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Getting into film without a film degree

Amie Dibbern

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Hello, everyone!


So I'm a fifth-year college student, but I only realized my "calling" as a cinematographer this past December. I'm a little surprised and upset that it took this long to realize that this is what I need to do with my life, but...that's the way life goes, I guess.


I've spoken with some of my teachers in the theater department, and many of them insist that I don't need a film degree to be a cinematographer. However, I can't help but feel as though I'll be at a disadvantage. I'm not getting the training I need to do what I love and want to do. I'm not making the connections I need to be making to be successful. I'm willing to work my tail off, and I want to learn, but breaking into the business, only to learn when I get there, seems a little odd to me.


If there's any advice anyone can give me as to what I should consider (short of transferring again and more or less scrapping the education I've gotten so far, because I can't afford to do that), I'd appreciate it greatly!

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Degree not really necessary. Granted you'll get some trigger time on cameras and make some connections; sure, but you might be a bit better off served by buying a vDSLR and shooting some projects-- 48 film fest things, you're own little projects to build up a reel and the like.

I didn't learn too too much from film school classes proper, and unless you're going to one of the top schools (which you could for an MFA) the network you make may not be worth all that much-- outsiders on the outside and the like.

The real connections and the like will come from working on projects, especially outside of school.


my 2 cents.

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IF you want a degree, get the degree. There have been GREAT cinematographers that have had no formal training with the exception of the BEST training, which is experience under a great cinematographer. There have been GREAT cinematographers that have attended prestigious film institutes that gave them everything they needed to succeed. There is no ONE WAY to achieve your goals excerpt the shear tenacity and strength of character it takes to achieve them. The road is well defined, it starts with camera department or lighting department PA and a good attitude even when you're being blamed for things you never did. it's working for free to add to your knowledge and resume', it's working your way up to camera assistant and / or lighting grip and / or best boy lighting / camera operator then DOP then as I see it, finally a full fledged cinematographer which to me denotes the highest expertise in the field possible though some will disagree as the two terms are used interchangeably. I see the "cinematographer" credit bestowed on someone as an acknowledgement of the artistic talent that has been shown above and beyond the expert mastery of the artisan's experience o his tools, but hey, that's just my opinion. Do what you have to, so long as it's not immoral or illegal, to get done what you need to do.

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It's funny as nowadays every employer asks for a degree and diplomas to give you a job. At least here in Europe. To succeed in this field you dont really need one. All you need is passion and you need to be stubborn and follow your way. YOUR way. Don't try to copycat others.

However, attending some classes in a Filmschool wont hurt. You can learn a few cool things. I went to Filmschool and i learned a lot. But the best school i guess is learning by doing and fail.

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