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Jack Peterson

Directing career path (starting out as a cinematographer?)

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I'm a 20 year old filmmaker. I've been shooting shorts for a long time now, with some success, and I plan on directing a microbudget featurure soon and seeing if I can gain any traction from that. At the very least I hope it will slightly boost my credibility as a director.

I love the craft of cinematography, and I've been considering pursuing it as a stepping stone to directing commercials and/or music videos someday. Is this something that happens in the industry, working your way up to becoming a DP, and then transitioning to directing once you've built a solid network and portfolio?

My long-term goal is to make a living directing commercials/music videos/fashion films and so on, make microbudget films on the side, and eventually make money off my feature films. So I guess my question is, does it make sense to pursue cinematography first? Or are directors pretty much solely "directors" and nothing else? - e.g. "the only entry level jobs on set are PA and director".

Sorry if this is a naive question, I just don't really understand the route most directors take to reach the national commercial/bigger music video level.

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There are two entry level jobs in film production: "Runner/PA" and "Director" - thats a old joke but you get the point.

You can try climbing the "ladder" it will help make you contacts and get know etc... but it won't actually prepare you for the creative task of directing.

I would recommend you just start making stuff, maybe videos for friends bands on no budget. keep working gradually get better, build up from micro budget to whatever. 

Since kit is now easy to access - nothing to stop you makeing stuff and experimenting. Plenty of good music video directors: Dougal Wilson, Hammer and Tongs (sorry dated ref's but google) only ever worked as directors but built up from project to project.

Working on other peoples sets will help but only gets you so far, you need to test your own ideas and creativity in practice

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I do think it's important to get some seat time on set somewhere. It's the biggest issue young filmmakers have, not understanding how real sets work. If you want to be a DP,  that's one of the critical things. Making your own content is also critical, gotta buy a decent camera and go out and make stuff, learn what works and what doesn't. 

I thought my end goal was being a DP,  but it wound up being an editor actually. I love storytelling and I've learned that stories are told in two places; script and post. 

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