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A television director is in charge of the activities involved in making a television program or section of a program. They are generally responsible for decisions about the editorial content and creative style of a program, and ensuring the producer's vision is delivered. Their duties may include originating program ideas, finding contributors, writing scripts, planning 'shoots', ensuring safety, leading the crew on location, directing contributors and presenters, and working with an editor to assemble the final product. The work of a television director can vary widely depending on the nature of the program, the practices of the production company, whether the program content is factual or drama, and whether it is live or recorded.
Types of television director
Factual television director
Factual or documentary TV directors may take any number of roles in the television production process, or combine several roles in one.
Entertainment television director
In a television show composed of individual episodes, the television director's role may differ from a film director's in that he or she will usually work only on some television episodes instead of being the auteur of the entire production. In an episodic television production, the major creative control will likely reside with the television producer(s) of the show. However, the director has input, whether it be how, if and why something can or cannot be done.
Drama television director
Live television director
Primarily, the live director is responsible for "calling" the broadcast, supervising the placement of professional video cameras (camera blocking), lighting equipment, microphones, props, graphics and the overall pacing and feel of the production. Other than quickly calling out commands, the television director is also expected to maintain order among the staff in the control room, on the set, and elsewhere. Order is maintained by developing with your team— lighting plans, storyboards, camera movements, in-camera shots, switching (live and pre-recorded), computer graphics (Chyron), script and TV camera cabling movement plans so that the entire team can be aware ahead of time. The director must review all submitted plans ahead of time and then give feedback. After feedback has been received a pre production meeting ensures that the ENTIRE team is aware of what is expected to happen minute-by-minute across each team. Because live broadcasts never go as planned, the Director's only hope to maintain calm and order on the studio floor and in the control room is to make sure people feel confident about what they need to do minute-by-minute. Things always go wrong but if everyone knows what comes the next minute they can help their team members by improvising (making something up) so that they can get the ball/team to the next checkpoint. Most of the stuff that happens will never go to script but if people feel confident they can land where they were ultimately expected to. If you have a 20 minute broadcast it can feel like 20 hours if the ball keeps falling further every minute and you don't trust your team and there are hundreds of people watching the show live. The Director has the hardest role because they have 25 direct reports on one side and a Producer on the other side. Both sides are equally tough but the Executive Producer blames you if anything goes wrong and you can't show them the storyboards, scripts or plan.
A news studio might have multiple cameras and few camera movements. In a sports broadcast, the director might have 20 or 30 cameras and must continuously tell each of the camera operators what to focus on.
While the director is responsible for specific shots and other production elements, the producer (typically seated behind the director in the second row of chairs in the control room) coordinates the "big picture", including commercial breaks and the running length of the show.