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class="Paragraph" Camera Workshops & Advice

Published : 1st February 2004


Recently, I was asked by some very nice people at the Bristol 'Brief Encounters' short film festival if I would attend a seminar/workshop for three hours as a mentor or teacher (or whatever) for a group of (mainly) new film makers before they set out to complete a five minute film in three days.

Having worked in the film industry in some capacity since 1981, and having made a reasonable living as a drama and commercial DP since 1987, this still threw up a lot of conundrum wrapped in enigmas, as it were. What can you teach or advise in three hours to, at the time, three teams, that would actually be of benefit to their production.

Whilst being no stranger to such rapid film making myself, I have always been able to call on my experience, at the highest and lowest ends of film production, to make whatever limitations available work within the context of the challenge. However my dilemma last week was, what should I concentrate on to motivate and not overwhelm my students and how to avoid appearing to teach my granny how to suck eggs? I wrote a few guide sheets covering the subjective importance of composition, eye lines, basic lighting continuity and theory blah blah blah, but this ended up opening, as they say, a whole new can of whoopass. It also reminded me of the countless film theory and practical tomes out there which I have either bought or skimmed through, and of their limited use to the reader if he or she does not already have a reasonable grounding in the theory, science and art of film making or photography.

Now, I thought it would be a decent (and maybe profitable) idea to put together either an on-line or printed guide covering all aspects of film and video production aimed at such beginners, but also make it professional enough for it to still be a useful source of advice and reference to more established lighting and camera people either looking at other disciplines or still at the early stages of their career, without being baffling or, dare I say it, condescending.

So, after the waffle, the reason of this posting. What do you think is or are the most important rudiments of lighting/camerawork? What advice would you give to beginners (and professionals)? Would you be interested in contributing to and aiding such a reference work? Do you have opposite opinions to mine? Is this idea, in principle, wrong or am I wasting my time?

The amazing contrasts of excellent advice available on CML proves to me that, with a lot of research and forethought, this could actually work and be of some actual use.

Looking forward to your replies.

Regards

Chris Maris



I had a very unpleasant experience at the last beginning filmmakers I workshop I spoke at. The organizers tried to cram too much into one day, and I ended up being the heavy.

>What do you think is or are the most important rudiments of >lighting/camerawork?

You have to be realistic as to what you can accomplish in the amount of time you have to present.

I would say the two most important things that beginning filmmakers can learn are to use lighting and use a tripod. Most are under the impression that if a camera has good low light capabilities, you don't need to light and if it has image stabilization, you don't need a tripod.

> What advice would you give to beginners...

- Be prepared: have a storyboard and shot list but don't be married to them
- Don't do everything yourself
- Hire a crew and don't try to cut corners
- The more you treat a project like a 35mm film shoot the
more it'll look like a 35mm film shoot.

> ...(and professionals)?

A student is most interested in what you teach him or her. A student is not really concerned with what you teach the rest of the class.

>Would you be interested in contributing to and aiding such a reference >work?

Yes.

>Do you have opposite opinions to mine? Is this idea, in principle, wrong >or am I wasting my time?

No, but at some point it becomes re-inventing the wheel. There's a lot of "how to make a film" books and websites out there with truly horrible advice.

I've thought about approaching Geoff with the idea of a CML sponsored book for first time filmmakers (geared towards the DV crowd because they've been given so much misinformation) but it'd be tricky to pull off.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



>So, after the waffle, the reason of this posting. What do you think is or >are the most important rudiments of lighting/camerawork?

Start with one light, really work on / work AT seeing what it does, and work from there one light at a time.

Camera tape the zooms at a single focal length and learn to see spatially.

Sam Wells



Jessica Gallant write :

>I've thought about approaching Geoff with the idea of a CML sponsored >book for first time filmmakers

Happy to help in anyway

That's what CML is for...

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



I think that this is an excellent idea and this information is much needed considering the dubious quality of some forms of tutoring available on a worldwide basis. If you do want to compile such a body of work we (the BKSTS) would be in total support and offer any assistance (apart from financial!) that we can.

Best regards,

Wendy Laybourn - Director
BKSTS - The Moving Image Society
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks SL0 0NH



>What do you think is or are the most important rudiments of >lighting/camerawork? What advice would you give to beginners (and >professionals)?

Can of worms well and truly opened Chris! I don’t think there are any simple answers as each situation requires a different approach. I used to teach a ‘basic’ S16 course at Four Corners in London a few years ago, so students knew what to expect. I taught an award winning short-film course to students shooting on, of all things, VHS!, again ‘we’ all knew what to expect. More recently I taught some short-film workshops and what I’ve found to be the hardest aspect is format. If students know they will be learning the ‘art’ of making a project on VHS – then you know what to give them. The same applies to whatever format you are teaching – and not just acquisition – genre of course comes into it. Then of course the sound implications, editing platforms etc etc. I just think that like a business, once you know your market, you target it appropriately.

Best of luck.

Robert Pickles
ACT. Australia.



Jessica

Thanks for you advice and support.

Regards

Chris Maris
UKDP