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I'm curious to how some of you became cinematographers or began working in the film industry or got to work on commercials/music videos etc.


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#1 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 06:24 PM

I'm currently 15 years of age and have taken a sudden interest in filmmaking, I have a vast knowledge in the field of movies, and enjoy watching them very much. I've realised that's the career I wish to take up. Whether it'd be writer, editor, director, or even cinematographer doesn't bother me neither would my salary. Just simply working in the process of movie making or visual media that would impress and entertain someone would be enough.

In the long term, I shall consider things such as film schools, gaining small-time experience, pitching ideas and concepts to producers, fellow students etc. and hoping that one day this progresses into something furthermore. That's at least what I've learnt from browsing around these waters.

I currently own a Sony HDR-SR11, and have access to another one through a friend. I own some tools such as a decent tripod, monopod, MMC Hague Mini-Motion Cam (camera stabilizer or better known as a 'steadicam', just a simple copy of the merlin, but works quite well) and even a cherry picker (or better known as crane). I know the actual camera is quite mediocre, but I'm sure it'll do the job for now, at least from the footage I've seen, I've liked. I do plan on purchasing something with more grunt before I end up furthering my career, but that won't be for a matter of years. I simply would like to get the feel and experience of filmmaking whilst still being young and I'm pretty certain I'll enjoy it now a lot more than in the future, if I were to be pressured and hammered for deadlines and changes. Also, not getting much creative control on projects :lol: It's fairly technical around here, but I've gotten used to it, and learnt a thing or two, which would surely benefit me in the future. I plan on sticking around for some time to come, and maybe showcase some of my own work for criticism.

I plan on getting a boom mic (stand and then purchasing a high quality shotgun to attach) as well as Cineform Neo Scene (to convert the difficult to edit AVCHD files that are created using the HDR on highest quality settings) and then using Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the footage, but this won't be necessary 'til I begin the post-production process. I've used Premiere for a number of years now, and believe I'm quite skilled with it. But if I were to edit, I've heard most of the pros generally use Avid, which at the moment is out of my skillset, cost and actual system requirements.

Thanks in advance for reading this long and droning post, any help, feedback, criticism would be very much appreciated.

Edited by Marcus Johnston, 22 January 2009 - 06:26 PM.

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#2 Chris Durham

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 06:39 PM

Hey Marcus. Welcome to the forums. Sounds like you're off to a reasonable start. My advice is use what you've got and make the movies you can. When I was 16 or 17 we used to run around the parks and hills in the Valley and shoot VHS movies - just some stupid goofy stuff. I really enjoyed it, and I kept that attitude. I stopped making movies really until a few years ago, but the most important asset I've found is enthusiasm. There's no canned approach to getting work in this business, but when you're able to show the love you have for it, people pick up on that and it helps.
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#3 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 07:19 PM

Thanks, I've found a lot of hospitality around here as opposed to most other forums around the web. Just take IMDb for instance, that place is nuts ;) And there's also a great deal of helpful advice as well as good grounds for conversations.
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#4 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:33 PM

I'm not a working DP, but rather a working director who is his own DP (if that makes sense), so take my advice with a grain of salt. If you're still in high school, then I suggest you do these thingees:

- shoot as many projects as you can (duh)
- shoot as much informal stuff as you can, like the way a painter uses a sketchbook (many of your best ideas about lighting/composition will come from this)
- try to edit, yourself, some of the projects you shoot (understanding coverage, continuity and shot sequence is essential)
- try to handle doing the costumes and props for a few projects (understanding how surfaces/materials work with lighting, etc.)
- use books as the basis of your self-education rather than the internet. two or three $30 books will answer 90% of all your questions, including ones you haven't even asked yet-- unlike the internet which answers only your immediate question, and often superficially)
- find some kind of still photography class that you can take
- spend twice the amount of time studying lighting techniques than you do camera movement techniques

when you get to college or as a young pro:
- always remember that for any project you do, 1/3 of your real compensation is the money, 1/3 the experience/reel, and 1/3 to help lead to your next project (via contacts etc)
- always do the best you can, no matter how dumb or under resourced the project (duh). people notice this and will remember you for it.
- find out what directing major has the richest family and start shooting his/her projects (yeah i know it sounds crass, but i have seen it pay off for some).

hope this helps and best of luck.
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#5 Ira Ratner

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:39 PM

Marcus, you might be 15, but you write and communicate better than half of the "older" people out there.

You have a good head on your shoulders, which means your half-way home to success.
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#6 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 11:38 AM

I'm not a working DP, but rather a working director who is his own DP (if that makes sense), so take my advice with a grain of salt. If you're still in high school, then I suggest you do these thingees:

- shoot as many projects as you can (duh)
- shoot as much informal stuff as you can, like the way a painter uses a sketchbook (many of your best ideas about lighting/composition will come from this)
- try to edit, yourself, some of the projects you shoot (understanding coverage, continuity and shot sequence is essential)
- try to handle doing the costumes and props for a few projects (understanding how surfaces/materials work with lighting, etc.)
- use books as the basis of your self-education rather than the internet. two or three $30 books will answer 90% of all your questions, including ones you haven't even asked yet-- unlike the internet which answers only your immediate question, and often superficially)
- find some kind of still photography class that you can take
- spend twice the amount of time studying lighting techniques than you do camera movement techniques

when you get to college or as a young pro:
- always remember that for any project you do, 1/3 of your real compensation is the money, 1/3 the experience/reel, and 1/3 to help lead to your next project (via contacts etc)
- always do the best you can, no matter how dumb or under resourced the project (duh). people notice this and will remember you for it.
- find out what directing major has the richest family and start shooting his/her projects (yeah i know it sounds crass, but i have seen it pay off for some).

hope this helps and best of luck.

Thanks a tonne, that was some really great advice. I'll definitely be making my way to the photography section at the bookstore next time around ;)

Marcus, you might be 15, but you write and communicate better than half of the "older" people out there.

You have a good head on your shoulders, which means your half-way home to success.

Thanks, I suppose I'm skilled in literature from my mother's teachings.
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#7 Frederico Beja

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 07:15 PM

My advice: Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot and... humm... shoot. :) hehe

You'll learn as you go, doing it, making mistakes, making the films better the next time.

Also a really good way to learn: break down a scene. Pick a film that you like, a specific scene, an break it down. See what kind of shots the director did, and why do they work. Almost every shot has a meaning. Why the close-up here? Why the camera movement there? Match that with dialog, and you'll get a sense of what each shot means. The actor's movement (blocking), the subtext, how the director captured that.

Do the same with lighting. For now, you don't need to know what kind of lights and gels they used, but pause the image and take a look at the frame. Where are the sources of lighting? What do they represent? Backlight separating him from the background.. humm, nice. hard light... looks like the sun, nice.
See what I mean? And then try to replicate this in your own films!

There are several films out there that each one of us could advise u on. I'd suggest a film school typical case study film: the graduate. Everything makes sense in this film :)

Good luck, and most of all, have fun!! :D

Edited by Frederico Beja, 23 January 2009 - 07:16 PM.

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#8 Steve McBride

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 06:39 PM

For awhile, don't worry about being too professional about your work, start out just with some friends sitting around the house and film whatever you're doing. Don't use a script. Then after you've done a couple of those, make up a simple 5-6 page script and film it. Try to learn from the differences in the two approaches. It is nice to have the story down in a script first, but it can make the filming somewhat more difficult. Just experiment.

Especially for your age, don't worry about your equipment. You already have a lot more than most people have, I mean I don't have any equipment. As you do larger projects when you get older, you'll most likely be renting equipment instead of using your own. Having your own is good, but if you're going to spend a good amount of money, you need to have a way to pay for it.

Going with that, GET A JOB! Any job is fine, and keep it! You will need money as you go. Buying tapes, lights, expendables, costumes, props, etc. For costumes and props, Good Will and the Salvation Army along with whatever other thrift stores are near you are you best friends. You will find everything you need there for a fraction of the cost.
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#9 Alex Hall

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 01:38 PM

Get you hands on every piece of information you can about film making and devour it. Your getting a head start on most people. These forums are great for getting answers to any questions you may have. Best of Luck.
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#10 Serge Teulon

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 02:06 PM

Marcus, you might be 15, but you write and communicate better than half of the "older" people out there.

You have a good head on your shoulders, which means your half-way home to success.



I'll second that.


Marcus, when I was your age I didn't know what I wanted to do.
I sometimes look back and wished I had known.

Take advantage of your position, go out there with your equipment and just shoot anything that moves. By putting in the hours now, you'll benefit massively later on.
All your questions will unravel themselves. Also, this forum will help in the things that require for you to brainstorm.

" I simply would like to get the feel and experience of filmmaking whilst still being young and I'm pretty certain I'll enjoy it now a lot more than in the future, if I were to be pressured and hammered for deadlines and changes."

You will be pressured but once you accept that that is part of the role you will relax and enjoy it just as much as you do now, if not more. It sounds like an old man saying but the truth is that you will never stop learning about all aspects of our industry.
If you ever do then take that as your cue to move on.

Edited by Serge Teulon, 26 January 2009 - 02:08 PM.

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