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Student looking for advice on where to start off


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#1 Kyle Hair

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 03:54 PM

Hi, I am 19 years old and currently a 2nd year student at CSU Chico. I was planning on leaving CSUC soon to go to film school. I want to eventually become a camera operator and work for a company like the Discovery network where i can travel around the world. I have taken courses in film making in high school and done projects on my own. After looking farther into it I am starting to get doubts that i should go to film school. If anyone could give me some advice on if Film school is a good place to start in my case or if there is a better path it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
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#2 Serge Teulon

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 05:47 PM

Hi Kyle,

Welcome!
There have been loads of posts on your same question.
As the answers that you are looking for are already available, if I in your position I would do a search and have a good read. Then you'll get all the info that you are looking for.
If after that you require more definitive answers then by all means post the questions.

Good luck!
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 06:38 PM

Hi, I am 19 years old and currently a 2nd year student at CSU Chico. I was planning on leaving CSUC soon to go to film school. I want to eventually become a camera operator and work for a company like the Discovery network where i can travel around the world. I have taken courses in film making in high school and done projects on my own. After looking farther into it I am starting to get doubts that i should go to film school. If anyone could give me some advice on if Film school is a good place to start in my case or if there is a better path it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks



Hi, Kyle! Indeed, the "filmschool or not?" question has been covered quite well in the past. Invest some time into researching this forum as well as others that are available. For a comprehensive list of helpful resources, go to www.whatireallywanttodo.com and click on "addition resources."

In the meantime, judging only from what you describe above, I would suggest a "no" to filmschool for you. Reason being that most filmschool curriculum centers around the how-to of making narrative movies. Some may get into documentary work, but what most books and schools do is try to teach how to make a narrative project.

Programs that appear on networks like Discover, National Geographic, and Travel Channel do not follow that narrative mold. The path toward that kind of work requires a fairly different skillset and distinctly different path than anything related to "Hollywood" type filmmaking.

While a standard "union" film set requires nearly a hundred people to shoot even the simplest of days, the standard "documentary" or "EFP" (Electronic Field Production) team generally consists of (1) Videographer/Cinematographer, (1) Audio Mixer, and (1) Field Producer/Director. In most circumstances, it is those three people and only those three who rent/own camera and lighting equipment, transport it (via personal vehicle and/or airplane), take it into the Cameraman's hotel room, get it out to the vehicle at calltime, pull it out at location, use it, pack it back up and go home when the job is done.

I say it that way because the life of a "Hollywood" Cameraman is vastly different in that there is an entire department of Assistants who divide the prep and operational work between them. The DP also has a full Electric and Grip Department to help light the set. Those three departments consist of roughly thirteen individuals. Add a Transportation Department into it to move the gear around plus anyone else the standard narrative set needs.

In comparison, those TWO crew people on a documentary crew (Camera and Sound) do all of that (Camera, lighting, sound, transportation, sometimes Makeup, sometimes set decoration). So you can see that while the extremes of specialization are needed on a narrative film set, that working protocol isn't practical for documentary projects, both in terms of logistics and budget.

To shoot for "Discovery Channel" and the like requires that you build a career at a local television station and/or production company. Your goal is to learn how to shoot video with nearly every type of PROFESSIONAL grade camera, not those dinky little toys that claim to be HD. Look for cameras like the Sony F900/R, Panasonic's Varicam, and believe it or not, BetaCam and Digibeta.

You must learn how to light a one-person interview (head & shoulders shot). You have to learn how to do it well and in less than ideal conditions. You typically won't see the location until about one-hour or less before you are to roll tape on the interview, so you must be able to think and work quickly to make even the worst of environments look like an entire Hollywood crew was there to shoot it.

You have to be fit enough to spend the majority of your time moving equipment in and out of your own vehicle, often pushing the Magliner into places a cart wasn't designed to go.

You have to know how to shoot very well off of the tripod (fluid head) as well as being prepared and capable of shooting handheld off the shoulder for a long time (perhaps as long as 20 to 30 minutes!).

You have to know how to build a network of people who know you and know what you can do. They have to like you personally as well as what you do to get them the footage they are after.

You have to know how to shoot nearly every type of scenario which usually means that YOU are the one picking shots, knowing where to be BEFORE something happens so that you aren't shooting it in progress or too late. This kind of shooting requires that that CAMERAMAN be the default "Director" as he is the one looking out for the best shots, when to hit the record button, and when to stop.

There's a lot to know and learning it all takes time. My advice for you is to GO to college, major in something else, like Business, and minor in Film or RTVF (Radio Television Film). Do your work, do it well, learn how to manage your time (it is a required skill!), and learn how to effectively COMMUNICATE with others (also a required skill!). Do what you need to at school AND ALSO make time to intern or have a paying job at a nearby television station or production company that can teach you the technical skills you need to know.

DO NOT OVERLOOK EDITING! Even if you don't want to be an Editor as a profession, knowing how to edit and what an Editor needs will make you a better Cameraman and Cameraman/Director. Too many Cameramen and Directors have never stepped foot in an edit bay so they either shoot too much, too little, or don't shoot for the edit.

While you're working, you'll also begin forming relationships with those who do do this for a living. If they like you and like you're work ethic and appreciate your enthusiasm and perseverence, chances are that you'll actually begin your career before you graduate. But finish school! Work will always be there waiting for you. Don't underestimate what higher education can do for you.

One more thing... a life as a freelance Cameraman can be exciting, but there are potential pitfalls too. Inconsistent work can cause moderate to severe financial woes. Lots of work can mean being away from family and friends for days, weeks, and months on end. Carrying all of this equipment around causes considerable stress on the body, particularly on the right shoulder where you'll find you carry the camera and other gear much of the time. Learn the technical stuff. Learn the business aspects. And also be prepared for the "LIFE" that comes with the choice. Filmschool can teach you a little of that, but only by going out into the real world and experiencing how real professionals make a living will you learn what you need to know.
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Technodolly

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Ritter Battery

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

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