The job of a Television Director isn’t nearly as glamorous as some people think. It’s can be grueling work (when you actually have any work), with long hours and non-stop duties. Energetic people with the right combination of leadership ability, technical know-how, and storytelling skills can make big names for themselves in this industry. However, it’s not for everyone and that’s understandable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following related occupations to think about!  

  • Actors
  • Art Directors
  • Choreographers
  • Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
  • Special Effects Artists and Animators
  • Top Executives
  • Writers and Authors




Online Courses and Tools