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An Ethical (Sort of) Question

Jesse Rosato

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I don't know how many of you out there are of the younger demographic, in this case let's say under 25, but I am one such person.


Now, I will be directing an independent feature (my second) with principal photography beginning in a couple of months. I am a little bit worried about being taken seriously on set by a cast and crew that will be both more experienced and older than myself.


While I would never lie about my experiences, I am considering stretching my age a bit. Make myself out to be in my late twenties as opposed to my early twenties. This issue is one that really has me worried. I've even started growing a beard to try and make myself look a little older.


I don't know if anyone has any experience in a similar situation, but is this a good idea, or one doomed for failure? I'm particularly worried about a somewhat cameo appearance by an older name actor who has worked with some of the great directors of our time.


Does age make a difference in your experience?

Am I worrying about nothing?


-Jesse Rosato

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Something I have had to address more than a few times.


It is a hard situation being younger and often less experienced than the crew. This is why it is absolutely critical to know what you want. Don?t go back and forth with indecision (I am not saying not to second guess an idea, just be prepared), or as a fellow more experienced than myself puts it; don?t "fiddle fu*k around" while the crew awaits a form of direction (crew applies more to me, as a cinematographer, than you, as a director).


It is important to present yourself as a leader with a plan, because after all, you should be.


That said, there are just some people who have a problem with a younger guy in a leadership position. These also tend to be people with faux experience, and padded resumes.


I meet with every crew member who will be on the show. I try to work with people who I have past experience, as this provides some comfort. I also have a gaffer whose judgment of people I trust very much. Thus, when we need more personal, I go to him.



Kevin Zanit

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It is stupid but your beard idea is not that daft, when I was directing commercials I know that in the meetings where I looked older and more haggered I gained more respect. I actually stopped turning up clean shaven for meetings after finding out that a client thought I looked young (I was 27 at the time). Its up to you if you lie, most people wont ask unless you act "young". The other thing to remember is how many actors do you think use there own age? Finally the irony of course is that SOHO (London) is filled with middle aged directors dressed like teenagers to act "hip and cool" for the advertising and music promo commisioners.



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You might get LESS respect by trying to cover it up. Instead, don't hide from it and try to enlist the 'help' of other older personnel. "Hey, I'm just a babe in arms here so I appreciate any help you more experienced guys can give me" might be a good ice breaker. (Though you wouldn't want to give the impression you have no experience or knowledge).


So, yeah, being well prepared would go a long way to showing you know what you're doing but listening to the others, as well as asking them for advice, would gain you some respect.


I remember my first job on a set of the top production company in town. I walked into a room behind one guy who was asking where "that kid" went. I was already nervous as hell.

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While I would never lie about my experiences, I am considering stretching my age a bit. Make myself out to be in my late twenties as opposed to my early twenties.

If you're working with any kind of experienced crew, they will see through this in the first two minutes.


If you go in confident that you know what you want, you're crew should respond to that, and a few years here or there won't matter. Concentrate on the job at hand.

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I wouldn't be too concerned about this; I'm 25 and just wrapped my second feature as the cinematographer. We had some talent of some recognition and on the first day of meeting them, one of them asked how old I was, commenting that I was younger than they expected. I was honest and their response was "Oh, that's great. Looking forward to a good shoot." It wasn't abig deal at all.


As everyone else has said, if you go in knowing what you want, age won't matter to professionals.


Let us know how it goes.

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Though I'm slightly older than you (30) I've run into age issues a couple of times.


The first was when I began working with a particular gaffer who has definitely more experience than I do. He's about ten years older than me and at first I thought that he thought I was just some non-technical, inexperienced hack--he's super technical, can quote any bit of technical data you like, if you think you might want it built it's already done. After working with him a few times I discovered that what I thought was disbelief of my abilities was really admiration for what I was doing.


The second was more recently on a documentary shoot that I DP'd. There's one short studio section that was done at a university TV station. I always thought the two older guys that ran the studio were looking at me like I was insane and talking too quickly. Maybe that was less related to age than that these guys were vaguely aging hippy types on some work slow vibe and that's about 180 degrees away from me.


If you present yourself like you know what you want, have confidence in yourself and at the same time aren't afraid to ask for advice if you need it I'm sure you'll be fine. Professionalism is way more important than age.

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You will have to make mistakes in order to learn your chosen field.

I would not want anybody working for me who has not made mistakes

and learned from them. Be confident,assertive,show that you care about

what you are doing,trying to accomplish, be human. "LISTEN" to what

other people have to say. Buy the coffee once and a while! Treat them

the way you like to be treated. Focus on your objective! If you get a

chance take some acting classes and it will help you immensely!


Greg Gross, 56 yrs old

Professional Photographer(whatever that means)

Just learning/turning to cinematography


Ranger 1/16 rangers 1st Infantry Division,recon 9th

Infantry Division,Sgt., Vietnam

At one time step-father to 4 daughters(still am, they call)

Never quit,never quit, never quit, never quit!

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Be yourself. I think people will respect you if you are upfront and honest. They can smell a phony and that's how you'll lose their respect.


I think in the long run you'll feel better about keeping your integrity intact.

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Aside from being yourself, Jesse, let me chime in and allow me to interject some additional suggestions.


I). Be prepared. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare !!!! You mention that you have a couple of months. Be overly prepared. You want people to respect you above and beyond. Be Prepare. There is something wrong when the director is not prepared. Reeks of "inexperienced". Work with your DP on all the shots. Make it so that you and your dp finish each other's shot. Come into the set and make sure you have an agenda, shot list, crew list, etc. Print copies for the crew, and hold regular meetings from now until principal photography to make sure your vision comes through, and take suggestions from everyone(doesn't mean that you will implement them). But if you only have your vision in your head how is everyone else going to execute it for you. As said before here, be honest and let your crew know this is your first time, but if you are prepared beyond prepare, they will forgive you and actually earn your respect faster. Most likely, they will feel, if this guy wen to the trouble to do all this, means he is willing to learn and he has an agenda. And people respect that. Think about how you have felt when you have gone to meetings when there was no agenda. "INEXPERIENCED". But when someone young is at the head of hte table. Jeeez. It becomes "Young Hot poop that doesn't know crap, who does he think he is wasting my time".


II). Use your words judiciously. What I mean by it, is, someone suggest your main actor wears a blue shirt the day of the shooting, or someone suggest something else. Don't just shout "I don't like bue", or "I don't like your idea". How about "Hmmm. Never thought of blue as the main character's color, but how does it fit into the story?". Bounce back suggestions, and watch how quickly they fade away. There is a huge difference between retorting arruptly vs amicably. This one is more in the liking of "MATURITY" vs "IMMATURE".


III). Be honest, If you don't know the answer, say so. If you want it your way, say so, but see above. Be cordial.


IV). Don't have your friends be the actors or grip or anything else. Erstwhile, I was in a shoot, where one of the main characters was the directors best friend. What a catastrophy. While everyone else on the set was expected to be at their most proffesional behavioiur, this actor, being a directors friend, was making a jester out of himself and out of the director. He would yell cut when he flubbed the lines. He would yell for "Makeup" after camera began roll. He would pickup his cell phone and pretend he got a call from some Hollywood big shot. Guess what. I don't really care much about him, but I never worked with the director again, nor everyone else from that shoot. Friends can spoil your image but also work for you, see next point.


V). If you feel, have a confidant on the set that has nothing to to with the movie, and doesn't care about being in the movies, but rather, is a trusted individual that would keep an eye out on your behaviour. Someone that you can trust to diffuse you in case things get heated. I know sounds silly but at the 13th hour and the 75th take, things can start getting pretty unplesant.


VI). Want people to stay in line and focused with your vision. Go to an art store, and get some of those boards that you can insert pins and on each day, pin your shot list, storyboards, crew list, crew times, lunch times, driving directions etc. That shows expirience. This way, it will allow you to point to the board in case anyone has any questions about anything. After a couple of times, everyone will know where to go in case they need an answer and guess what. If you have a sheet of paper that says LUNCH 1:30pm. Guess what? Miraculously, lunch will be at 1:30PM and someone on the crew will know when to call it in and tap you on the shoulder to let you know lunch has arrived rather than go up to you and keep pestering you while you are working with your actors.


and last, I promise, I know I wrote a bible....


VII). Thank everyone and everyone for a wonderful job at the end of each day, or for hard sence to film. Go to each one of your crew and thank them for their hard work to make your vision come true. Pat them on the back, the little things. If one of your crew needs to head home to walk their dog, but is at the middle of a scene and is a protracted scene, walk up to them and whisper, hey its ok to go an walk your dog/whatever, we have the scene under control. Guess what, that person right then and there will not only earn your respect but also work that much harder when they comes back. And last but not least, throw a wrap party. Use your directors charm and woo a restaurant to give you discount if you have budgetary concerns, but take some $$ and take your crew/cast out to a dinner even if it is at a pizza joint and you have had pizza three days in a row. Man, nothing beats a director that is greatful. Thank everyone and make fun of tense situations, and let them know how much you appreciate their effort into making your movie and how they helped you achieve it even though you know you are young and wished for more experience etc....


Some of the suggestions here, are just that, based on your fear of not being taking too seriously because you are young. I have been on both spectrums, but what has saved my butt has been the fact that I have practiced some of the above suggestions. Just the fact that you shared with us the fear that you have says a lot about you and that you are willing to listen and learn and that you know your place. I think you will do a good job just because it takes a lot of cojones to recognize that.


Good luck to you and let us know how it works out and I apologize to you and the rest of the board for writing too much :-)



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I think we ALL carry insecurities about ourselves and our abilities; the key is to not be driven by these insecurities to act badly. I've worked with insecure people who manifest it by screaming at everyone and demanding respect all the time because they think they aren't getting any. And of course, the more they scream for respect, the less they get it.


If you deal with insecurity by being hyper-prepared (for example, look at my storyboards!) then it's not so bad as some other manifestations...


Act professionally, be prepared, be polite, be specific about what you want, be flexible -- and be honest. You do those things and you'll already be ahead of half the people out there in the film industry!


But don't make a big show out of your age and lack of experience because then you just look like you lack confidence. I always get nervous about dailies but I try not to pass those insecurities onto the director and producers.


I would never lie about anything like my age -- that's like lying on a resume to get a job. I might just not bring it up and hope no one else does either. I think that promoting an untruth will eventually come back to haunt you.


As for trying to look older and more mature, that's not such a bad idea -- it's not really "lying" anymore than wearing a tie to a job interview is lying.


I've never been good about "selling" myself to people so I always figured that I had to get ahead by simply being good at what I did and hope someone noticed.

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All good advice, I wouldn't worry about your age. No one will probably even ask and I doubt anyone on the crew is going to read your resume.


I long ago learned that I have the unfortunate personality trait of being "aloof or stuck up." Actually I'm not, I'm just so focused on what I'm doing I forget to acknowledge people standing a few feet away. So I make it a point to say Hello and shake the hand of the first guy I see on set because that always puts me in the mindset that I have to communicate with everybody. Not communicating constantly with the crew will get people pissed off faster than anything. Such as if there is some delay and everybody is ready to shoot, I always simply say "hang loose a bit guy's...we're work something out." Just communicate what your plan is for each scene in detail, don't expect people to just know what you're thinking. Once you've given them enough to go on, they'll run with it in confidence. Also, if you don't know the department heads well, don't ask their assistants to do something, ask them, even though you're the director, I've seen a gaffer get very mad about that.


On top of that if anyone gets mad and trouble starts, diffuse it, we've all seen "the aside." Like when the producer takes the director aside and says, "The DP feels you're not acknowledging any of his suggestions and you are making things harder than necessary on everybody. Besides, you know that DP's are right all the time anyway." :D

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I too have that problem of being too focused and I have a tendency to let the Director direct and keep meself out of the troubles. Luckily for me, I have gotten to know some of the crew that has helped me in the past really well and they have thick skin too and can trade barbs really good with me when I get too focused and reticent. I have learned to smile and kind of make funny goofy faces when things go kaput. It releives some of that aloofnes....



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You guys are, excuse the french, f-ing awesome. I would never dream of showing up on set being anything less than overly prepared, but you guys made some great suggestions for accomplishing that. I think that lying about age is probably less than a good idea, but I will shoot for an older look, grow a beard, get some glasses, put on a crappy old baseball hat that says: "director" and do my best Spielberg. (Just kiddin about the baseball hat and Spielberg thing.) Thanks again for all the advice.


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  • 2 months later...
Guest dpforum1968

I was in a similar situation when I finished film school. I was hired as a full producer right out of school by one of Canada's national networks in Toronto, called CTV. I was 25.


The people I worked with like the editors, sound mixers, camera people, where all late thirties to their 50s.


I endeared myself to all of them by walking around and saying things like:


1) I'm 25 and I make double what you do, and you're 55!!


2) Hey your car is in my parking spot, move it!! (yes I had a spot with my name on it, not lying)

This was not taken well by the people that had been there for 20+ years and had to park in the general lot.


3) Get back to work or you're fired!! (always a crowd pleaser)


4) I lost my key to the executive washroom, have you seen it?


5) Is the limo here to take me to the airport yet?


Just a few helpful suggestions.



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Yes, I have a tendency not to talk much on the set (except about old movies and "Star Trek"), which some people take as unfriendliness or aloofness.  I just get so focused on the work that it's hard to step back an engage in simple pleasantries.



Heh, I do that too, actually. Not everybody take it in stride.





I would say don't lie about your age. Like others ahve said, be prepared, be professional, don't be too commanding and shouty and you'll gain respect. it might not be there initially, too.

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Don't boss anybody around in front of everyone else, just do it one on one.


Yeah. That's a BIG no-no. The sound tech and I were having a disagreement in a room one day. It escalated to the point where the director (who I'd been working closely with for about a year) reamed me out in-front of my crew. Did I contribute to this? Of course I did. But there was no need for him to have a temper tantrum in-front of everyone. And I walked off the set. A bit drastic, yes, but I wasn't even getting paid. I was doing this project because I was enjoying it.


That was the last film I worked on.


As for the age thing, I really don't advise going with anything that "makes you look old." If you know what you're doing, believe in what you're doing, and have a clear vision for your cast and crew, that's what people respect. Not how many gray hairs you have.


Good luck and don't forget to have fun.

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My name is DEEPAK KUMAR PADHY and I am a young and well-experienced cinematographer from INDIA. I am really interested to work in foreign films, which has a good standard of filmmaking. I am in this profession right from my age of 12 years because my father is a well-known cinematographer and Ad filmmaker in INDIA and a recipient of several prestigious awards. I did my diploma in cinematography in FILM AND TELEVISION INSTITUTE OF TAMIL NADU, INDIA, which is a government-authorized institute. I have worked as a Operative cameraman and associate cameraman for more than 15 feature films and several Advertisement films. I have worked as Director of photography for 3 ad films (35mm and cinemascope), 2 short films (16mm and 35mm) and one feature film which is under production and is a high budget Bengali film (Indian language), cinemascope with all latest equipments right from ARRI 435 extreme, Giraffe crane, Akela crane etc.

Age is not at all a factor in film making. I am of a very young age probably people use to say you are very young to your profession but when they watch the output of the celluloid they congradulate on my work.

Experience in film making is nothing but your exposure to good films and your perspective of watching a film rather than being a general audience.

I have attached some of my works up to date. Go through it.




Thank You. My e-mail: dollscamera@yahoo.co.in







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