What are the 3 main approaches to directing?

Are you an aspiring director looking to improve your skills and expand your knowledge? Understanding the different approaches to directing is crucial for any filmmaker aiming to create impactful and memorable films. In the world of cinema, there are three main approaches to directing that have been widely explored and adopted by renowned directors throughout history. Each approach brings its own unique style and perspective to the storytelling process, allowing directors to leave their mark on the films they create.

Whether you’re interested in the classical approach, where the director takes full control over every aspect of the film, or the collaborative approach, where the director works closely with the cast and crew, or even the experimental approach, where the director pushes the boundaries of traditional filmmaking, this article will delve into each approach, providing insights, examples, and tips to help you navigate the world of directing with confidence and finesse. So, let’s dive in and explore the three main approaches to directing and discover which one resonates with you the most!

💡 Helpful Tip and Statistics About Directing:

 In the words of Ernest Dale,” Direction is telling people what to do and seeing that they do it to the best of their ability”.

 In the words of Theo Haimann,” Directing consists of the process and techniques utilised in issuing instructions and making certain that 
   operations are carried on as originally planned”.

 Productivity increases by 14% when employees are enthusiastic about their roles.

 According to Harvard Business Review, 82% of employees feel unrecognized for their efforts. Another 40% of employed Americans  
   say they would put more energy into their work if their bosses appreciated them more often

 Directing is the heart of management function. All other functions of management have no importance without directing.

 Leadership, motivation, supervision, communication are various aspects of directing:
            - Supervision: To oversee the work of staff. Supervision is the act of coaching, reflecting, and directing work and workers. 
            - Motivation: To inspire, stimulate, and encourage staff.  
            - Leadership: To guide and influence the work of staff in a purposeful direction.

 Multitasking reduces employee productivity by 40% (Forbes)

The 3 Main Approaches to Directing

While there are countless ways to approach directing, three main approaches have emerged as prominent styles in the world of cinema. These approaches are the authorial approach, the collaborative approach, and the auteur approach. Each approach offers a unique perspective on the director’s role and the creative process, allowing filmmakers to express their individuality and leave their mark on their films.

Approach 1: Authorial Approach

The authorial approach to directing is centered around the director as the ultimate authority and decision-maker. In this approach, the director has complete control over every aspect of the film, from the script and casting to the cinematography and editing. The director’s vision is paramount, and they strive for complete artistic control and creative autonomy.

Directors who adopt the authorial approach are often seen as the primary creative force behind their films. They meticulously plan every shot, meticulously blocking out the scenes, and carefully craft the visual and auditory elements to align with their artistic vision. Examples of directors known for their authorial approach include Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Quentin Tarantino.

While the authorial approach offers directors the freedom to fully express their creative vision, it can also be demanding and challenging. The director must possess a strong sense of storytelling and have the ability to effectively communicate their vision to the cast and crew. Additionally, the authorial approach can sometimes hinder collaboration and limit the input of other creative minds involved in the filmmaking process.

Approach 2: Collaborative Approach

In contrast to the authorial approach, the collaborative approach to directing emphasizes teamwork and cooperation. Directors who adopt this approach value the contributions of the entire cast and crew and actively seek their input and ideas. They believe that collaboration leads to a richer, more authentic film that reflects the collective vision and creativity of the entire team.

In the collaborative approach, the director works closely with the actors, encouraging improvisation and allowing them to contribute to the development of their characters. The director also collaborates with the cinematographer, production designer, and other key members of the crew to ensure that the visual and technical elements align with the overall vision of the film. Directors known for their collaborative approach include Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

The collaborative approach can foster a supportive and creative environment, allowing for the exploration of new ideas and the discovery of unexpected moments of brilliance. However, it also requires a strong directorial presence and the ability to effectively manage and incorporate the input of a diverse group of individuals.

Approach 3: Auteur Approach

The auteur approach to directing is rooted in the belief that the director is the true author of a film, much like a writer is the author of a novel. In this approach, the director’s personal style and thematic concerns are consistently present throughout their body of work, creating a distinct and recognizable signature. Directors who adopt the auteur approach are known for their individuality and artistic vision, often exploring recurring themes, visual motifs, and storytelling techniques.

The auteur approach celebrates the director as an artist, elevating their role to that of a visionary who uses the medium of film to express their unique perspective on the world. Directors associated with the auteur approach include Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and Wes Anderson.

While the auteur approach allows directors to maintain creative control and develop a consistent body of work, it can also be limiting. The pressure to conform to a specific style or thematic concern can stifle experimentation and growth as a filmmaker. Additionally, the auteur approach may overshadow the contributions of the rest of the cast and crew, potentially hindering collaboration.

Key Directors Associated with Each Approach

  • Authorial Approach: Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino
  • Collaborative Approach: Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Auteur Approach: Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wes Anderson

Pros and Cons of Each Directing Approach

Authorial Approach:

  • Pros: Complete artistic control, ability to fully express creative vision, consistency in style and vision, strong directorial presence.
  • Cons: Limited collaboration, potential for creative stagnation, demanding and challenging.

Collaborative Approach:

  • Pros: Richer and more authentic films, diversity of ideas and input, supportive and creative environment, exploration of new ideas, unexpected brilliance.
  • Cons: Balancing input from multiple sources, managing diverse personalities and opinions, maintaining directorial control.

Auteur Approach:

  • Pros: Distinct and recognizable style, thematic consistency, personal expression, artistic vision, elevating the director to the status of an artist.
  • Cons: Potential for creative limitations, pressure to conform to a specific style, overshadowing the contributions of the rest of the cast and crew.

How to Choose the Right Directing Approach for Your Film

Choosing the right directing approach for your film depends on several factors, including your personal style, the nature of the story, and your desired level of collaboration. Consider the following questions to help guide your decision:

  1. What is your personal style as a director? Do you prefer complete control or are you open to collaboration?
  2. What is the nature of the story you want to tell? Does it require a strong directorial presence or can it benefit from input from the cast and crew?
  3. How do you envision the visual and auditory elements of your film? Do you want to meticulously plan every shot or are you open to improvisation and experimentation?
  4. What level of creative autonomy do you desire? Are you comfortable with others contributing to the creative process or do you prefer to have sole control over every aspect of the film?

By considering these questions and reflecting on your own artistic vision and goals, you can determine which directing approach aligns best with your filmmaking style and the specific requirements of your project.


Understanding the three main approaches to directing is crucial for any aspiring director looking to improve their skills and navigate the world of filmmaking with confidence and finesse. Whether you resonate with the authorial approach, the collaborative approach, or the auteur approach, each approach offers its own unique style and perspective on the creative process. By embracing the approach that aligns with your personal style and the requirements of your film, you can create impactful and memorable films that leave a lasting impression on audiences. So, explore these approaches, study the work of renowned directors associated with each approach, and find your own voice as a director. The world of directing awaits your creative vision!