Passionate by the movie industry, young people looking to enter film schools, have usually a precise idea of what they want to be.
Students in Directing may be inspired by Stephen Spielberg, Students in Cinematography may want to emulate Roger Deakins, Apprentice Screenwriters with influences from the likes of by Billy Wilder, while want to be Producers are looking up to Michael Mann.
Regardless of the specialty you choose, being able to fill-in all positions of a film crew is important to become a great filmmaker.
Before becoming the Filmmaker we know today, James Cameron was a Production Assistant on "Rock and Roll High School" in 1979. The producer is the original leader who puts the project together from securing the financing to finalizing the script. The Producer is also responsible for respecting schedules and budgets
Filmmaker Ron Howard started as a child actor on the Andy Griffith Show, then broke through with Richie Cunningham on Happy Days in the 70s. His interest and attempt to be a filmmaker came in the late 70s with the low budget "Grand Theft Auto", born from a deal with Roger Corman where Corman supported the Directing debut of Howard in exchange for Howard starring in Corman's "Eat My Dust" in 1977. Back then, the value of Ron Howard was as an actor while today, his recognition is as a Director.
The reality today is that a Filmmaker is often wearing many hats by choice.
Point in case: the Coen brothers. From writing the story, adapting it for screen, producing and directing it. The vision of a filmmaker is often such that it is more complex to explain your expectations than doing the job yourself.
When it comes to screenwriting, the role is far more than just provide dialogues to the actors. The screenwriter contributes to shape the sequences of the scenes allowing flawless transition from a scene to another.
The Director is the "Conductor" on the production set. Often credited with major recognition when a film is successful, the Director needs to lean on numerous assistants and other functions without which he cannot direct.
One of these, is the Production Designer. The PD is an artist who first visualizes the script and translate it into storyboards the Director will follow.
Another one is the Cinematographer also called Director of Photography whose role is to handle the camera technical abilities to balance lighting, choose the appropriate angle, framing the scene accordingly.
The role of the Editor is to gather the rough cuts, pick and choose the ones selected to assemble a sequence and give life to what will be the final film. The editor's equipment has drastically changed over the years, today, computer software have become indispensable.
One position which does not call for glamorous recognition yet, is absolutely key, is the Art Director. Especially on period movies. The Art Director is in charge of the actors' surrounding. The location choice, the style of the buildings in outside shooting, the set decoration, acquisition of necessary props, etc.
Indeed, an efficient filmmaker should at least understand what each crew member specific role demands. You may learn it the academic way at school but there is nothing like learning on the set from veteran professionals. The student filmmaker should want to spend the first few years of his or her career, assisting seasoned professional in various positions to perfect their craft.
The late Chadwick Boseman went to Howard University and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Directing. His ambition was to write and direct. He initially study acting as a way to better understand and relate to actors. He became an actor and left us way too soon, before he had a chance to direct his own projects.
Do not set yourself on a specific role, embrace them all until you find your ideal path.