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Where did you get your training as a DP?


George Ebersole
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Worked on sets... did undergrad @ Temple University but that's not really "training as a DoP."

 

I think you're answering your own question, pal ;) might as well add AFI Conservatory, another 'serious' one.

 

But yeah, I know what curiosity feels like, so I'm curious to know as well despite obvious guesses.

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I hate to sound negative, but this is like the umpteenth post I've put up here with few serious replies. No offense meant to you guys, Liam and Adrian.

 

I'm wondering if I should blow thousands of dollars by going back to school, or investing a few thousand into one of SONY's programs to get certified on their stuff.

 

Is the Art Academy a good choice? Should I send my transcript down to USC or UCLA and try to get into their grad programs? Locally in the Bay Area we have BAVC, the SF Art Institute, State, SF City College, and a few other places.

 

I've got lots of support training, some hands on camera ops experience, but no formal tech training. I can't load a mag on either an Arri or a Panaflex. I can thread a projector, but not a camera (is there a diffrerence?). I used to do 35mm still photography years back, does that help?

 

I've laid dolly track, pushed various Chapmans and Fishers, and assembled and torn apart cranes. Hell, I've even sat on a dolly and looked through the eyepiece. But, not to repeat myself too much, I've never pulled the trigger or pressed the button and shot anything on 35mm.

 

The closest I've done is BETACAM and home 1/2" VT.

 

I'm really lost here, and would really like any real world advice anyone can give.

 

Am I pursuing a pipe dream? Am I wasting my time?

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Best advice I can give you would be save the money, live off of it and work and work and work. Degree won't get you that far. Hell, you could save money and rent a camera or two load some film, shoot some tests. School was great, but personally I learned a lot more just sitting 'round a set seeing what's going on than I ever learned in film school (which was just writing about movies I was forced to watch).

Problem is, we can only speak for ourselves, ya know? How I did what I did worked for me... doesn't work for everyone.

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George: The archives contain several threads where we have gone at it at length. I'd suggest looking there.

 

In a nutshell, I am with Adrian. Work on sets. Film school is for networking. I have seen many film school grads start on film sets as grips, PAs or craft services, below the rest of the crew members who don't have a degree. And once they are out of college, it takes them just as long to move up to whatever they originally wanted to do as those who didn't go to school.

 

The only school I would go to is the AFI, and I won't. If what you want to do is shoot student projects, I'd suggest trying to get a job at one of your local schools, like at the equipment cage, where you have access to equipment and projects, plus some money. You can also volunteer there and at film shoots, if you have savings.

 

Becoming a successful DP is a combination of talent, drive, knowledge, connections and luck, not in that order and not in equal measures either. How you get there is your own personal choice. And once you get there, there is no guarantee you will continue doing it for the rest of your career.

 

So not an easy task this becoming a DP. It seems everybody and their mothers want to become DPs anyway. So I really don't know what advice I could give you beyond the above. It is not like I am that far enough along in my career to do so. In other words, I need advice too, and I suspect a large number of cine.com members do as well. And that may be why you are not getting a lot of response to your original query. ;)

Edited by Saul Rodgar
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Thanks for the honesty.

 

Back in my hey day I was perpetually on sets, and figured that at some point I'd get some technical training on the various gadgets and gizmos that separate an Arri BLIII and Moviecam from my old Nikon Super-8 or GE Home VHS (80s technology).

 

Truth is I wanted to make myself more marketable. I've got tons of on set experience, and tons of support training. Heck, I remember spending all night in editing suites making dupes, or reorganizing prop and grip rooms. But it was all contract work. Nothing steady.

 

I liked the energy. I liked the freedom. I liked working in media. It didn't have to be a feature film. It could be a photo shoot for a slide show presentation. Some industrial. Anything.

 

Anyone else?

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Thanks for the honesty.

 

Back in my hey day I was perpetually on sets, and figured that at some point I'd get some technical training on the various gadgets and gizmos that separate an Arri BLIII and Moviecam from my old Nikon Super-8 or GE Home VHS (80s technology).

 

Truth is I wanted to make myself more marketable. I've got tons of on set experience, and tons of support training. Heck, I remember spending all night in editing suites making dupes, or reorganizing prop and grip rooms. But it was all contract work. Nothing steady.

 

I liked the energy. I liked the freedom. I liked working in media. It didn't have to be a feature film. It could be a photo shoot for a slide show presentation. Some industrial. Anything.

 

Anyone else?

 

You know something bro, I'm not really qualified to answer any of your questions, but if you are in any way interested in another person's opinion then I'll say this.

 

Submit your transcript to one of the top schools and get into the grad program. People who go to film school are generally more likely to work on sets than those who do not - at least this is how I've heard it from various people who have gone to film schools. Networking is much better through a film program at USC, or UCLA or NYU, etc etc.

 

This is what I'm going to be doing when I'm done with my "safety" degree. And if you're interested in a good motivational book to read, as I have noticed you said "pipe dream" previously - read George Leonard's book "Mastery" this is the one book that made me clearly rethink my goals, and move towards them in a much smarter ways.

 

That's all.

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For what it's worth, I did go to film school, but pulled the plug on my career mid 90s for a number of reasons. I avoided the tech training thinking and hoping I would get a chance to learn camera ops on set, or inbetween shoots from someone I knew.

 

I was too busy at the time, and had a number of other things going on at the time.

 

I still want back in. I enjoyed the work (regardless of the stress and ulcers it sometimes gave me), and really want to cap off my resume with some formal or good informal training.

 

Anyone else?

 

p.s. I'll shoot my transcript to one of the big four.

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i always find this topic fascinating. i'm currently a grad student at one of these schools and i can tell you there's much to learn for everyone who goes to these regardless of how much real world experience you have. the technical things you learn are so minor from what you can learn if one is willing to talk less and listen more to the meanings of what's going on.

 

personally, if one wants to be a technical DP these schools aren't the one to go to. these schools have equipment, sure, but they don't sit down with you and teach you everything. it's an organic process of exploring for yourself and learning from your peers. i'm not by anyway the top of my class but i'm lucky to be surrounded by so many people with such various backgrounds that can help me learn something when i need it.

 

the true beauty of these schools, when utilized correctly, is how to tell a meaningful story visually, the technical stuff is sort of second hand. my professor puts it beautifully: " a dp is three things, an artist, a technician and a manager." but he also follows up with this: "without the last skill (manager) the other two are meaningless." good luck on your path.

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btw, sfstate, which you're right by and is where i went to undergrad, is a top 5 film school. they have a good program for a lot less money. not the best equipment but you can learn a lot. i would recommend going to their thesis film screenings that happen soon. contact the production coordinator there for the cinema department and take a look. it's worth at least that since it's so close.

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btw, sfstate, which you're right by and is where i went to undergrad, is a top 5 film school. they have a good program for a lot less money. not the best equipment but you can learn a lot. i would recommend going to their thesis film screenings that happen soon. contact the production coordinator there for the cinema department and take a look. it's worth at least that since it's so close.

Thanks Sam. I actually went through SF State's program when Dean Coppola was in charge. My work history involves joining an internship program circa 1988, training as a stage manager, grip & dolly-grip, PA, AD and some producing and casting. I painted sets, sanded stages, dished out orders, delegated authority, but I never learned to load a BL or Panaflex magazine.

 

I've done some work with 16mm cameras, but I've never touched a digital movie camera in my life.

 

I'm thinking enrolling in SONY's training center to get certified on their F35 is one way to go. If I can get a week or weekend off I can hopefully get one of those crash courses on a RED or a SI2k or one of the other bad boys on the block.

 

I'm just so goddamn tired of sitting on my backside and having to put out financial fires... it's frustrating.

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Thanks Sam. I actually went through SF State's program when Dean Coppola was in charge. My work history involves joining an internship program circa 1988, training as a stage manager, grip & dolly-grip, PA, AD and some producing and casting. I painted sets, sanded stages, dished out orders, delegated authority, but I never learned to load a BL or Panaflex magazine.

 

I've done some work with 16mm cameras, but I've never touched a digital movie camera in my life.

 

I'm thinking enrolling in SONY's training center to get certified on their F35 is one way to go. If I can get a week or weekend off I can hopefully get one of those crash courses on a RED or a SI2k or one of the other bad boys on the block.

 

I'm just so goddamn tired of sitting on my backside and having to put out financial fires... it's frustrating.

 

Bro, don't even stress it. It doesn't matter if you had to "hault" your film career. It's NEVER, EVER too late to get back to it if you want it badly enough. You already have some experience on a set, this is a PLUS. Do whatever you want to do. And read the book "Mastery" that I recommended, you'll be impatient to start going towards your goals right away. It's not some "quick feel good" book. It's smart, intelligent, with potency behind words. Written by an Aikido master. Enroll in the training center if that's what you REALLY want to do, and something tells me you want to if you're entertaining that idea :D

 

will meet some of you in a couple years myself, sometime :D

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Bro, don't even stress it. It doesn't matter if you had to "hault" your film career. It's NEVER, EVER too late to get back to it if you want it badly enough. You already have some experience on a set, this is a PLUS. Do whatever you want to do. And read the book "Mastery" that I recommended, you'll be impatient to start going towards your goals right away. It's not some "quick feel good" book. It's smart, intelligent, with potency behind words. Written by an Aikido master. Enroll in the training center if that's what you REALLY want to do, and something tells me you want to if you're entertaining that idea :D

 

will meet some of you in a couple years myself, sometime :D

Thanks Liam. I really didn't want to quit, but there was a lot going on at the time, so I had to apply the breaks. I don't need to work on big name features or whatever. I just liked the work and the atmosphere. Having said that, I'm not sure I'm going to buy a pop-psychology book. But thanks for the thought.

 

Rob; I may just do that.

 

Anyone else?

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The recent book "Outliers" makes the point that people who are extremely good at what they do spent around 10,000 hours getting there. That's certainly true for my strong suit, engineering. I started off with a ham license at 13 and eat, slept, and drank ham radio for years. Then I went into the Navy, went to their schools for Electronics Technician, came out worked in industry then went back to school and ended up with an MS in Teaching Physics. Everything I've ever done, work in theatre, film-making, automobile racing, industry, teaching Physics, and radio engineering for twenty-five years in one way or another has revolved around electronics.

 

In film and video I maybe have 1,000 hours of direct experience so that's why I'm a "Somewhat DP", I just haven't spent enough time doing it to get facile, I always have to think about what I'm doing. Read some of David Mullen's posts about how he got started as a kid shooting Super-8, going to art school, then working in the industry. I'll bet David has 10,000 hours and more around cameras...which is why he's damn good at what he does.

 

So school is important, it's one way of getting some of those 10,000 hours but grab every chance you get to shoot something if only with a cellphone. I'm a big fan of the new Canon HDSLR's (I own a 7D), you might seriously think about getting a T2i which gives you one heck of a lot of camera for $800 or so. And wear it out shooting anything and everything.

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Thanks Hal.

 

A good portion of my younger days was spent making movies with my friends. That and writing. I'm not sure how far that's going to push me forward, but it's nice to think that my own version of tinkering will get me somewhere someday.

 

Finding an opening isn't the problem. It's getting myself more qualified to get hired by anyone that's holding me back. It seems like the guys who run deck or man whatever camera is used are the ones who are most gainfully employed. I know that's not always true, but that's how it appears to me.

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Thanks Liam. I really didn't want to quit, but there was a lot going on at the time, so I had to apply the breaks. I don't need to work on big name features or whatever. I just liked the work and the atmosphere. Having said that, I'm not sure I'm going to buy a pop-psychology book. But thanks for the thought.

 

Rob; I may just do that.

 

Anyone else?

 

Yeah I mean that's life - s**t gets in the way all the time, it's knowing how NOT to let it get to you and demotivate you. Although, I would stress highly you give the book a read just for personal reasons. I see a lot of people are against "psychology" books cause they think it's some new age bullshit, but not this one. Look into it. Whatever you decide though, good luck.

Edited by Liam Howlett
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Hi George,

Tech stuff can be learned. The job of the DP is to supervise and design, so you need to know a lot about all the tech stuff. The most important education is of actual making of images. Thats why 'shooting' everything you can is always a good route. The tech stuff is always evolving, but visual storytelling and creating images is the art of USING those tech tools. Remember that.

 

 

I hate to sound negative, but this is like the umpteenth post I've put up here with few serious replies. No offense meant to you guys, Liam and Adrian.

 

I'm wondering if I should blow thousands of dollars by going back to school, or investing a few thousand into one of SONY's programs to get certified on their stuff.

 

Is the Art Academy a good choice? Should I send my transcript down to USC or UCLA and try to get into their grad programs? Locally in the Bay Area we have BAVC, the SF Art Institute, State, SF City College, and a few other places.

 

I've got lots of support training, some hands on camera ops experience, but no formal tech training. I can't load a mag on either an Arri or a Panaflex. I can thread a projector, but not a camera (is there a diffrerence?). I used to do 35mm still photography years back, does that help?

 

I've laid dolly track, pushed various Chapmans and Fishers, and assembled and torn apart cranes. Hell, I've even sat on a dolly and looked through the eyepiece. But, not to repeat myself too much, I've never pulled the trigger or pressed the button and shot anything on 35mm.

 

The closest I've done is BETACAM and home 1/2" VT.

 

I'm really lost here, and would really like any real world advice anyone can give.

 

Am I pursuing a pipe dream? Am I wasting my time?

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This is the old school vs. work debate. Some really great DP's have come out of film school: like Peter Deming, Fred Elmes, I think Kaminsky? A lot of others haven't. Read Ellen Kuras' bio on the ICG website. I've shot a lot of films for people in film school, and I'm always amazed at how little they know about standard professional on-set practices (Like having a script supervisor take copious notes on set, and then never give them back to the director during editing.) ... But I'm also often amazed by how little some successful DP's know about lighting. They've got great eyes, and somehow they muddle through!

 

While my friends at Columbia are not too set-savvy, at least they are constantly working on one-another's little films, talking to actors, being creative, trying out ideas. So, film school has a lot going for it, and it has a lot going against it, too. They're selling a very expensive dream based on the one student out of 200 who gets a movie deal after getting the degree. AFI will sell you on Peter Deming and Fred Elmes (who are total pro's, by the way.), but they'll never mention all the other grads that you've never heard of.

 

OJT? The DP spends his days telling the camera, grip, and electric dept's what to do. If you succeed in one of these dept's, you'll certainly know how a set works. But getting in is tough, staying in is tough, moving up is tough. Your mindset will switch to getting jobs, keeping jobs, how to load the truck better, why this gaffer is such an a-hole, etc, and you'll have to work very hard to keep your creativity alive. But, you might make a living and get to see some good people in action, like the times I've worked w/ Peter Deming and Fred Elmes. You might also work with T... S..., and then you'll see how to do everything wrong, and still get into the ASC!

 

In short, to each his own.

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If you live in a major production city, I would try to work on as many productions as possible and save my money. If you live in Akron, Ohio you may want to consider a school in NYC or LA. I did the film school route and that got me to NYC which was 1/2 the battle. The rest is starting at the bottom and working hard which I did after film school (but I was much poorer). A few friendships made at film school and on the set have helped me enormously over the years. Having a network of friends who are struggling together is worth a lot more than a degree from some film school. Living in a city where there is a lot of work is also key. Good Luck

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Well, yesterday I took a tour of the Art Institute up in San Francisco, where apparently they train their students on RED and Panasonic (not Panavision) cameras. $22grand a year seems a bit pricey to me. I think a couple of weekends down in LA, maybe some BAVC classes should help spruce up my resume, though certainly not certify it.

 

Thanks all.

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Well, yesterday I took a tour of the Art Institute up in San Francisco, where apparently they train their students on RED and Panasonic (not Panavision) cameras. $22grand a year seems a bit pricey to me. I think a couple of weekends down in LA, maybe some BAVC classes should help spruce up my resume, though certainly not certify it.

 

Thanks all.

 

Your reel and word of mouth is what sells you as a DP. Degrees just show you have interest in the field and may get you in on the bottom floor. Concentrate on meeting people and getting work. Hang out at rental houses. Go to free seminars. Call people. Be a pain in the ass. It's drive that gets you work.

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Yeah, that's what I used to do when I had lots of financial support and free time. That may happen again pretty soon, but right now I'm just looking to get some tech courses in. That way when I do become a pain in the backside, I'll at least look and sound like I know what I'm talking about (in terms of camera ops).

 

Right now I have a lot of support and artistic knowledge, but little tech training.

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