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#1 Robert Micheels

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:42 PM

I am coming out of highschool this spring and would like to become a cinematographer. I have absolutely no idea where I should start. Should I go to school or what? Thanks in advance for the help!
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#2 Lee Sumners

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 09:30 PM

I am coming out of highschool this spring and would like to become a cinematographer. I have absolutely no idea where I should start. Should I go to school or what? Thanks in advance for the help!


Unless you have a full scholarship or 120 grand set aside for a good film school (with good teachers and good equipment), I'd say don't do it. In my opinion, the best thing about film school isn't the school or education, it's the people you meet and the network *you* build for yourself, which is very important and highly valued. But you don't get hired for jobs based on a film school degree. You get hired based on what you've done or who you know or what you've shot. Film school *does* give you ample opportunity to shoot quality projects and meet people, which is incredibly important. But getting out of school with a degree that won't get you hired and a 120k in student debt loans is very daunting, especially when you're starting off, working for probably free or crap rates.

You'll learn infinitely more working on set than you will in film school....and you'll eventually get paid for it (you start off interning, or working for free, but you'll eventually be getting decent rates)

In leu of film school, I would hussle to work your way up the camera department (loader, to 2nd AC, to 1st AC, to operater/DP...this path takes years...at least a decade, except for nepotism) to see how a professional film crew works...it could be a commercial, feature, TV show, web series, industrial, music video...just take anything that's thrown at you. But you'll see what it takes to block and light a shot...watch the DP doing his craft, see how he/she communicates to his crew and the director, watch him/her stay on schedule...or not...see him/her make mistakes..those are the lessons you don't learn in film schools, but on set, you see it every day, plus you'll be getting paid for it. You'll also be able to see if it's *really* what you want to do before dropping 120k on 4 years of school. Production isn't for everyone. If you love it, you can always go back to get a film degree anytime you want.

If you want some good film theory, get a Netflix account and add every single Criterion movie there is...watch them all, then listen to all the commentary track and special features...each of those movies is a classic and a mini film school in my opinion. Criterion puts out some great DVDs. Then go to AFI's top 100 movies of all time and add those. Then imdb's top 250 and add those.

Camera gear is so cheap right now that if you want to shoot a project, there's not much holding you back. Buy a canon 60d (body only), a good wide zoom (Canon's 17-55 2.8) and a good telephoto zoom (Canon 70-200 2.8), get a decent tripod and slider, get a basic arri light kit (2x 650s and a 1k fernel or 3 650s), an h4n, shotgun mic and boom pole, very good wireless lav....all that will cost you about 8-9 grand (doing math in my head...just rough numbers). Then (with help from your friends) you can shoot almost whatever you want.

Work during the week, shoot on the weekends with your gear. My point is you'll learn more on set and making your own mistakes.

If you decide to go to film school, at least wait a few years...get some life experience in you first. Another thing: to save money, take all the 'core' classes at an accredited community college or university...all the maths, englishes, sciences, etc., etc...THEN transfer to the school you want. If you get an AA degree (keep good grades, of course), you'll have a better chance of getting into the school you want.

That's my 2 cents. I hope someone else will chime in and prove me completely wrong. With this question, you ask 10 people, you'll get 10 different answers.
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#3 Paulo Eduardo Uchoa

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 09:27 PM

I am coming out of highschool this spring and would like to become a cinematographer. I have absolutely no idea where I should start. Should I go to school or what? Thanks in advance for the help!



I wouldn't recommend buying gear. Film school will give you a good foundation, but it doesn't guarantee anything once you are done, the advantage to film school is that your classmates are the contacts that you'll be making and you guys will recommend each other for different productions. You don't need a 4 year film school there are plenty of a few months or a few week courses (if you are tight with money). The best place to live would be somewhere where there is a good film market like LA, NY, chicago or etc. <- the advantage here is that you'll make contacts with vendors or other professional the disadvantage is that it tends to be costly.

If you skip film school, and go straight to set you'll end up being a PA and chances are you'll be a Production PA and not a Camera PA so you'll end up doing cough cough bitch work. If you do work in the camera or lighting department, if you lack the knowledge someone will be babysitting you and no one really like to do that. Sure there are a few people who will teach you stuff. But you want to get called for more work and people tend to call the ones who know what they are doing. You could survive on no/low budget productions where the trade off is you work with less experience people for low wage but you may pick up bad habits or get lazy.

Another alternative is to work at a rental house, you'll learn the gear, make contacts. Where you could try to get onset and go from there.

In the end its a game of luck and who you know. There are no guarantees in this field.
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#4 Matt Stevens

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 10:04 AM

My two cents...

If you can get your rearend to NYC or L.A., attend one of the immersive NY Film Academy courses. No need for their super long course. 30 days will do and do you well. You will help others shoot their short films then shoot your own with help.

Once finished, buy yourself a cheap camera. Hell, get a used Canon G10, which shoots nice SD quality video. Then start making a short film every weekend. Just shoot and shoot and shoot. You can even buy the new Canon S100. Great little still camera that does decent HD video.

Learn how to edit your footage. Those NY Film Academy courses normally teach you the basics.

One other option and this I highly recommend. Buy a super8 camera. Buy some film stock. Then start making movies in-camera. As in, one take for each shot and at the end you have a 2.5 or 3.5 minute movie (depending on if you shot 18 or 24fps).

Super8 costs a bit to use, but you will learn a lot. Just do your research as far as what camera to buy. Plenty of super8 shooters spend time here and can help you out.

Check out www.straight8.net and their film 'contest.' Here are my 2011 straight8 entries.





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