The film industry is unique, and cinematography is no different.
There isn’t one objective route to the top. Sure, there is the ‘traditional’ journey of film school or a film degree, but this isn’t the only way.
Whether you go through the academic route or not, the one constant is a good resume.
Your resume is what will get your foot in the door, so it is imperative that yours is up to scratch, so read on to see what exactly that means.
As I’m sure you know, a cinematographer is responsible for the aesthetics of a film, primarily the colors, lighting, and camera work.
Therefore a good cinematographer needs to have a list of specific skills and knowledge such as;
- An eye for detail
The finer details enhance the end product, so you have to be aware of every minute aspect, to make your work better and prevent mistakes before they happen.
- Thorough understanding of lighting and color
Every decision you make should be justified. There should be an objective reason for every choice.
- Strong knowledge of camera and filming equipment
You need to get the most out of your equipment, no matter how expensive or how old it is. Make sure you can manipulate the technology to suit your goals.
- Strong communication and teamwork
A film is a lot of moving parts, so you need to be able to work with other people of varying levels – people with higher authority to you, lower authority, and those on the same playing field.
- Flexible approach and range
You may work with directors or teams who have a set way of doing things. You need to be able to adapt quickly to their methods.
These are only a few of the skills needed, but as you can see, there are a lot of requirements.
Cinematography is demanding, but like most creative jobs, it is also highly gratifying.
A common problem for aspiring cinematographers is a lack of experience or, more specifically, where to get it.
However, it is easier than you think.
Before you start, though, there are some things that you must do.
Experience is meant to apply and develop your knowledge. Therefore you need to build the foundation for it to flourish.
This means researching on;
- Colour theory
There are 1001 books and videos on these, so read and watch as much as you can on these topics.
I recommend learning the basics of directing and editing as well because these are 2 teams you will be working very closely with in the future.
Therefore a good understanding of their roles and the process will probably help your overall effectiveness.
Furthermore, with smaller projects, you may have to double up on roles, e.g., working as a cinematographer and a director.
For cinematographer roles, you will need a portfolio which is examples of your work.
This could be on a dedicated website or your social media like youtube, Linkedin, Twitter, etc., as long as it is in a presentable format.
Experience Ideas for Beginner Cinematographers
As a beginner with a limited budget & equipment, you could start with casual videos with your friends.
This could be as simple as recording a day out on your phone.
Most phones nowadays have shooting abilities from acceptable to amazing, so you can use them to get a feel for cinematography.
Obviously, no matter how good a phone camera is, it won’t compare to a dedicated camera, but beginners should wait before such a big buy.
These videos most likely won’t go on your portfolio, but transforming a day out into something reminiscent of a short film will give you a chance to apply what you’ve learned.
Another option for someone younger and inexperienced is to make promotional videos for your school.
Offer to record your school’s sports match, extracurricular activities, or even just a regular school day.
Not only will it give you experience, but your school could use it in its newsletter or even as promo, which could be used for your portfolio.
If you’re more acquainted with cinematography and have better equipment, then you may be able to profit off your abilities while building your resume.
Use social media and sites like Fiverr to find people hiring for their projects.
As I mentioned, you may need to edit or direct as well, but this will only benefit you in the long run.
Doing this full-time or part-time should slowly give you enough to better your equipment, skills and build your portfolio.
At this stage, you should be able to confidently apply for mentorship schemes or work experience in your area, which will open many doors for you!
This method I have described may be slower than some would like, but you need to start somewhere.
Jumping straight to the top will lead to a whole host of problems, so slow and steady is the way to go.
A good foundation is critical.
The professional world of media can seem daunting at first, but you just have to take it one step at a time.
Slowly build up your resume, and then eventually, you’ll be ready to take on the big dogs.
It will take time and patience, but if you’re passionate about it, I promise you it will pay off!
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