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Cinematography student film making help questions starting out camera equipment

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#1 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 16 January 2015 - 08:03 PM

I'm from London, 16 years old and female. Ever since I first watched Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho', I knew I wanted to be a director. I became obsessed, I watch all of his films around four times each and went through each one, studying the use of his particularly dramatic and iconic instrumental music and the use of his camera angles.
I want to be able to write my own screenplays and put a team together to collaborate and put it to life. I've already started writing a few, one of which was a adaption of the novel 'Of Mice and Men', which was used for a stage production. I'm also writing with a friend of mine, a crime avant-garde inspired story, with which we are going to film. However, I know I need direction. I understand that this business is extremely bitterly hard to get into and to make a living, but this is all I want to do with my life. I wanted to ask a few questions:
1.) Is it hard for a female to get noticed in the film industry? I don't mind working in a mostly male dominated industry, I just know that there aren't as many women who film, compared to men.
2.) Camera recommendations and lenses too. I need to find a camera suitable of shooting raw material.
3.) I noticed that a lot of film directors never went to university, they went straight in by doing apprenticeship type work. I would never be able to do that, so I know I need to go to university. What would be a good choice of one in London?
4.) Lighting equipment. I would like to know what types you use.

Thank you for reading.
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#2 John E Clark

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Posted 16 January 2015 - 08:57 PM

Since I live in So. California, I can't really give specific advice on employment options/opportunities. Here in the US there has been some amount of press about the disparity between men and women in various production capacities, such as director, writer, cinematographer.

 

There have been some large companies such as Disney which have various types of internships. The only entity I 'know' of in the UK would be the BBC. They may be 'full up' on interships... I have also heard a few things about communities which have funds to support some amount of eductional grants for schooling/training... again only have seen these sorts of things s brief references. In the US there are possibilities for government grants or loans for eduction, but often the advice is to not go into deep debt on 'film making' schooling... since given the available job opportunites at the end of the schooling, it may not ever pay back...

 

I gave some 'advice' a few days about about equipment... which apparently was out of the price range the person was looking for to setup some form of film making activity...

 

But I'll sort of give an estimate of about 1000-1200 GBP for an equipment budget that would provide an incredibly rudimentary filmmaking camera and audio package. That doesn't include a computer for editing...

 

Forming a group is important, but it also requires that one find people who are as interested and dedicated as you are, otherwise the group tends to fall appart quickly.


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#3 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 06:29 AM

Thank you so much.
Your point on university debt has been great help. Stupidly I didn't think about how long or if I could ever pay off my debt. The thing is about BBC internships is that, it will be incredibly hard to get into and at the end of the day, it's all about the people you know. However, I now see this as another direction for me to think about and aim for.
Well, I have a weekend job and I'm planning to save it over this year. So, I'm aiming to save just around £900-1000 in lighting and camera equipment, such as the body itself and the lenses.
Thank you for your words on the disparity between men and women and group building. I'll work on that, see if I can find any local people interested in collaboration.
Do you mind if I ask, what do you work with in the business and how did you get there?
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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 02:45 PM

The thing is about BBC internships is that, it will be incredibly hard to get into and at the end of the day, it's all about the people you know. However, I now see this as another direction for me to think about and aim for.

 

Hiya Tabitha, unfortuantely almost everything is about the people you know especially in the UK! Being a director is also a large part about the different relationships you have so that's also a thing to think about. Are you presently a student? The place to get into in the UK is the NFTS in London: https://nfts.co.uk/ It's also very hard to get into but it's the main place that is worth getting into for film stuff as you can get to meet the other people there who are trying to work in the same field and make contacts etc as well as it being the leading place for learning the craft.

 

The other way of going about things, especially given the way things are at the moment, would be to consider trying to get work in the TV industry. The best university for that would be Oxford university as the media in the UK tends to be dominated by Oxford grads. So if you can get in there and make some friends that would be another great way of going about things!

 

Obviously the film industry is mostly based in the USA but there is a significant TV industry here and TV and Cinema are coming closer and closer together.

 

Hope that helps! :)

 

Freya


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#5 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 05:11 PM

Hiya Tabitha, unfortuantely almost everything is about the people you know especially in the UK! Being a director is also a large part about the different relationships you have so that's also a thing to think about. Are you presently a student? The place to get into in the UK is the NFTS in London: https://nfts.co.uk/ It's also very hard to get into but it's the main place that is worth getting into for film stuff as you can get to meet the other people there who are trying to work in the same field and make contacts etc as well as it being the leading place for learning the craft


I am doing my A levels currently. I have looked at NFTS and admired their brilliant line up of talents and history. It would be a dream to go there. Yes, I understand. I know I do need to get out there and meet people in the business. Would you recommend me emailing (which I can imagine my voice being lost among a pile of other people in my position) or to go to talks and try to spread my number around?
Yes, well my aim is to one day move to the States, for many reasons, but I believe I need to start working in London at the moment and build up experience and money. Otherwise, I won't get notice in Los Angeles or New York.
Thank you for your great help, I appreciate the help.
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#6 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 05:12 PM

Hiya Tabitha, unfortuantely almost everything is about the people you know especially in the UK! Being a director is also a large part about the different relationships you have so that's also a thing to think about. Are you presently a student? The place to get into in the UK is the NFTS in London: https://nfts.co.uk/ It's also very hard to get into but it's the main place that is worth getting into for film stuff as you can get to meet the other people there who are trying to work in the same field and make contacts etc as well as it being the leading place for learning the craft


I am doing my A levels currently. I have looked at NFTS and admired their brilliant line up of talents and history. It would be a dream to go there. Yes, I understand. I know I do need to get out there and meet people in the business. Would you recommend me emailing (which I can imagine my voice being lost among a pile of other people in my position) or to go to talks and try to spread my number around?
Yes, well my aim is to one day move to the States, for many reasons, but I believe I need to start working in London at the moment and build up experience and money. Otherwise, I won't get notice in Los Angeles or New York.
Thank you for your great help, I appreciate the help.
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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 06:01 PM

There are many females working in the production end of television, it's an area where most directors start out in their career. If you wish to get into the NFTS you need to get yourself into the position where you can make some films to go with your application. Most film directors these days have a university education, although they may come through theatre rather than film studies, there are a number of routes.


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#8 Laura Beth Love

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 02:13 AM

Hi Tabitha,

My best advice for you is to make films (videos, shorts, series, whatever you like) as much as you can.  Do it with you cellphone, or a DSLR, or seek out other indie filmmakers and work out a trade to borrow their cameras and sound gear...  Just make sure you are doing it. Often. 
 
My second best advice is to be wary of student loans.  Film is storytelling.   You don't need a degree to be a great storyteller.  You need practice.  You need to know "about people."  And you need a great story to tell.
 
Even if loans aren't an issue, be careful about spending lots of money on film school education.  Much of what you are paying for is the structure (imposed discipline), limited access to basic equipment, and a degree that may not be of use to you unless you change your career interests.  Your money may be better spent on gear, projects, and even your own self-directed education.

If you are disciplined, much of the education you seek is available online for free, or available for purchase in small chunks through training seminars, webinars, podcasts, etc.  You can even seek out a film professional directly and ask them to mentor you or give private lessons, and that would instantly be 100-fold more bang for your buck than your average film school.  Ultimately, the best education will be learning by doing, and the best networking will be to get on set or get involved in the "local" film/video community.  If you aren't near a thriving "film hub," find the news station, or local commercials studio in your area. 

I give this advice as both a film school graduate and as a former film school teacher.  I was lucky to get quite a lot out of my film school education, but not all students have the same experience.  As a producer and cinematographer, 11 years out of film school, I give no preference to film students when hiring.  In fact, in general, I find that individuals who attended a non-film related school and then sought out filmmaking on their own after college tend to be more focused and have more common-sense, life skills.

Additionally, there is something to be said for the notion that in order to be a filmmaker, you need to experience life first... so that you actually have something worthwhile to make a film about.  :)  Nonetheless, I, too, was passionate and eager to begin my film career so I went straight to film school after highschool. 

As for being a woman, I'll say that seeking a film career is no different from anything else you'll do in your life.  I actually just wrote in my blog about this very topic, in response to all of the "where are the women?" articles we've seen lately:  I am Not  a Female Cinematographer

I hope this helps.  Feel free to reach out. :)


Edited by Laura Beth Love, 18 January 2015 - 02:16 AM.

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#9 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 05:47 AM

There are many females working in the production end of television, it's an area where most directors start out in their career. If you wish to get into the NFTS you need to get yourself into the position where you can make some films to go with your application. Most film directors these days have a university education, although they may come through theatre rather than film studies, there are a number of routes.


I see. Thank you very much for the help. I'll think about the theatre option as well. Yes, I'll have to start building up a portfolio now if I were to have a chance.
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#10 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 05:56 AM

Hi Tabitha,
My best advice for you is to make films (videos, shorts, series, whatever you like) as much as you can.  Do it with you cellphone, or a DSLR, or seek out other indie filmmakers and work out a trade to borrow their cameras and sound gear...  Just make sure you are doing it. Often. 
 
My second best advice is to be wary of student loans.  Film is storytelling.   You don't need a degree to be a great storyteller.  You need practice.  You need to know "about people."  And you need a great story to tell.
 
Even if loans aren't an issue, be careful about spending lots of money on film school education.  Much of what you are paying for is the structure (imposed discipline), limited access to basic equipment, and a degree that may not be of use to you unless you change your career interests.  Your money may be better spent on gear, projects, and even your own self-directed education.
If you are disciplined, much of the education you seek is available online for free, or available for purchase in small chunks through training seminars, webinars, podcasts, etc.  You can even seek out a film professional directly and ask them to mentor you or give private lessons, .  Feel free to reach out. :)


The idea on finding film professional for teaching is a great. I appreciate your point on student loans and where else to spend your money. I'm going to start working on short 10-15 films, then building that up until I believe one is good enough to send into a competition or film festival. I've just done some research and I was first of all, looking at the 'black magic pocket cinema camera' but then I've heard mixed reviews on it, so I've decided on something much simpler, which is a canon. It's not too expensive, however I thought that it was the lenses and the lighting equipment that matter the most, not so much the body. I'll start working on ideas for films immediately. Thank you for the great help.
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 January 2015 - 10:42 AM

There's nothing much wrong with the Blackmagic pocket camera. I'd probably get one of those over a Canon stills camera. Either way, you've correctly identified that lighting is a big issue, as is production design. A lot of what looks like nice camerawork is actually nice production design.

 

Unfortunately, I can only say what I've said before on this forum - opportunities in the UK are exceptionally limited and you are aiming for the most difficult job in a very difficult industry. Unless you have an American grandparent via whom you can get a permit to live and work there, you're probably wasting your time. Sorry, but the truth is more useful.

 

P


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#12 John E Clark

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Posted 31 January 2015 - 09:53 PM

There's nothing much wrong with the Blackmagic pocket camera. I'd probably get one of those over a Canon stills camera. Either way, you've correctly identified that lighting is a big issue, as is production design. A lot of what looks like nice camerawork is actually nice production design.

 

Unfortunately, I can only say what I've said before on this forum - opportunities in the UK are exceptionally limited and you are aiming for the most difficult job in a very difficult industry. Unless you have an American grandparent via whom you can get a permit to live and work there, you're probably wasting your time. Sorry, but the truth is more useful.

 

P

 

Well... here's some news on the 'do it, damn it'... front...

 

A production used an iPhone, Filmic Pro app, and an anamorphic adapter...

 

http://www.filmicpro...o-iphone-video/

 

Here's an interview...

 

http://youtu.be/vHRUVLOlFpE

 

So, I'd say get shooting...


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#13 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 07:29 AM

There's nothing much wrong with the Blackmagic pocket camera. I'd probably get one of those over a Canon stills camera. Either way, you've correctly identified that lighting is a big issue, as is production design. A lot of what looks like nice camerawork is actually nice production design.
 
Unfortunately, I can only say what I've said before on this forum - opportunities in the UK are exceptionally limited and you are aiming for the most difficult job in a very difficult industry. Unless you have an American grandparent via whom you can get a permit to live and work there, you're probably wasting your time. Sorry, but the truth is more useful.
 
P


Thank you for your advice. Yes I understand the truth, which is I have a better chance in America, but being in England isn't going to stop me become what I want to become. I will just have to start up in London, then once I work and accumulate enough money, I will move to America; but right now I believe that it's more of a 'in reach goal' to begin in London, maybe at the BBC. I understand where you are coming from though and agree with you, but there are many British director and they must have started out in England.
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 09:32 AM

Bear in mind you can't just decide to move to the USA. There's a lot of paperwork to cover and you will have to achieve a fair amount of success here before you can get a working visa. And by that time, you're likely to have more than enough work to live on in the UK.

 

P


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#15 John E Clark

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 12:06 PM

Bear in mind you can't just decide to move to the USA. There's a lot of paperwork to cover and you will have to achieve a fair amount of success here before you can get a working visa. And by that time, you're likely to have more than enough work to live on in the UK.

 

P

 

How does immigration among the Commonwealth nations go? Not that I'd want to discourage immigration to the US... but it is difficult... and may not turn out to be the 'dream land' that is advertised in the propaganda...


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#16 Mark Dunn

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 12:11 PM

You can't just decide to immigrate here either, unless you live in another EU country.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 01 February 2015 - 12:11 PM.

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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 12:48 PM

I really wouldn't rule out going to Oxford University but that aside, like a lot of things in life, it all comes down to who you know and the relationships you have. It's not really much to do with your abilities or what you can learn at University or anything like that. It's who you know, not what you know.

Having a great sense of humour can take you much further than your cinematographic abilities. It's Moore's Law at work.

 

Buy a cheap digital camera. A Blackmagic pocket could be great, but beyond a certain point it doesn't matter as it will be out of date within a couple of years probably, just keep shooting and trying to learn more. Read a lot. Both books and here on this forum, you can learn things by asking questions on this forum too. Put a lot of effort into doing things, doing things helps a lot, and of course making new friends.

 

Freya


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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 04:43 PM

Bear in mind you can't just decide to move to the USA. There's a lot of paperwork to cover and you will have to achieve a fair amount of success here before you can get a working visa. And by that time, you're likely to have more than enough work to live on in the UK.
 
P

That, or marry an American. I have a sound recordist friend from London that went that route and is doing well here. Took him 3 years to re-establish himself but he's working all the time now.
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#19 Tabitha Newton

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 05:05 PM

Yes, I understand that, I can't just move to a country that simply. I was just thinking in the long run, but I do appreciate you bringing up the concerns and helping me.
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#20 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 05:17 PM

Lot's of film people starve in LA, the industry there does not provide work for everyone who wants it.  Is every USC film school grad making 7 figures a year in the film industry?

 

Mandy.com has about 15 pages of work for the UK and only 5 pages for Canada. Yes, a lot of that is unpaid, but, it does offer up a lot of leads and is free and easy to access.  Especially for people starting out.

 

R,


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