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Joseph Tese

Your "path" to becoming a Cinematographer

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Posted (edited)

I've heard and see most aspiring DPs wanting to climb the ladder through the camera department.

Lighting is everything. My argument is to approach it through Gaffing/Electric department. You are hands on with lights from the beginning, and will gain a better understanding of how light works. You will also develop the wealth of technical knowledge about electric, lighting, and how different fixtures operate.

On the other hand, I also understand the need for understanding camera technicality, composition, etc.. But again, lighting cannot be compromised.

Thoughts?

EDIT: Embarrassingly, I may have posted in the wrong thread group. This should be removed or moved, as I can't find the delete button.

Edited by Joseph Tese
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Posted (edited)

I'd say lighting is an art, like camera operation, or audio engineering, or color grading or editing. It seems like you have to know about all of it,  plus scripts and casting and finance probably being the most important elements. Do you know of any gaffers that became cinematographers? How did they make that jump?

Edited by Bob Speziale

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I'm not in the film industry, but am having a talk with someone soon that might lead to something. But my inclination, and plan, is to get close to that camera and stick by it. The electrical/gaffer idea is excellent, and would likely lead to excellence too, but just on a sheer 'opportunities that may arise' factor I'd get next to that camera and stay there. You can always learn more about lighting, a hugely important thing, as you become more involved with the camera. That's my thoughts on it anyway.

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It feels like learning everything you can about lighting tech is a lot harder than learning everything you can about camera tech.

Although they're not mutually exclusive..

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I've known gaffers who became successful cinematographers.

That said, being a cinematographer is not only about lighting and camera technologies.  It's about visual story telling, and less about the tech stuff.  And I think the only way to learn it, is to do it.

And, looking back... I think it's about as difficult to become a gaffer as it is to become a cinematographer.  If I were to get a "do over" in my career, it would be to start as a cinematographer and not "work my way up".  I was a camera/steadicam operator before I began my DP career, and it was almost like starting over from the beginning.  Not quite, but 90%.

So, if one wants to work as a cinematographer, work as a cinematographer.  🙂 🙂 🙂 

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Posted (edited)

I'd say go the direct route. Train in cinematography. But if you already have an in as a gaffer well you got a foot in the door, go from there.

I don't work in the biz. I do underground and experimental work. So there are no rules...only question is...is it legal.

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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