How Can I Become a Successful Film Director?
Alongside some variants, this is by the far the question I've received the most, yet I'm never comfortable answering it. I would be very pretentious if I thought I have the answer. But let's be honest: not even James Cameron himself has it. Since many factors come into play when determining what makes a film director successful, any attempt to give fail-safe advice would come across as incredibly arrogant.
A better phrasing for the question would be: What are some basic tips for someone to become a successful film director? Well, here they are:
Watch movies. Go to theaters and enjoy the experience. Laugh, cry, and scream. Let your emotions take over you. Gradually, this will show you in a very superficial way the grammar of movies and their basic elements. With time, you will sharpen your evaluation technique and be able to note merits and flaws in the movies you watch. Noticing what does not work in movies is oftentimes the best way to discover what does work.
Analyze movies. Analyzing is very different than merely watching. Watching a movie is something fun you do with friends while sharing a bucket of popcorn. In the other hand, analyzing a movie means hard work. It may take twice the time as you rewind and refine your attention to detail. This will provide a more deep evaluation of the language of filmmaking. You should pay attention to theme, structure, shot sizes... Everything.
Write screenplays. Film directors are storytellers, thus it is paramount for wannabe directors to master the craft of screenwriting. The maxim is: you can make a bad movie with a good screenplay, but you can't make a good movie with a bad screenplay. You don't have to become a screenwriter if you don't want to, but you absolutely have to learn screenwriting techniques and apply it to your movies.
Attend a film school, major in film/video production. In this day and age, a film school offers many advantages to the budding director. First and foremost, it will teach you discipline. Shooting video has become so relaxed these days it's ridiculous. The inexperienced videographer shows contempt towards rehearsals, a tripod, or common sense... Second, in a film school, you will have the chance to taste many different job positions. This will be essential later on as you communicate what you want to you camera operators, editors, cinematographer, etc. Last but definitely not least, in a film school, you will meet with people that share your passion. And since you cannot make movies on your own, these classmates may be a valuable resource.
Expand your network. It's all about who you knows and who knows you. Friends can open the doors you need open. They can get you location, stars, equipment, budget... Especially when you're still climbing up the ladder of success, you will have to rely on the people you know to assist you. Naturally, you also have to move to where movies are made. In the USA, it's Hollywood.
These are only but a few of the most essential ones. Many other factors come into play, of course. But if you follow these, you will have a head start. Good luck.