Making a feature-length movie is no easy feat, but with the right preparation and dedication, anyone can do it. Learning how to direct a movie can be an intimidating process, so this blog post will give you the tips and tricks you need to produce a professional quality project. Discover what resources are available to help you build your dream movie from pre-production all the way through to festival submissions and marketing.

How to Make Your First Feature Film

It Starts With a Script

Writing a script is perhaps the most important part of making a film. A screenplay provides the blueprint for every aspect of production, from setting up shots to details about costumes, sets, and props. The script will determine the tone and pacing of the movie, as well as defining any themes that may be explored in the story.

Having a good script ensures that the actors involved can understand exactly what is expected of them during filming. This way they can focus on honing their performance without worrying if they’re following the director’s vision or not. In the first read of a script, there are some things to keep in mind. Here is a great interview with Mark W. Travis on how a director should first read a script. 

How Directors Should Read Scripts by Mark W. Travis  •  How to Make Movies

Finally, a script serves as an outline for post-production work such as film editing and special effects. A script simplifies this process by outlining which scenes need certain special effects or music cues so editors can quickly find those pieces when going through footage after wrapping up filming. 

Without a clear plan (i.e., a script), it would be very difficult for editors and other post-production staff to construct an effective movie from raw footage shot during production..

How to Make Movies

Assemble Your Team

When learning how to make movies, it's critical to surround yourself with talented team members that will help bring your vision to life. When it comes to assembling your team, it's important to select the right professionals for the project. When assembling a team for directing your first feature film, there are a few essential roles that should be filled. 

First and foremost, you'll need to hire a producer as they will provide guidance and direction in terms of the budget, crew selection and other logistical elements of the production. They can also help you secure funding, find locations and hire crew members. 

Producers also have experience with managing projects and can ensure that everything runs smoothly throughout the shooting process. Finally, good producers are great communicators and creative consultants. They are a great resource to assist in troubleshooting any issues that arise along the way whether they are creative, logistical, etc.

How To Hire A Film Crew And Plan A Production  •  Rachel K. Ofori

Furthermore, you'll also need a cinematographer to capture the visuals and an editor to ensure the narrative flows seamlessly throughout the film. 

In addition, you'll need sound designers and mixers to create impactful soundscapes and various other production staff such as assistant directors, gaffers, set designers, and production assistants. With these essential crew members onboard, you can be sure your first feature film will reach its full potential.

How Can I Produce a Movie

Pre-production Planning

As we mentioned above, a great producer is one of the most vital roles when directing your first feature film. This is especially true when it comes to some integral pre-production steps such as establishing a budget, securing financing, hiring crew members, scheduling production, etc. 

How to Make Your First Feature Film Film Production Timeline

StudioBinder  •  Best Way to Make a Movie

While some of these tasks fall onto the producer(s), it’s important to know a director will inevitably be involved in some capacity along the way. Creatively, directors prepare for production in various ways that ensure their vision is fine-tuned, organized, and accessible.

How to Make Your First Feature FIlm


Storyboarding is an essential tool for first-time directors learning how to make movies as it allows them to plan out their shots before production. By breaking down the film into individual scenes and frames, you can better understand how each element ties together. Using tools like StudioBinder’s free storyboarding app.

StudioBinder Free Storyboard Creator  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Learning how to storyboard will ensure that the story flow is consistent throughout the film. can be a tremendous help during this process.  Here are the Coen Brothers talking about the importance of storyboarding on their first feature film Blood Simple.

How to Make Your First Feature: Tips from the Coen Brothers

Furthermore, storyboarding also allows directors to use drawings and symbols to express their vision in a visual way, which can be easily conveyed to other members of the crew. Finally, it makes budgeting easier as you can prioritize certain shots over others depending on your budget constraints.

First Time Feature Film Tips


Casting is one of the most important elements for first-time directors. This is because it sets the tone for your film and can make or break a project. Finding the right actors who fit the characters you have in mind is essential to ensure that your story is brought to life with emotion and truthfulness. 

Additionally, casting immerses viewers into a world they may never have seen before and gives them an experience they'll remember long after the credits roll. Furthermore, having a strong cast helps to attract investors who believe in your project and makes marketing efforts much easier.

How to Direct Your Own Movie

Location scouting 

Location scouting is an essential part of pre-production for any director, but especially for first-time directors. Scouting the right locations can help bring the story and characters to life, as it allows you to create a believable and immersive world that audiences will buy into and be transported to. Working with a great location scout will definitely strengthen the story you are trying to tell. Take a look at our video guide below for some tips for location scouting.

8 Keys to Location Scouting Like a Pro  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Additionally, picking the perfect location can provide production value on a low budget by giving viewers a real-life experience rather than relying heavily on special effects and expensive sets. Finally, scouting can also be used to determine if there are any potential safety or legal issues associated with filming in a particular area.

How to Make a Feature Film

Rehearsing with actors

Rehearsing helps ensure that the director is able to execute their vision on set, by giving them an opportunity to craft the story and characters in the script into real-life performances. Rehearsing allows for a smoother shooting process since actors and other talent understand what is expected of them before they are actually on set. Here is a great video of Sam Mendes discussing his process of rehearsing with actors. 

Sam Mendes on his rehearsal process  •  How to Make Movies

It can also help bring out the best in performances by allowing actors time to get comfortable with their parts and practice delivering their lines in different ways. Finally, rehearsal can save time on set, which is important when working on tight deadlines or limited budgets.

Learning How to Direct Your Own Movie

Creative collaboration

As the director of the feature film, you’ll be leading the vision for every department. Cinematography, production design, and editing will ultimately all be directed by you. Creative collaboration and leadership is an incredibly important aspect of your job, if not the most important. Be sure to provide clear direction for collaborators like the director of photography, production designer, editor, costume designer, location scouts, etc. This will be crucial in having all cinematic elements contribute to a cohesive story and vision. 

How to Make Your First Feature Film

On-set director tips

When it comes to actual production, there are going to be many things that are completely new to you as a first-time director. You’ll constantly be making decisions, constantly asking questions, and almost always solving creative problems. Outside of the roles and responsibilities of a director throughout a feature film production, here are some tips that can often get overlooked. 

Have a clear vision and plan of action prior to shooting – it’s important to know what you want to achieve before you start filming.

Make sure actors and other talent understand their roles – make sure they know the story and characters they’re portraying and how they’re expected to act on set.

Pace yourself – take breaks whenever necessary, so that your energy levels remain high throughout the shoot. Decision fatigue is real and to set yourself up for success, it’s important to think about the long game. 

Communicate clearly with crew members – make sure everyone is on the same page about how each scene should be filmed, so that there are no unexpected issues or delays in production.

Have a backup plan – make sure you have alternate plans in case bad weather or equipment failure occurs during production.

Respect those working with you – be sure to respect actors and crew members, ensuring that everyone is comfortable while working together towards a common goal.

Tips For Making Your First Movie

Over-prepare & embrace spontaneity

Perhaps the most important advice for first-time directors is to over-prepare, yet simultaneously embrace spontaneity. Preparing for a film shoot can be one of the most stressful tasks for a first-time director. Not only is there a lot riding on the project, but it’s also important to stay within budget and meet deadlines. But, even with all of the planning and organization needed for a successful film shoot, it’s important to remember to embrace spontaneity as well.

Having too rigid of a plan can lead to filmmakers missing out on opportunities to make their projects more creative or exciting. As such, while pre-production is essential, directors should also leave some room for improvisation and potential changes during production. By over-preparing and embracing spontaneity, first-time directors can ensure that they are able to make the most out of every situation on set.

Michel Godry Headshot StudioBinder

“I like to use a bit of chaos when I shoot. I think it may be something from the way I shot my first film - I was very scared, of course, and I prepared everything, I wanted to make sure that the characters did the right thing at the right time on the storyboard. But then I realised that in life, there is so much more than what you can predict or write in advance, that when you shoot the story, it's good to leave some gaps where you lose control. I think this combination of chaos and organisation gives a kind of quality.”

— Michel Gondry on Directing

Over-preparation gives filmmakers the confidence to work efficiently even if unexpected events occur during filming. They can use their prep work as a solid foundation that they can refer back to when making decisions quickly in moments of chaos. This kind of thinking ensures that filmmakers won’t lose sight of the overall vision for their project during chaotic situations on set.

Embracing spontaneity allows filmmakers to take advantage of unexpected opportunities as well. These unexpected moments could be anything from an actor giving an amazing performance or somebody coming up with an innovative way to tackle an issue in post-production. By being open-minded and willing to change plans when necessary, directors can ensure that they capture these kinds of moments and create something truly unique with their project.

Up Next

What Does a Director Do?

In this article, we talked a bit about the role of a director and some tips for directing your first feature film. In the next article, we dive deep into the responsibilities of a director and what their roles is throughout the filmmaking process. 

Up Next: What Does a Director Do? →
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