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Need a pro opinion!


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#1 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 12:01 PM

Hey! I'm a pro photographer who has worked on a number of films in stills and just completed my first short as D.O.P. I have also attended school for film theory (production theory, history etc) as well as some practical (video and sound editing, and multimedia and have experience with 16mm and TV studio cameras). This being said, I am looking to make my way into the industry as a DOP (obviously I won't be rediculous enough to think that I will get that right away, I would be happy as a 2nd camera assistant and whatnot to start). Either way, I have looked over many available film programs (many of which say I have to take a number of courses in things that I already know) and none of them seem to offer what I'm looking for. I'll put it simply, I DON'T want to be a director or producer or screenwriter. My life is dedicated to the visual side of things and always has been and I don't want to attend any classes in which 17 year olds who just want to be in the industry need to learn every aspect and I'm dragged along for the ride. I just want experience behind the camera and instruction on the technical side of things.

That being said, how necessary is film school for someone like me? Would I be better off trying for a camera intern position? Or is there a film school out there (preferably in canada) that I could just learn the things I need to attain the position I want?

HELP!
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 02:16 PM

Ashlea,

You'll get a lot of different opinions, but only you will be able to find the answer that is right for you.

That said, you could try to get into the Camera Department by first being an Assistant, however, from the brief description you've given, you likely shouldn't. One reason is that you will likely become frustrated fairly quickly. While some Assistants do eventually make it up the career ladder into a DP position, most don't. And if you do, it will likely take many years.

There are several advantages in being an Assistant first. One is that you learn the working protocols of the film set, which you likely already have an idea of. Another is that you become very familiar with many of the tools and insider tricks of the trade (technical and business). Another is that, over time, you get to meet a large variety of people who are in the industry who can help you get work consistently and, hopefully, move up.

The downsides are: it can take a long time and there are no guarantees that you'll ever be given the opportunity to shoot your own films at a theatrical level.

So, the reality is that if you could be content with working in the movie business as an Assistant or Operator for the rest of your life, then take the Assistant route. If you would rather spend more of your life shooting films as the DP, then you should just try to go for that right away. Of course there are no guarantees there either and the first jobs you get will likely be for very little or no money. You'll either get lucky and hook up with a movie and/or Director who hits it big and you go along for the ride. Or your body of work over time will build your reputation and you'll eventually meet the right people who want you to shoot their big movie.

As far as school goes, that again depends on you. From the sounds of it, you may already have a grasp on the fundamentals that a DP needs to know to photograph a movie so the time and money you spend on school may not be necessary. Of course there are always things that a school will teach you that you may (probably) find out on your own in the field, but if you can surround yourself with competent people (Gaffer, Operators, Camera Assistants, Key Grip) then you may be able to figure it all out on set.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 08:52 PM

You're a pro photog, so you already know everything about exposure, framing, composition, etc. Now all you need to do is probably get to know the equipment while making some connections.

I'm sure there are some programs in your area of the world with pro workshops in cinematography. Those are great because you usually get to meet a pro DP who you can stay in contact with afterwards, and hopefully you'll find a couple people in the workshop with the similar goals. At your skill level, I'd probably avoid going to the community college level film courses, as you WILL find those groups to be a bit too inconsistent when it comes to devotion to filmmaking.

But there's nothing wrong with going the assistant route. Just because you AC a few films will not mean you'll be stuck in that position...although it could be a slippery slope if you're TOO GOOD at being an AC, ha ha

You've just DP'd your first short, so hopefully a lot of people will see it and seek you out, who knows!?
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#4 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 02:04 PM

Thanks guys! It's good to hear some experienced opinions on such a confusing matter.

Sadly I have searched my ass off to no avail and there doesn't seem to be anything cinematography based in my area ( I found one program that offered a cinematography THEORY class. . .??haha) I think maybe in Canada they are trying to produce more all around film makers in specific or something. . . the school system doesn't really lean towards creating people who specialize in one area (until four years into a program). It's frustrating to say the least.

I am looking into assisting on a feature in 2008 with a pretty great established cinematographer (hopefully my meager contacts will pan out and I can at least get some camera learnin' under my belt.) I'm crossing my fingers!!

And PS thanks for the warnings about the assistant thing. I promise I'll be JUST good enough haha.
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 02:59 PM

Just a thought:

http://www.wift.com/...V2007.htm#kodak

They look like they'd be a good resource of information on local workshops that are going on.
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#6 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 08:29 PM

Just a thought:

http://www.wift.com/...V2007.htm#kodak

They look like they'd be a good resource of information on local workshops that are going on.



that's awesome! I've never even heard of this site. I'll look into some of the opportunities. Thanks!
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#7 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 10:39 PM

that's awesome! I've never even heard of this site. I'll look into some of the opportunities. Thanks!



If you already have clients in the commercial still photo market you should have no problems getting them to hire you as a commercial motion picture cinematographer. That is usually the hardest part, getting to know the people that hire for top spots in any given production and for them to trust you with the responsibility of making things look good. If you use your knowledge of still photo and apply it to motion picture and do some good looking shorts/ commercial type work on your own for demo reel purpose, you should be able to make a smooth transition.

If you don't have any big contacts just keep on working as a low/ no budget film DP like the rest of us until you build a resume and a reputation.

I certainly wouldn't go to film school. Most of the people I work with have started working up the ladder in their dept's or made a career move using skills they already possessed. But if you start as camera assistant you WILL hate it. And film school is going to be like hanging out at your local kinder garden. :P So it makes more sense to just use your skills to move from one form of photo/ optical acquisition to the other and work as hard as you did to become a professional still photographer.

A number of pro still photographers have become cinematographers/ directors. Anton Corbijn and Larry Clark are the ones that come to mind right now, but there are many more to be sure. It may not be easy, but then again, few things in life worth doing are.
Good luck!

S
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 02:12 AM

that's awesome! I've never even heard of this site. I'll look into some of the opportunities. Thanks!


Here's their actual website, took me a while to find a link at that address I posted, ha ha: http://www.wift.com/
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#9 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 12:00 AM

If you already have clients in the commercial still photo market you should have no problems getting them to hire you as a commercial motion picture cinematographer. That is usually the hardest part, getting to know the people that hire for top spots in any given production and for them to trust you with the responsibility of making things look good. If you use your knowledge of still photo and apply it to motion picture and do some good looking shorts/ commercial type work on your own for demo reel purpose, you should be able to make a smooth transition.

If you don't have any big contacts just keep on working as a low/ no budget film DP like the rest of us until you build a resume and a reputation.

I certainly wouldn't go to film school. Most of the people I work with have started working up the ladder in their dept's or made a career move using skills they already possessed. But if you start as camera assistant you WILL hate it. And film school is going to be like hanging out at your local kinder garden. :P So it makes more sense to just use your skills to move from one form of photo/ optical acquisition to the other and work as hard as you did to become a professional still photographer.

A number of pro still photographers have become cinematographers/ directors. Anton Corbijn and Larry Clark are the ones that come to mind right now, but there are many more to be sure. It may not be easy, but then again, few things in life worth doing are.
Good luck!

S



Thanks! I'm starting to feel a little more reassured and I'm digging up some of my older film contacts as we speak to maybe talk about a short or something.
It's funny but someone telling me that what I want is going to be a struggle used to scare the poop out of me but after dealing with the industry I'm in right now i think I have the balls to persevere haha (metaphorically speaking).

Thanks for the support!
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Aerial Filmworks

Rig Wheels Passport

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Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Visual Products

Wooden Camera

CineLab

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