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Graduating Film School


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#1 Stav Raz

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 08:42 AM

Hello All,

It is 5:30 am in california, and I just realized that I am graduating. I currently go to UCLA's film school concentrating in Cinematography. I want to be a cinematographer with all my heart.

A few questions....
1. Should I go out and work or go to graduate school?
2. I talked to a few cinematography professors (including Johnny Simmons, ASC), about the right path towards becoming a DP. The response I have been getting is, "If you want to shoot, just shoot". The "regular" path of loader, 2nd, 1st, camera op, to DP...seems to not be the proper way to go. I want to shoot. My life is fulfilled when I am holding a camera. (I am a 5'4" 105lb girl, but when I do handheld with the panavision gold I feel more alive than anything). SO....after that long explanation, any suggestions on getting into the field?
3. In terms of film schools...I really want to get out and explore the world, and would love to study cinematography in another country...any idea of film schools abroad where I wouldn't have to have prior knowledge of the language. (I pick up fast and would love to learn new languages, but I want to be able to apply now)

My fear is that in a few months when I graduate, I will feel stuck.

I know you all felt this before....any suggestions?

Your help is much appreciated!

Thanks!
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#2 Charles Haine

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 09:38 PM

Hello All,

It is 5:30 am in california, and I just realized that I am graduating. I currently go to UCLA's film school concentrating in Cinematography. I want to be a cinematographer with all my heart.

A few questions....
1. Should I go out and work or go to graduate school?

In this job market, hide out in graduate school!

Actually, that's a joke, though work has been slow for some because of the credit crunch, and graduate school is a great thing to do during a recession.

Seriously, graduate school is a fantastic way to absorb a tremendous amount of knowledge in a short amount of time. It can help you build professional contacts and also introduce you to a whole gang of directors who will then hire you in the future.

If you're hungry (and it sounds like you are) graduate school is great. All the info is available elsewhere, but it is a time where you are surrounded by a ton of people who are all hungry for the knowledge together and that fosters a friendly competitiveness that works for a lot of people.

That said, I know a ton of very, very successful people who didn't go to grad school, and working your way up the crew ranks can be just a good. And when you get out of grad school there is still going to be a learning curve getting used to the way real sets operate.

If you do go to graduate school, work on as many professional shoots as you can. Also, an MFA is sort of useless unless you want to teach. I enjoy teaching (I teach at LACC), so I recommend it for that, but if you don't think teaching is part of your path, then the MFA is less important than the opportunity to focus all of your energy getting better at one specific thing.

2. I talked to a few cinematography professors (including Johnny Simmons, ASC), about the right path towards becoming a DP. The response I have been getting is, "If you want to shoot, just shoot". The "regular" path of loader, 2nd, 1st, camera op, to DP...seems to not be the proper way to go. I want to shoot. My life is fulfilled when I am holding a camera. (I am a 5'4" 105lb girl, but when I do handheld with the panavision gold I feel more alive than anything). SO....after that long explanation, any suggestions on getting into the field?

There isn't really a "regular" path to any job in the film industry. Yes, there is the camera department ladder, and that is one path, but some DPs come straight out of grad school to be DPs. Tom Stern came out of SC grad school and was a gaffer for 10 years before DPing (gaffing for Conrad Hall, among others, which must've been really amazing).

Most of the folks I know who AC or Gaff also shoot on the side (though not all, some just want to AC, which is also great); I like hiring ambitious crew people, who pay bills ACing but shoot little things between big gigs, and I like showing them stuff, so shooting stuff and crewing aren't incompatible. Most DPs I know are happy to pass along knowledge to an AC where there is a slow moment on set, and most are proud when their former ACs go on to become DPs. Crewing helps build the network of people that might hire you on your way to the top, and it's also a great way to learn.

And it's fun. James Muro still occaisionally operates steadicam, I believe, even after his fantastic cinematography work on OPEN RANGE and other films, and I have to believe it's at least partially because he enjoys it.

3. In terms of film schools...I really want to get out and explore the world, and would love to study cinematography in another country...any idea of film schools abroad where I wouldn't have to have prior knowledge of the language. (I pick up fast and would love to learn new languages, but I want to be able to apply now)

Graduate school is at least partially about building a network; wherever you go to graduate school is probably where you are going to work, at least for a few years after school, I would say if you want to be a hollywood DP, LA or New York are probably your best bets (or even just LA). That said, the fun thing about being a DP is you get to travel a bunch.

My fear is that in a few months when I graduate, I will feel stuck.

Working in movies, I never feel stuck. Sometimes I'm worried about booking the next job, but it's rare I feel stuck. Maybe sometimes on a job out of the country that goes south I feel a little stranded (knowing that I'm on the hook for my own flight home if I quit, even though the work conditions are miserable), but stuck? Naw, this is too much fun.

I know you all felt this before....any suggestions?

All the time. A low level of panic/fear is what makes this job/lifestyle so great. It's always fresh and new, and that is bound to be a little bit scary sometimes, because you're frequently being challenged to do things you haven't done before. You'll get used to the fear, with time, and start to love it.

Now I get nervous when I don't have the fear; have I started to phone it in, I wonder? Am I playing it too safe with my choices?

Hope some of this helps.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 12:07 AM

to put it simply, to be a DP, one day you just say you're a DP. And then you have to prove it somehow. It's all on you as to whether or not you become a DP and any way to it which works and makes sense to you is a valid one.
That being said, stick close to the production hubs. I'm here in Philadelphia and often it feels like a vast wasteland. Other times I'll have a good month and not worry so much!
You will spend the rest of your life- hopefully- learning in this profession, and experimenting, and having the highest highs, and the lowest lows. When you graduate, see what the world offers. Grad school won't go anywhere, you know? Film shoots are always crewing. Inside you know what will work for you better than any of us on here can figure. And don't be scared, failing in film isn't about not succeeding-- rather it's about not getting up again after you've been knocked on your ass.
Keep good friends too-- they'll help you when life comes rolling through.
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

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Opal

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