7.07.2009

Quick notes on cinematography

A quick "filler post" while I try to get something actually substantial written:

The most hits I get for my blog are from people searching keywords like "female cinematographers" "cinematography career path" and "how to be a great cinematographer."

I can really only offer my own personal (young) experience.

My favorite DP's (who just so happen to be girls) are:

Ellen Kuras (Away We Go, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Rain Li (Paris, je t'aime, Paranoid Park)
Mandy Walker (Australia, Shattered Glass)
Amelia Vincent (Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan)
Nancy Schreiber (The Nines)
Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler, We Don't Live here Anymore)

You should definitely check them out. I've written about a couple of them. You can find those posts by clicking "Girl DP Profiles" link under the blog title image.

As for a career path, I am still figuring that out myself. I remember listening to DP Alexander Buono about how he got to the point of finally shooting features. He worked as assistant camera and camera op for a while until he got a steady gig shooting those comedic commercials for Saturday Night Live. He eventually worked his way up to cinematographer, and has shot quite a number of films, including Green Street Hooligans and Bigger Stronger Faster. It took him around 10 years to get to the level he is at currently. And that's the big number I learned at USC as well. It will take you about 10 years on average to become "successful" (in big Hollywood terms) in your field.

All I can advise is get onto set. Get on a camera crew, whether it is PA, assistant camera, camera op, or the person who cleans dirt off the camera cases. Watch the DP. Listen to the DP. Ask questions of the DP and camera crew. Whatever you're doing, even if it's the most inane and boring job on set, do it spectacularly and be incredibly happy to do it. People will notice your attitude. Make friends, but especially with the camera crew, not just the DP. (Also make buddies with the assistant director. They can give great recommendations.) Learn everything you can. Get a camera (still SLR or camcorder) and explore your own style. Try something new everyday.


Annnd, as for how to be a great cinematographer:

Remember you are telling a story. And serve that story with humility, loyalty, creativity, passion, and open eyes.

And either make sure you know what you're doing, or get really good at wingin' it.


(Another post on "knowing [sorta] what you're doing" is in mid-write, as well as some reflections on being a female cinematographer thus far in my journey. Should be interesting.)

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