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How To Start?

Nick Ganesh

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Hello guys I really wasnt to be a DP or cinemagtorapher and Im not sure how to go about this. I am still only 14 but I do not konw how or when to start. Can somebody please point me in the right direction?


Note: I use a canon hf200



Hi, Nick!


I wrote a book precisely for those like YOU! I urge you to read "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood," specifically chapters 1-5 and the entire Camera Department section. Ideally you'll read it all just to get an idea of what it takes for EVERYONE on set to get the job done, but also carefully read the sections on Electric, Grip, and Directing.


Also, I highly recommend that you spend time learning the basics of photography with a STILL camera that enables you to manually adjust everything (shutter, aperture, film speed/ASA/ISO, focus, focal length). You need to fully understand how changing one thing affects others and your picture. You'll go from just pointing the camera to fully controlling the images that you shoot.


You'll also need to understand LIGHTING. All too often, the question that most aspiring Cameramen and Directors ask is "what camera should I buy?" Almost never do they also ask "what lighting equipment should I buy?" and that's a big mistake. Arguably, lighting is a larger part of the job than the camera is. Learning what lighting equipment to use and how to control the lights you turn on is vital to becoming a Cameraman and building a viable career.


In addition to the book I mentioned first, there are many many photography and lighting books out there (many recommended on this site) to help you with the basics. I also urge you to get out there and volunteer and/or get an internship with a working professional Cameraman. You can find them at or through local production companies and equipment rental houses. You'll be helping to carry cases and clean cases and just be around to help out with manual labor, but most established Cameramen will be more than happy and willing to bring you on and teach you throughout the days. You should do all the book learning on your own that you can so that you'll understand more of what you're watching your mentors do in real life situations. Since you're so young, you have time to find multiple people to shadow. Getting as much experience with as many people as possible will give you a better breadth of experience so that when you're out there on your own, you'll be able to draw on what you've experienced.


I also highly recommend that you invest time in EDITING. Shoot your own material and then edit it. Take the camera and gather a few people and just shoot without concern for lighting or anything else beyond putting shots together to tell a quick story. Then take those shots and cut them together. This is an exercise for you to concentrate on what types of shots you need and don't need and how better to shoot on set. Only when you sit down to edit will you see what works and what causes problems that you'd have to "cut around."


Many people in your situation also ask "What's the best filmschool?" This assumes that you need a filmschool in the first place. I always recommend a higher education for everyone for all the benefits that education offers. But majoring in film and/or aiming for a film degree won't necessarily help you get a job or build a career. Depending upon the school and when you go, the potential benefits of taking film classes are that you might have access to equipment (camera, lighting, editing) that you can't afford at home...and you might meet other aspiring filmmakers who you will befriend and you'll all become wildly successful together. This business works almost exclusively on networking...who you know, who knows you and what you're capable of creating within time and budget. Getting out and meeting people in school or through internships/volunteering is crucial to you learning how to apply the fundamentals and to getting opportunities to shoot projects.


A lot of this is in the book I mentioned above, but there is much more that there isn't room to write in here.


Good luck!

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I recommend American Cinematographer Magazine. This publication is put out by the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), and contains a wealth of information. Their website: theasc.com has a store that sells all kinds of items needed on set, and books on how to use about everything in making movies. The members of the ASC has been involved in more great films than I could list here, and they have been around since 1919.


Of course you found one of the best places to learn on-line. This site! Many of the users here are working professionals.


Practice with a still camera using film is good, but I would suggest getting an 8mm movie camera. They are pretty cheap, but the price of film will teach you to be efficient. This will help you understand the process of script to screen. A projector can often be found in thrift stores for less than $20.00, but make sure it works and the bulb is not burned out.


If you want to be a DP or cinematographer, people will take you more seriously if you have shot on film.

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:) Just trying to help.


Yes Brian we love to tease you. ;)


I am writing a competing book to yours, "How To Get Out Of The Film Industry And Do Some Thing Else."



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When I was your age, I wanted to be a cinematographer as well. I read the American Cinematographer magazine and anything on film. I spent a very short time in LA, then life took me in another direction (of which I am very happy with). Nevertheless, I encourage you to make films and put them on YOUTUBE, finish High School, go to college (USC, UCLA, or some other reputable film school). Live in LA or NYC and become a production assistant, or apprentice under a DP you admire. Network with everyone you can in the film industry. Study films you love. Watch them over and over. And, ask questions on cinematography.com. This community is wise and generous. I wish you the very best. Gary

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I remember when I was in High School, way back in the late 1980s. The school Guidance Counselor gave me a copy of American Cinematographer to look at.


I loved the photos and honest ly tried to read the articles, but for a newbie like me at that time, I might as well have been reading hieroglyphics from a pyramid wall. Talk of film stock numbers and equipment I had never heard of made my head spin. With no context to put that information into, all I came away with was the knowledge that I didn't know anything at all.


What was worse for me in Ohio was not having the guidance or resources to find out anything. Random "Hollywood anecdote" books at the local library were fun, but did NOTHING to help me know where to go, what to do, or how to find out anything at all. It seemed that "Hollywood" was very far away (it was) and that it was closed off unless you had family inside.


That was partially true.


American Cinematographer is an ok magazine for established professionals, but it is not written so that "newbies" will get much practical knowledge out of it. The best thing for a "newbie" to do is to learn the basics of photography, get out to "shadow" an experienced Cameraman, and to then shoot film and/or video on his own...and then EDIT it afterward. Once the aspiring Cameraman gets some book knowledge and practical experience under his/her belt, then the info in a pro mag like AC will start to make more sense and be somewhat useful.

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