From Lighting to Directing: Is Such A Move Possible?

Moving from studio lighter to director I’ve been getting some great questions thrown my way on my website. Greg, a student in Texas, asked me, “If I start out as a lighter in a studio, is it possible to move up to being a director?”

Although anything is possible and I (mostly) never say never, I have to say it would be a very rare thing – at least in feature animation. I don’t have the experience in TV shows to know if that is the case or not.

I know directors who were once animators, character designers, editors, FX artists, productions designers and writers – but directors in feature animation mostly come out of the story artist pool. They are trained from the beginning to keep story at the forefront of their visions, both written and visually. By the time they reach story supervisor on their way up the ladder towards directing, they have a good idea of how to handle the story as a whole. Not all story artists become directors – for many reasons – but that is where the studios seem to look the most.

I do not want to squash any hopes of any lighters (or any other specialized artists) aiming to be directors! I would just recommend that you do what you can to be a part of the story process and show your chops in that, too. It’s always a good idea to diversify your skills, regardless of what industry you’re in. The better you can demonstrate your understanding of the story process, the more you can improve your chance at getting a shot as a director—even if, at the time, it seems like a long shot.

Still, I’m an advocate on not giving up and sticking to your dreams, even if the path seems convoluted or downright rocky. I hope my input proved helpful, and I wish you the best of luck!

Photo by asteegabo via Creative Commons

  • http://twitter.com/TylerKupferer Tyler J. Kupferer

    As an indie filmmaker I would also like to encourage young people interested in directing to make their own short films. If you’re really adamant, don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be a director, just go out and be one. Of course working full time at a studio is going to give you considerably less time and energy to pursue this, but your personal projects have no deadline. Make your own films, put them online, share them with your coworkers, and take them to festivals. Working through the entire filmmaking process is a great way to develop as an director and an artist!

    • brendachapman

      That is really REALLY great advice! Thanks for adding your voice.

  • http://twitter.com/TylerKupferer Tyler J. Kupferer

    As an indie filmmaker I would also like to encourage young people interested in directing to make their own short films. If you’re really adamant, don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be a director, just go out and be one. Of course working full time at a studio is going to give you considerably less time and energy to pursue this, but your personal projects have no deadline. Make your own films, put them online, share them with your coworkers, and take them to festivals. Working through the entire filmmaking process is a great way to develop as an director and an artist!

    • brendachapman

      That is really REALLY great advice! Thanks for adding your voice.

  • http://twitter.com/GregSlagel Greg Slagel

    Thank you so much for answering my question! I’ve never been one to do things the conventional way, I guess I’ll find out if this works. I’m working on my lighting skills but I’m also directing a student short (we’re in production right now: birdinacageblog.wordpress.com). To me lighting is all about showing the story. When I couldn’t find the opportunity to direct I made the opportunity for myself.

    Thank you again!
    Greg

    • brendachapman

      Good for you!! Hope you put it online so we can all see it! All the best of luck with it!

  • http://twitter.com/GregSlagel Greg Slagel

    Thank you so much for answering my question! I’ve never been one to do things the conventional way, I guess I’ll find out if this works. I’m working on my lighting skills but I’m also directing a student short (we’re in production right now: birdinacageblog.wordpress.com). To me lighting is all about showing the story. When I couldn’t find the opportunity to direct I made the opportunity for myself.

    Thank you again!
    Greg

    • brendachapman

      Good for you!! Hope you put it online so we can all see it! All the best of luck with it!

  • Thearetical

    I would echo Tyler’s comment…I am studying to be an animator, but my hope is to one day direct. Directing features for a studio would be the epitome of my dream, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m constantly fleshing out story ideas for my own animated shorts.

    Animation is the skill I’ve chosen to focus on in order to get these stories out into the world, because even though it would be cool if I had a team to work with me, I’m trying to build enough knowledge so that I can do it on my own if I have to. And that’s how I’ll probably start anyway, no matter where I end up working. :)

    • brendachapman

      Good echo. :)

  • Thearetical

    I would echo Tyler’s comment…I am studying to be an animator, but my hope is to one day direct. Directing features for a studio would be the epitome of my dream, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m constantly fleshing out story ideas for my own animated shorts.

    Animation is the skill I’ve chosen to focus on in order to get these stories out into the world, because even though it would be cool if I had a team to work with me, I’m trying to build enough knowledge so that I can do it on my own if I have to. And that’s how I’ll probably start anyway, no matter where I end up working. :)

    • brendachapman

      Good echo. :)

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