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Jonathan Spear

Does this sound like a good plan?

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Hi, I'm 28 and have decided to pursue a career in cinematography. I have been working on screenplays for the past six years but have always been fascinated with cinematography. I've read about 30 books so far but haven't really had any meaningful hands-on experience. I'm an American citizen but currently living overseas and there are only a few schools that teach cinematography. At the moment they are way out of my price range.

 

If I could afford to, I'd buy/rent some equipment and go make a film but I'm definitely not experienced enough to take that risk. I really want to study this craft properly.

 

So here's what I'm thinking. I can afford a DSLR, a few primes and some lighting equipment. If I create a solid photography portfolio (fashion, nature, products, etc), will that help my chances of getting a scholarship? Do film school cinematography programs see potential in still photography?

 

I would love some advice. The clock is ticking, I know 28 isn't old but I feel like I need to get the ball rolling because this will be a long journey and I want to start it as soon as possible.

 

Thanks!

Edited by TSM

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Why not just buy a DSLR capable of shooting video, and then do both? Get some friends, make some work. If it's horrible, fine, let it go, learn from it, and move on. eventually make better work, put it out there, rinse and repeat until you feel assured enough in yourself, then start working for some money.

No need for a film degree, per say. I've never had anyone ask me where I learned cinematography on a job interview; rather, it's just "show me your reel," or if even that, have a drink and lets talk. That school money can be better spent in those famine times between jobs.

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Why not just buy a DSLR capable of shooting video, and then do both? Get some friends, make some work. If it's horrible, fine, let it go, learn from it, and move on. eventually make better work, put it out there, rinse and repeat until you feel assured enough in yourself, then start working for some money.

No need for a film degree, per say. I've never had anyone ask me where I learned cinematography on a job interview; rather, it's just "show me your reel," or if even that, have a drink and lets talk. That school money can be better spent in those famine times between jobs.

 

That's an even better idea. Thanks Adrian!!

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So here's what I'm thinking. I can afford a DSLR, a few primes and some lighting equipment. If I create a solid photography portfolio (fashion, nature, products, etc), will that help my chances of getting a scholarship? Do film school cinematography programs see potential in still photography?

 

I'd also suggest getting a 35mm film SLR and getting some experience with it. Manual Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, etc. bodies from the 1970s and 1980s are inexpensive and easy to find, and the lenses you buy for them will often be usable on modern DSLRs (Nikon, in particular, has kept their lens mount mechanically compatible for decades. Canon, not so much). It doesn't offer the instant gratification of digital, but a fully manual film SLR forces you to be methodical about controlling the light that comes into the camera.

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A fully manual SLR is also very useful. I love my Nikon FM and my 50mm E series F1.8 nikon lens. Also if you have it, shoot slide film; if you can get great exposures on that, and judge exposures with it, well then I'd say you can expose anything!

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I highly recommend learning from others, as well as shooting your own stuff. If you can manage to intern with a DP, or work as a PA a few times, it will really pay off. You might find yourself pretty low on cash for a while, and you might have to do some nasty jobs, and you might even have to put up with nasty people. The keys to success are to hustle, make friends, and take notes. Good luck!

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