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Charlie Balch

Needle in a haystack?

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I am finishing up my senior year studying film production at Biola University near Los Angeles and I have a good number of friends who have interned for production companies. Through this many have learned a great deal about the industry while some have played a less active role and simply ran errands. I am a firm believer in working hard to achieve great things, but because my dream is to be a DP I was wondering if it might be a better path to seek out a cinematographer who really knows his craft and be an apprentice?

 

I know the industry is all about knowing people while possessing the necessary talent and drive to move foreword, but is the idea of pursuing a mentorship/apprenticeship a bad idea?

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Charlie

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I am finishing up my senior year studying film production at Biola University near Los Angeles and I have a good number of friends who have interned for production companies. Through this many have learned a great deal about the industry while some have played a less active role and simply ran errands. I am a firm believer in working hard to achieve great things, but because my dream is to be a DP I was wondering if it might be a better path to seek out a cinematographer who really knows his craft and be an apprentice?

 

I know the industry is all about knowing people while possessing the necessary talent and drive to move foreword, but is the idea of pursuing a mentorship/apprenticeship a bad idea?

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Charlie

 

 

It's not a bad idea, but it isn't a likely scenario that an established DP would agree to or be allowed to have a student shadowing him/her on a movie set. A lot of "mentoring" comes about while someone is working on set in the camera, grip, or electric departments. You learn by observing and carrying out the instructions in whatever job capacity you have obtained.

 

And, of course, the apprenticeship isn't going to directly lead to work. An established DP may be able to recommend you to others, but you still need experience and a body of work as a DP yourself which means going out and doing it on smaller independent and student films. There is a lot you can learn by watching a DP in action on a real set, but unless you feel like you really need that extra "education," you just need to get out there in the world and start shooting, building a name for yourself and a reel to show. Getting your own hands dirty moving lights around and making mistakes is going to be the best education you can get.

 

If you can find someone, or a few DPs, who are willing to "mentor" you for a short time, then absolutely take advantage. The more people you spend time observing, the better so that you can see how similar problems are solved differently. But don't spend an inordinate amount of time with that when you could be out shooting on your own.

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It's not a bad idea, but it isn't a likely scenario that an established DP would agree to or be allowed to have a student shadowing him/her on a movie set. A lot of "mentoring" comes about while someone is working on set in the camera, grip, or electric departments. You learn by observing and carrying out the instructions in whatever job capacity you have obtained.

 

And, of course, the apprenticeship isn't going to directly lead to work. An established DP may be able to recommend you to others, but you still need experience and a body of work as a DP yourself which means going out and doing it on smaller independent and student films. There is a lot you can learn by watching a DP in action on a real set, but unless you feel like you really need that extra "education," you just need to get out there in the world and start shooting, building a name for yourself and a reel to show. Getting your own hands dirty moving lights around and making mistakes is going to be the best education you can get.

 

If you can find someone, or a few DPs, who are willing to "mentor" you for a short time, then absolutely take advantage. The more people you spend time observing, the better so that you can see how similar problems are solved differently. But don't spend an inordinate amount of time with that when you could be out shooting on your own.

 

Brian,

Your advice is rocksolid. The advantage of being a person that loves shooting is I can have something to show for myself with a showreel. I know that every cinematographer has his own style so I can see how asking different DPs questions during breaks on set would be a learning opportunity in itself. I hope to some day have the opportunity to simply travel and shoot for a time. Thank you for the response.

Best of luck to you and your work,

Charlie

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