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Anton Ljungberg

Any "semi-pro" film schools?

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Hey!

 

I'm a cinematographer from Sweden, who run my own production company right now. I wish to study Cinematography at a film school somewhere, but I don't know where to turn.

I'm far away from the best, so.. Schools like UCLA, AFI, NFTS are out of the question, they'd never accept me. Basically, what I'm looking for is a not too expensive film school, somewhere around the globe, that I, as a not pro, but also not a beginner, would have a chance to get in?

 

Thanks everybody! :)

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In any college, you lean the most by doing it yourself, experimenting and playing around. The main reason to go to college is to have access to equipment, mentors and fellow crew members. If you are already a semi-pro than you probably have the equipment and know some people who might be willing to help you out with small projects and exercises and learn something themselves. So I'd recommend starting with some books and doing exercises and projects based on what you read. My book "Lighting for Cinematography" is designed for people exactly like you, as it has lighting exercise at the end of each chapter. Other books may not have that but will explain set-ups that you can then try to imiate.

 

I also have a website to help teach lighting. You can check it out at www.lightingforcinematography.com

 

Good luck

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Film schools do take students already working in the industry. You need a portfolio to show them, so you can't be a complete beginner. Although schools like the NFTS do take international students, the problem may be cost.

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It's actually quite an interesting idea.

 

Personally, I managed to dismiss any ambitions of actually becoming a high-end director of photography when I was a teenager, but in terms of the work that's available to the average person, it can be very difficult to get experience doing stuff above a certain very limited level. One can become reasonably proficient at lighting simple talking-head stuff, conversations with two or three people. That's easy. Anyone can do that. It's trivial. But going beyond that is difficult. Again, speaking personally, I have an absolute horror of any scene which involves people moving around more than a few feet and talking to each other because it requires a lot of gear and people, so it's just not something anyone will encounter until they're already being paid a lot of money to do it. Or rather, they will encounter it, but they'll have no time, gear or people, and it will look awful, so the experience never builds.

 

Some sort of course aimed at getting people out of that rut might be of value, especially in small markets like the UK.

 

P

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There are also one day and weekend seminars given by cinematographers, often hosted by lighting manufacturers or rental houses and some just done on their own. Here in the US there have been several that travel around giving lighting or cinematography workshops. You might want to look into that. Also, perhaps British Cinematographer magazine hosts some or advertise some?

 

There's a documentary about Jack Cardiff and both he and Freddie Young wrote books - both major British figures in the art of cinematography. "Magic Hour" by Jack Cardiff and "The Work of the Motion Picture Cameraman" by Freddie Young. The DVD of Black Orpheus has a special feature about Jack Cardiff's wonderful lighting. Freddie Young's autobiography is "Seventy Light Years" and there's a biography of Cardiff titled "Conversations with Jack Cardiff".

 

One of the main things about lighting for movement is lighting the end mark first, which is usually where the actors will spend most of their screen time. Also remember that we humans perceive motion by things moving in and out of light. So its good to have variations in light levels as the subjects move. One of the most important things is that the subject's motions need to be planned and nailed down. There's a great story about Gorden Willis while shooting The Godfather, that he threw a tantrum and walked off set because Coppola won't nail down the blocking of his actors in a scene. Willis was already a well established and recognized artist and Coppola was still up and coming. Willis told Coppola he had to do his job and tell the actors where to go so that he could light it. Coppola said that was one of the best lessons he learned about working on film.

 

Sorry to be plugging my book again, but if you want to practice lighting for actor movement, I have a few exercises in my book, which got good reviews from International Cinematographer's Guild magazine and was mentioned in British Cinematographer magazine. Its only $29 so its not a major investment and it is being used in a number of film schools as its about how to get a bigger budget look with low budget gear. I wrote it based on my experiences working as a union gaffer and indie DP and on the lighting course I've been teaching for over 10 years. So its a do-it-yourself film course.​

 

My advice, for whatever its worth, is to set some time aside and practice lighting things with the gear you have. We all learn by doing.

Edited by David Landau

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The problem with that stuff is that - yes - I can read about how a tens-of-millions production does it. They fly in huge silks and enormous lights at huge distances on gigantic cranes, and you can put people anywhere and point the camera anywhere and it all looks fantastic and wonderful.

 

What I need is techniques for doing it for the cost of a sausage roll. So far the only approach I've found has been to buy a load of gear and give it away. It's amazing what you can do with a single 8x8 butterfly...

 

There is a huge variation in what "low budget" means.

 

P

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I'm actually applying to a cinematography program right now. Provided I get in, the tuition is another story, but we'll see what happens. But I've never really been enrolled in an actual "film" program and it'd be nice to hone whatever skills I've developed on my own.

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