Film Maker - a soap box oratory

The terms “film making” and "film maker" are widely misused today. It is in part ignorance of the general public on technology and a distortion by video equipment manufacturers' marketing departments to push their products as something else, a film camera, without actually saying it. By having 24 frames, progressive scan, cine gamma setting (all great advancements by the way) as marketing bullet points, it is the illusion that one is purchasing a film camera. So instead of using the term “film making” I will use “movie making” while I am standing on this box, because I am old school and when I say film making, I truly mean it.

There are currently three different means of image capture in movie making. First there is film. Film is the original and still the best format, I believe, to work in for features or anything of quality. Film exposure latitude and color rendering is still the goal of digital cinema to equal. Bolex, Eclair, Arriflex, Moviecam, Panavision are examples of film cameras (some are over 30 years old and produce the best images in the world with film). Second is digital cinema. Sony’s F50/F55/F65, Panavision’s Genesis, Arriflex’s Alexa, Red Epic are examples of true digital cinema in size and scope (this list changes and is already outdated). All the rest is video, plain and simple.

Calling video, film, is like calling a canvas painted with acrylics an oil painting. If the person does not know any better, then it can be corrected with information and understanding. When the person knows the difference and chooses to ignore it, then it is prideful arrogance. It has been my experience with the instant gratification want-to-be local movie makers, that they are unknowingly being held hostage by the technology they purchase and do not really understand or appreciate the art and craft (and the hard work) it takes to create a narrative of quality. All art (as a human endeavor) has a technical component. The technology by itself is not art and only has an artistic component with a sentient choice being made at the controls. Even then, there is art and there is great art.

Do not get me wrong, shooting on video is a great way to gain flight time, but not if the person relies solely on the technology to define their talent as having knowledge of the art form they are reporting to be competent. (i.e., take away their equipment and they are handicapped.) It does not and should not matter if you shoot on Super8 or IMAX film, or record on tape or card with a consumer video camera, or save files on a hard drive with a digital cinema camera. With training, you can shoot with any of them, because framing, composition, depth of frame, camera movement and telling the story through the camera are skills not dependent upon the newest technology used. These skills developed over time and an artist eye, and especially a great set of lenses, are what allow you to become an accomplish cinematographer or director of photography and to call yourself as such.

Just because someone has the ability to purchase a set of golf clubs and a red shirt, does not make them a famous golfer. Call yourself a movie maker or a video maker or a videographer or a digital film maker, if you are working on video, But do not call yourself a film maker if you are not shooting on film and especially if you do not know the difference.

I know this is like holding both hands out to stop the wind from blowing and dictionaries are being re-written as you read this with the "new slang", but it's my soap box. End of speech.

Cinematographer (aka Director of Photography or DP)
by Phil Breman

Original Article Link Here

Job Description:
A cinematographer is also known as the director of photography or DP for short. They are the head of the camera department and it is their job to capture the photographic impression of the directors' vision. Although the director determines the action and blocking of a given scene, it is the DP who looks through the camera to catch the moment on film. The director gives his/her vision of a particular shot to the DP who then translates that into how the camera will capture it.

The Process:
The DP receives a "shot-list" from the director and then analyzes how each scene will be lit, which camera filters and lenses to use, as well as the position of the camera. They will put their crew into motion to make certain that they get as close as possible to what the director initially had in mind. The DP is in charge of all camera operators, camera assistants, focus pullers as well as the lighting crews. Following production, the DP is responsible for making sure that the processing of the film is done to his/her exact specifications to insure all elements captured while shooting remain intact.

Skills & Education:
To be a truly memorable cinematographer, there are a few skill sets you will want to master:

•Your Eye: Before the camera captures a shot, you will need to fully envision it in
your own mind first. This is one skill you need to develop now.

•Lighting: Study lighting. In every day life look around you and see how light works
to set a mood. You have to understand how to work with lighting to get the most out
of your shots.

•Study the Past: Study all movies and find out what it is about certain shots that
work for you and learn how they accomplished it.

•Technology: Stay up on the latest photographic technology. Technological skills
are great assets to have, but you also must have a passion for the craft of

At its core, cinematography is an art form. It is a craft that must be mastered. After all, it can often make or break a movie or television program. There are numerous examples of where a great movie could have been a mediocre movie had the cinematographer not been up to snuff. If you do end up going to film school, don't expect to start at the top as a DP. You will be expected to earn your way up the ladder through your hard work, passion, persistence, people skills and lastly, your talent.

Career Advice:
To get your foot in the door of a career as a DP, you must be willing to work extremely hard. Unlike a writer who simply needs to learn the craft and start writing, becoming a great DP isn't dependent on you learning your craft and shooting amazing shots on your own. You must learn the craft, perfect it and then earn the right to become a DP. The best way to accomplish this is by doing everything you can to learn from others. After all, as the old saying in Hollywood goes, "the people you meet today are the people who hire you tomorrow." So, when you're on a set, learn from anyone willing to teach you. A great DP understands the workings of the entire set and is eager to learn new things. Expect to start at the bottom and have no ego about it. You will gain the respect of those around you by doing so and they will be more eager to help you over the course of your career.

Notable Quotes

'Cinematography is a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than a simple recording of a physical event. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather , photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to affect one coherent process. These visual images for the cinema, extending from conception and pre-production through post-production to the ultimate presentation and all processes that may affect these images, are the direct responsibility and interest of the cinematographer. The images that the cinematographer brings to the screen come from the artistic vision, imagination and skill of the cinematographer as he or she works within a collaborative relationship with follow artists.'
- John Hora, ACS, American Cinematographer Manual, Ninth Edition (2004)

'Cinematography is not about equipment, technology or even beautiful sunsets or vista. I believe we affect the audience in a much more subtle way. It’s about composition and lighting and storytelling. I believe actors respond to light. Just look at a Rembrandt or Caravaggio painting, or any of the Dutch masters, and tell me light isn’t important.'
- Wally Pfister, ASC. Interviewed by Bob Fisher

'Contrary to popular belief, the manipulation of images in the digital world takes a great deal of skill. It offers no easy fix for those who are careless with their exposures, and there is no software that can compensate for poor lighting or shot conception. The closer the photographed image is to the filmmaker’s intent, the more control the DI suite avails the cinematographer.'

'I’m not suggesting for a moment that film should be consigned to the history books anytime soon, or that anamorphic is redundant (one recent blockbuster has disproved that idea); at the same time, I would not dissuade the use of 16mm or a cell phone to capture an image if that medium were appropriate. Only change is a certainty, and as members of the ASC, we need to encourage students of cinematography to find their own ways of seeing and their own ways of creating images in our changing industry. If there is a threat to the role of the cinematographer in the future, it will surely be the lack of vision.'
- Roger Deakins, ASC.

'Cinematographers generally regard themselves as visual artists rather than technicians. The art of cinematography requires an intuitive sense of light and composition as well as an understanding of how to fully utilize the technological elements of the medium. The artist in the cinematographer can see light in a way that many people cannot, and with the mastery of their craft they have the ability to re-create a certain light or look on film. In the same way a painter mixes and applies paint to a canvas, a cinematographer blends the various tools of their medium such as lights, gels, flags, silks, and filters to “paint” their canvas on celluloid. Many cinematographers have described themselves as “painters with light.”'
- Jacqueline B Frost, Cinematography for Directors, 2009

'The battle that we have to fight as cinematographers is to not let anybody treat us like we are consumers by using marketing techniques to push technology that's not better than what we have. Good enough isn't good enough. 24P is nowhere near the resolution of 35mm film, and if you put it side by side with anamorphic it's off the charts. There's not even a comparison. I don't see why we should settle for that and I don't see why the public should settle for it. I don't understand why we would use an inferior product to capture our images, when we want to see all the nuances and into the darkest details. I want to push the envelope. I don't think we have the power to fight this battle alone. The technology vendors have enough power and money to influence our art form. We need to get the directors on our side, because they have the clout.'
- Wally Pfister, ASC.

'I’m not suggesting for a moment that film should be consigned to the history books anytime soon, or that anamorphic is redundant (one recent blockbuster has disproved that idea); at the same time, I would not dissuade the use of 16mm or a cell phone to capture an image if that medium were appropriate. Only change is a certainty, and as members of the ASC, we need to encourage students of cinematography to find their own ways of seeing and their own ways of creating images in our changing industry. If there is a threat to the role of the cinematographer in the future, it will surely be the lack of vision.'
- Roger Deakins, ASC.

'I like the smell of film. I just like knowing there's film going through the camera.'
- Steven Spielberg

'Anybody can direct a picture once they know the fundamentals. Directing is not a mystery, it's not an art. The main thing about directing is: photograph the people's eyes.'
- John Ford

'Production is not for everyone and is hard work on any scale. It is a team environment (that includes cast, crew and staff) and all members need to be working at their "A" game level. Do not treat it like a part time hobby or you will not go far in this profession. You must have passion for and fun with your craft and confidence in your skills, or you should seriously think about doing something else.'
- David Pinkston

Collaboration is the key
(wearing too many hats will kill you and your production)

(with apology to the Bard)

To be, or not to be.
That is the question.
To suffer the slings and arrows of multiple hats
or just do my job as a cinematographer to the best of my ability.

I am not the Production Staff, whose job it is to do a script breakdown. I will work with the Director to discuss his or her vision of the story and annotate the number of camera setups for each scene from script breakdown and blocking.

I am not the Location Manager, whose job it is to search for initial and candidate locations and provide contracts. I will consult with the Director about visual story relevancy and tech scout final candidate locations for production logistics.

I am not the Set Designer, whose job it is to work on location and in studios to build, dress and design the set to tell the story. I will work closely with the Director and Production Designer about the visual look of the production and how that is going to be accomplish logistically.

I am not the Line Producer, whose job it is to hire crew. I will provide a professional crew list of positions needed to fulfill the Director’s vision based upon script breakdown, candidate locations and set design.

I am not the First Assistant Director, whose job it is to prepare call sheets and schedules. I will approve reasonable work schedules for days and turnarounds based upon script breakdown, candidate locations, set design and professional crews.

I am not the Unit Production Manager, whose job it is to rent equipment and purchase supplies. I will recommend appropriate equipment and supplies needed based upon script breakdown, candidate locations, set design, professional crews and reasonable schedules.

I am not the Producer, whose job it is to assemble a budget. With information from all of the above, (script breakdown, candidate locations, set design, professional crews, reasonable schedules, appropriate equipment and supplies) the Producer can have a production staff do a budget assembly.

Film, Filmmaker - Definition, noun form

FILM - comes from Middle English, from Old English in the form of filmen
Tracing the history: One indication of the gulf between us and our Victorian
predecessors is that the Oxford English Dictionary fascicle containing the
word film, published in 1896, does not have the sense "a motion picture."
The one hint of the future to be found among still familiar older senses of
the word, such as "a thin skin or membranous coating" or "an abnormal thin
coating on the cornea," is the sense of film used in photography, a sense
referring to a coating of material, such as gelatin, that could substitute
for a photographic plate or be used on a plate or on photographic paper.
Thus a word that has been with us since Old English times took on this new use,
first recorded in 1845, which has since developed and now refers to an art form,
a sense first recorded in 1920.

Noun - film
a. a sequence of images projected onto a screen, creating the illusion of movement
b. 1. a form of entertainment in such a sequence of images. Related: adjective, cinematic
2. a thin flexible strip of cellulose coated with a photographic emulsion, used to make
negatives, inter-negatives, inter-postives, work prints, release prints and slides
3. a thin coating, covering, or layer: a fine film of dust covered the floor
4. a thin sheet of any material, as of plastic for packaging

Noun - filmmaker
a producer of motion pictures
film maker, film producer, movie maker

Explanations and Definitions

Motion Picture Film