After Chris Columbus had finished working on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, he was hired to direct the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The production started within a week after the release of the first film. Columbus was set to direct all eight entries in the series, however he did not want to return for the third film as he claimed he was "burned out". He moved to the position of producer, while Alfonso Cuarón was approached for the role of director. He was initially nervous about directing the instalment as he had not read any of the books or seen the films. After reading the series, he changed his mind and signed on to direct as he had immediately connected to the story. David Heyman found that "tonally and stylistically, [Cuarón] was the perfect fit."
Because production of the fourth instalment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had to be initiated before the worldwide release of the third film, Mike Newell was selected to be the director. During production of this adaptation, director David Yates visited Leavesden Film Studios to observe filming as he was set to helm the next entry in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Yates also directed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows, becoming the only person to have guided more than one Potter film since Columbus. During the Ministry of Magic infiltration scenes in Deathly Hallows, Yates paid homage to Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil; it is known that Gilliam was Rowling's first choice to direct the first film in the series. Heyman commented on the directing style of Yates, remarking that he is "a great director with a keen visual sense who fills each frame with humanity and compassion for his characters." In an interview released in June 2011, Chris Columbus remarked on the growth of the series, stating that "the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione was just beautifully executed, it's exactly where I would have hoped those characters to have gone and I think David Yates [has drawn] phenomenal performances from them."
Heyman also commented on the "generosity of the directors" by revealing that "Chris spent time with Alfonso, Alfonso spent time with Mike and Mike spent time with David, showing him an early cut of the film, talking through what it means to be a director and how they went about it and any sort of titbits that they can pass on. And it's a really collegial and supportive environment between directors, but also I think within Leavesden itself." Daniel Radcliffe explored the style of all the directors in the series, saying that "he [David Yates] took the charm of the films that Chris [Columbus] made and the visual flair of everything that Alfonso [Cuarón] did and the thoroughly British, bombastic nature of the film directed by Mike Newell and he's added his own sense of grit and realism to it that perhaps wasn’t there so much before."
With the exception of Columbus, each director has made a cameo appearance in their respective film: Alfonso Cuarón appears in The Three Broomsticks in Prisoner of Azkaban; Mike Newell is heard briefly as the radio presenter in Frank Bryce's house in Goblet of Fire; and David Yates features as a wizard within a magical moving portrait in Order of the Phoenix. David Heyman also makes a cameo appearance as a wizard featured within a magical moving portrait on the DVD of the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban.
Steve Kloves wrote the screenplays for all but the fifth film, which was penned by Michael Goldenberg. Kloves had direct assistance of Rowling, though she allowed him what he described as "tremendous elbow room". Rowling once asked Kloves to keep being faithful to the books, thus the plot and tone of each film and its corresponding book are virtually the same, albeit with some changes and omissions for purposes of cinematic style, time and budget constraints.
In an interview with FirstShowing.net, David Heyman briefly explained the book-to-film transition. He commented on Rowling's involvement in the series, stating that she understands that "books and films are different" and is "the best support" a producer could have. Rowling has overall approval on the scripts, which are viewed and discussed by the director and the producers. Heyman also said that Kloves is the "key voice" in the process as he "breaks down" the novels and that "certain things" need to be excluded from the scripts due to the filmmakers' decision to keep the main focus on Harry's journey as a character, which would ultimately give the film a defined structure. Heyman mentioned that some fans "don't necessarily understand the adaptation process" and that the filmmakers would love to "have everything" from the books in the films, but noted that it is not possible as they have "neither time nor cinematic structure" to do so. He finished by saying that "there's always tough decisions on what we leave in and what we leave out" and that "it's a really considered process."