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Best Way to become a Cinematographer


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#1 Alex Hall

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:41 PM

What is the best route to take to become a Cinematographer. Some people say as an Electric because you really get to know what the lights can do. Some say AC because you are around the camera more. Others insist that starting as a Cinematographer is the best route to take. Which is it?
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:53 PM

"Best" is a relative term, however the most common avenue for someone to become a DP is through the Camera Department.

Indeed, a cameraman of any kind must have a working knowledge of all things camera related, such as lenses, composition, equipment capabilities, operation, etc. And he must also be capable of lighting with story as a motivation. He must also have the skills to manage three full departments (Camera, Grip, Electric) while collaborating with all others (Art, Costume, Director, etc).

Some people jump right in to life as a DP/Cameraman and learn everything as they go. Others take the slower path through the Camera or Electric departments. Whichever way you go, there is plenty to learn. :)
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:53 PM

There is no single job route that is better than another. They all can provide experience, but no matter which you choose, at some point if you want to be a cinematographer, you have to start shooting.

Everyone sort of cuts their own path through the jungle, one job at a time.
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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:29 AM

The "BEST" way?

Start your own movie studio and proclaim your self DOP for life.

I hear becoming a Scientologist can help. Have you watched "The Secret"? You can use that if becoming a Scientologist doesn't work.

R,
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#5 Jess Haas

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 05:13 AM

Why not do all three? Try to get work as both an Electrician and an AC. Chances are one will workout better than the other but in the process you will hopefully get at least some experience with the other. Then on the side you can DP short films and whatever other projects you can get your hands on.

If you go the AC route you should pay as much attention to lighting as you can while working as an AC. I have seen far too many green DPs who went the AC route and have no clue when it comes to lighting and just let the gaffer make all the decisions.

I personally chose juicing over ACing since I was already getting lots of hands on camera experience on the side and felt that lighting was a lot harder to master than the technical aspects of a camera. I have since added underwater camera op and most recently steadicam to my bag of tricks and have also been DPing smaller projects.

~Jess
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#6 Jess Haas

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 05:19 AM

I hear becoming a Scientologist can help. Have you watched "The Secret"? You can use that if becoming a Scientologist doesn't work.

Might want to do it in the other order. After becoming a Scientologist you may no longer be able to afford "The Secret" so you are better off wasting your money on it first. Both really function on stating the obvious although only one involves space aliens.

~Jess
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 07:26 PM

Any or all of those can work. Perhaps choose the one you know the least about so you can learn along the way?
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#8 Nick Harris

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 11:14 PM

The best thing to do, so far as crediting yourself on your resume is to stick with a trade and run with it. I started out as a DP because I had the funds to invest in camera, lights, cheap dolly, etc. I occasionally AC and gaff, but never add to my resume unless it's DP work. My suggestion is to be on set in whatever capacity you can afford to be and just be a sponge. Watch what everyone is doing, ask questions, be annoying. More often than not, these people love to show people how much they know... us film jerks have egos the size of a Buick! Every so often you'll find someone who doesn't want to share their secrets or doesn't want to answer questions from some kid, but if you don't ask you'll never know, so just roll it off your back and keep on keepin' on!
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#9 Tom Lowe

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Posted 11 February 2008 - 01:20 PM

The "BEST" way?

Start your own movie studio and proclaim your self DOP for life.


haha, that's how most directors do it nowadays. :lol:
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#10 Jess Haas

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 01:46 PM

I occasionally AC and gaff, but never add to my resume unless it's DP work.

Another option is to have multiple resumes. My cinematographer resume isn't going to get me a gaffing job but my grip/electric resume sure will. In some circles it can be a little tricky to switch back and forth between departments but if you are good at what you do then you shouldn't have to worry too much about that.

~Jess
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#11 Mike Simpson

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:02 PM

I think what is most important is working as a dp. I have plenty of experience in camera, and take AC jobs where I can, but I try to spend most of my time working as and promoting myself as a DP.

If you are looking for the most financially stable position for starting out I would suggest g&e since in purely mathimatical terms there are more jobs than in camera but if that's less important try them both.
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#12 Francisco Valdez

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:31 PM

Any or all of those can work. Perhaps choose the one you know the least about so you can learn along the way?


I totally agree! There's no point in elaborating on that
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#13 KrillianRed

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 03:29 AM

it takes a long time to move up the ladder.

i suggest doing your own projects, or taking part in semi-large projects that are shown in major festivals.

garnish some attention or awards and you'll get DP jobs.

the same goes for directing and producing. it's all really a matter of how you look at it.

safe and steady? or balls out risk it all and do it yourself hoping that what youre doing is good work; without gaining that slow but steady education you would within a unionized camera dept.
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#14 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 09:50 AM

The ICG website has a lot of DP interviews which delve into career origins. It's amazing how varied the paths to the "top of the heap" are. There are a surprising number of people who just kind of fell into the movie business, without having any long standing goal of or desire for being a DP; Jack Green ASC was a hair-dresser! Then again, there are plenty of AFI grads out there.

http://www.cameraguild.com/
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rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

FJS International, LLC

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Paralinx LLC

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

CineTape

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

The Slider

Glidecam