In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Directors

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • How-To Books
  • Anthologies
  • Book Series
  • Interview Books
  • Biographies and Autobiographies
  • Journals
  • Auteurism
  • Formalism
  • Psychoanalytic Studies
  • Auteur-Structuralism
  • Theoretical Statements on Directors and Authorship
  • Lesbian and Gay Studies
  • Economic and Institutional Studies
  • Transnational Studies
  • Documents by and about Directors
  • Collaborations
  • Self-Reflexive Directors
  • Discourses on Directors

Cinema and Media Studies Directors
Virginia Wright Wexman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0092


Most cinema scholarship is about directors; thus, many of the articles in the Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies reference them. This article provides an overview of scholarly approaches to the study of directors and omits publications dealing with individual directors except for work that has proven influential in relation to larger trends. The study of directors began in earnest with the advent of the auteur theory, which elevated directors to the status of artists. Subsequent scholars have built on this foundation, though the claims of other film artisans to be considered artists and the role of collaboration in the construction of cinematic authorship have been recurring subjects of debate. The early auteurists ranked directors; and these rankings, whether overtly recognized or not, have continued to guide scholars in their choice of directors to study. During the 1970s, as complex strategies of textual analysis associated with semiotic and post-structuralist approaches took hold, writing on the cinema began to focus more intensely on the films themselves in isolation from their mode of production. After Roland Barthes’s widely cited pronouncement in the late 1970s that authors were dead, scholarly interest in directors waned throughout the following decades, though there was a surge of important writing on women, minority, and gay filmmakers beginning in the 1990s. The turn of the century saw a renewed interest in directorial oeuvres, but with more specific agendas informed by the Foucauldian approach to authorship as a discourse shaped by historical conditions. These newer approaches to the director’s art take into account contexts as well as texts, encompassing the political, institutional, social, and economic environments that have shaped the possibilities and constraints directors have confronted. One kind of Foucauldian approach can be found in transnational studies, which examine the ways in which directors have accommodated themselves to an increasingly globalized world. A second Foucauldian approach to directors analyzes the discourses surrounding them along with discursive strategies that they themselves have self-consciously employed in their films in order to make their authorship visible. Most recently, cognitive methodologies have looked at directors as conscious agents whose intentions merit close examination. Throughout all these changing methodological trends, Hollywood directors have remained the most popular subjects for research. (Hitchcock has remained a particular favorite of cinema scholars because his films lend themselves to a broad array of critical approaches—and they are easy to teach.) The study of Asian filmmakers has only recently gained momentum; this imbalance is reflected in the listings that follow. For the sake of manageability, I have focused on English-language sources supplemented by a few of the French theoretical writings that have been central to the development of major scholarship on directors. Finally, to provide some practical information that could be used as a grounding for future research, this article also includes a section on how-to books that offer instruction to those aspiring to become directors themselves.

General Overviews

These statements offer histories of the ways in which directors have been conceptualized. Crofts 1998, Sellors 2010, and Kozloff 2014 focus on the difficulties inherent in viewing Hollywood directors as authors, while Naremore 2014 argues for auteurism’s continuing value. Kuhn and Westfall 2012 offers a brief summary of the issues involved and also provide a description of what directors actually do.

  • Crofts, Stephen. “Authorship and Hollywood.” In The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Edited by John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson, 310–324. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

    A densely written theoretically oriented piece that reviews the literature and takes up the issues inherent in conceptualizing Hollywood directors as authors in view of their position within a commercial industry and their reliance on teams of co-creators.

  • Kozloff, Sarah. The Life of the Author. Montreal: Caboose, 2014.

    This lively, accessible overview of issues surrounding directors as authors focuses on the value of examining directors’ stated intentions about their work and their role as collaborators.

  • Kuhn, Annette, and Guy Westfall, eds. Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Includes authoritative essays by the editors on authorship and on the job of directing.

  • Naremore, James. “Authorship, Auteurism, and Cultural Politics.” In An Invention without a Future: Essays on Cinema. By James Naremore, 15–32. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

    In this revised and updated version of an essay originally published in Film Quarterly in 1990, Naremore provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the study of directors as authors, paying particular attention to the cultural context in France at the time auteurism was born. He concludes with a call for more studies of directors.

  • Sellors, C. Paul. Film Authorship: Auteurs and Other Myths. London: Wallflower, 2010.

    A reader-friendly summary of the history and debates relating to the role of directors as authors. Advocates for greater attention to the issue of collective authorship.

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