June 15, 2012

Which Camera Do You Like Most in Zacuto's 'Revenge of The Great Camera Shootout'?

Following a series of in-person screenings around the world, this year's installment of Zacuto's Emmy-winning series The Great Camera Shootout is finally available online. The shootout puts the Apple iPhone 4S, Panasonic GH2 (Hacked), Canon 7D, Canon C300, Sony FS100, Sony F3, Sony F65, RED Epic, and Arri Alexa through their paces in a slightly different format than previous years -- this time, each camera's respective DP was allowed to change the lighting to simulate optimal conditions for that particular camera, but they're providing a "blind" test for the first episode. UPDATE: I've added a poll for those who have watched the test. Choose which ones you like the most and we'll find out which is which in episode two!

First, watch the test. Then vote below! Part two of the shootout is live, which means the cameras are no longer a secret -- which also means the poll is closed as voting is no longer anonymous.

You can see what others chose after you vote, but by default it's formatted pretty terribly by Google. I'll compile the results in a week and present a better graph. The answer key will be revealed in episode two, which will go live July 15th; part three will go up a month after that.

Also, be sure to read Joe's thoughts on seeing the shootout in person (I was scheduled to see it in NYC, but got sick and would have thrown up on the screen had I gone -- which, you could argue, some of the cameras did anyway).

Link: Zacuto's Revenge of The Great Camera Shootout

Disclosure: Zacuto is a No Film School advertiser.

Your Comment

69 Comments

I think the test is great, I think all the talking is over the top...was way to sentimental for a camera test

June 15, 2012

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mike

yeah I think the idea of it is great but the execution is a bit over dramatic music and everything and i just can't stand the face of Phillip Bloom

June 15, 2012

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Tony

I think it is awesome to hear from all of the talented cinematographers/legends, but a little more "test" would have been great, and now having to wait another month for the results... oh well. It is appreciated nonetheless.

June 15, 2012

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Jeff

The difference readily perceivable in the theater aren't all that evident online. Expecting to learn anything from watching the web version of the tests would appear to be a waste of time.

June 15, 2012

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gheor2

At the same time... I'm interested in seeing which cameras are preferred AFTER vimeo compression.

June 15, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I also saw the test in person, but having just watched it on the biggest Apple display I could find (at the store), the only conclusion for this viewer is that for any filmmaker who thinks the web is her future, camera technology is the silliest and least rewarding preoccupation, of all the available obsessions.

Even in the theater, the difference between my first choice (Alexa) and last (iphone4) wasn't great enough to be decisive, for the typical low-budget feature -- at least, not with these sitcom setups. An iPhone could probably give a talky interior drama a perfectly acceptable realization.

But on the web -- the differences are almost trivial, and certainly wouldn't be decisive in finding an audience.

June 15, 2012

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samDEE

Well put.

June 16, 2012

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Stu Mannion

:D Haven't read a 'true-er' statement in nofilmschool in a while :D

June 16, 2012

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Watching the web version of something is becoming a more legitimate test because more and more work is strictly going to the web. As I said in my previous post, it was clear to me which cameras performed better on the big screen, but if your work isn't going on the big screen (and to a lesser extent television), there may not be much gained from spending a lot more money on buying or renting a better camera. As we watch more movies and other media in compressed form on small devices, it's becoming a more relevant way to see the differences between cameras.

June 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Joe, after reading your comments I believe you shouldn't waste any money on anything higher than a 550D.

June 15, 2012

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Álex Montoya

I'm not sure why my comments seem to bother you personally so much. If you're happy with what you're using, use it. I made my thoughts pretty clear on using different camera systems based on the project, the audience, and the final delivery method - whether that be theatrical, TV, web - or a combination of any of them.

There's one thing that's clear: I watched this test with a theater full of working people, and many of them chose the GH2 over cameras like the F65, Alexa, or Epic. Plenty of people are also picking that camera online. What does that tell you?

June 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I'm a happy 550D user myself. I even told you some weeks ago that the video quality is very comparable to the one of the 5D, which you denied. Anyway, I use for my personal stuff.

What I'm saying is that's a good idea to shoot in the best possible format you can afford. Even if your final destination is the internet, it's a good idea to shoot better footage than crappy 720ish h264 compressed quicktimes. I don't know what you use to shoot but I want my films to stand the test of time.

That and that you seem to have some bias against Red. You can't say that it was silly to spend 17500$ five years ago in a Red One and the recommend the FS700 which does more or less the same (shoots higher frame rates but doesn't shoot RAW) and will cost 8000$ plus 4K recorder. That certainly sounds silly.

And 4K is not just for delivery. I have extensively used in all my films the possibility of reframing, slow zoom ins or using the same shot for a medium shot and a close up, saving time and money on set. But I guess that's silly as well.

June 15, 2012

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Álex Montoya

I didn't deny anything, I was simply stating a fact. This was my exact quote:

"The Mark II is actually higher resolution in video than the cameras that share the same 18mp sensor – but you would be correct in saying that the Mark III is about the same as the Mark II."

I completely agree with you - and I've said it multiple times, shoot with what you can afford.

I've got nothing against RED at all, and if I could afford it and it could pay for itself, I would probably own a Scarlet because I think the flexibility and high bit rate RAW workflow is very powerful (one of the reasons I'm excited for the Blackmagic Cinema Camera). But at the moment I can't afford it, and it wouldn't make sense financially. To be honest, it wouldn't make my work any better - I would just have some more flexibility. That's what I'm trying to say, no camera is going to make any filmmaker a better filmmaker.

We all want our work to stand the test of time, but realistically, if we grow as filmmakers, our earlier work should pale in comparison. If the piece is good and people like it, it's going to stand the test of time even if it was shot on Mini-DV.

I've seen your work, I know you're a good filmmaker and you know what you're doing. All I've been saying is that there are more important factors to worry about than the camera. If you shot on IMAX film and your cinematography and lighting are beautiful, but the acting is miserable and your sets are cheap, no one will remember your movie anyway. Let's move back into productive conversations, wouldn't you agree?

June 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Haha! My feelings exactly! The biggest difference is whether I learn to manipulate a 550D well or not. If I'm good, and I use Magic Lantern's tools to properly underexpose Technicolor - I can get amazing results. And if I don't, I can get shit. Give me an Alexa and I can replicate the experience ;-)

June 16, 2012

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and they dropped film completely as if it is not a choice anymore...

June 15, 2012

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Tony

Here is a response from Steve Weiss about the choice to leave out film:

"We left 35mm film out because sadly, it's becoming a dying format. I love film, spent lot of my career shooting on it and still love it but so much of TV and films are using digital cameras, none of the DP's I had in the program are really shooting on film except maybe Stephen Goldblatt and Janusz Kaminski and even Stephen is starting a huge new project that is going to be digital."

So it was left out because less and less DPs are choosing to shoot on it.

June 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Steve Weiss truly believes film is dead. Watched this zacuto rigs showcase http://vimeo.com/40437425 a while ago and at one point(7:37) he says "back in the film days". so there you go

June 16, 2012

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It's not dead, but it's on the way out, and for anyone who doesn't believe that, look at all of the DPs who are shooting digital and not planning on going back. I think what Roger Deakins said was really telling, for a guy who basically said he'd shoot film forever.

"First film I’ve shot digitally, because, frankly, it’s the first camera [Arri Alexa] I’ve worked with that I’ve felt gives me something I can’t get on film. Whether I’ll shoot on film again, I don’t know. [Shooting on Digital] gives me a lot more options. It’s got more latitude, it’s got better color rendition. It’s faster. I can immediately see what I’m recording. I can time that image on set with a color-calibrated monitor. That coloring goes through the whole system, so it’s tied with the meta-data of the image. So that goes through the whole post-production chain, so it’s not a case of being in a lab and having to sit and then time a shot on a shot-by-shot because this has already got a control on it that’s set the timing for the shot, you know?

Am I nostalgic for film? … I mean, it’s had a good run, hasn’t it? You know, I’m not nostalgic for a technology. I’m nostalgic for the kind of films that used to be made that aren’t being made now."

June 16, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

While we're on the subject: Have u seen this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffHgH09vcp4
Everyone(http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/l-a-film-fest-review-dead-mans-bu...) is talking about how rich n beautiful the image is and how "digital could never compete".

June 17, 2012

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WOW! It's now definitely on the way out. Get your shovels out - I just said that coz it rhymes :P
http://collider.com/martin-scorsese-digital-the-wolf-of-wall-street/176067/

July 2, 2012

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H appears at least in this test, to be the most film like to me. H / F were my favs and the most organic to my eyes, E & D were the most artificial and digital looking. What the hell was up with the shutter on D??

June 15, 2012

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Roman

Funny enough, Roman is the only one talking about the cameras so far, most of the rest can't talk coz they waiting for a chance to pounce if their preferred camera is not named the best. As of now they still can't tell which is their favorite one. As a noob, it is very frustrating for me when I see all blogs gradually descending into slug-fests of fan-boys against fan boys, shedding so much heat but no light.

June 15, 2012

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Bobcat

If you haven't, you should read my thoughts on the cameras in the test. I couldn't care less where each of the cameras placed, I was watching each one with a specific checklist and I selected those that fit that checklist, and also just "felt right" to me. I know I was the only person that picked the FS100 first at the theater but from a subjective point of view it just felt right to me. Doesn't mean it necessarily was technically better than any of the others, but also keep in mind the test was designed to be subjective.

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/06/thoughts-after-seeing-zacuto-2012-shootout/

June 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

No disrespect to you at all sir, just referring to the trolls that rule the blogs. I however hold this site and ur work in high regard, otherwise I wouldn't be checkin it everyday : )

June 16, 2012

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Bobcat

There is a clearly visible difference even on the web, but not enough that you couldn't make any of them work for this kind of shot. Check out the actor in the green shirt. Camera B displays a clarity and lack of artifacts on this subject that the other cameras cannot match. Since the key lights were not moved, nor their color temperature changed, this seems like a valid comparison. Also, when he moves late in the shot, several cameras show visible twinkling on the sides of his head. Both defects seriously degrade the overall impression that the scene makes.
I suspect that a shootout with action moving across the field of view would have revealed much stronger differences.

June 15, 2012

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Curtis

You're in for a big, big surprise, if B was your favorite. (And for the record, each shot was custom-lit. and custom graded) Zacuto has not yet shown the shots with a uniform lighting setup and a one-light grade.)

June 15, 2012

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samDEE

I think people have been saying B was the GH2

June 15, 2012

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Mr Han

The comments at around 6:00 indicates that the key lights were fixed by location and color temperature. Since the actor I referred to is in the background, it is possible that increasing fill light affected the look. Still, his features are clear as rendered by B, and not so clear by the other cameras, dramatically so in some cases.

June 16, 2012

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Curtis

What you can see in B and not the others is due strictly to the lighting and grading used by the "B' team.

If Zacuto releases the first portion of the test -- one lighting setup, and one-light grade for each camera -- you'll see a very different comparison, where the shadow and highlight handling of the different cameras is much more obvious, and that green shirt will almost disappear with the B camera.

June 16, 2012

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samDEE

Like Roman I thought H had a nice film-like curve to it and also APPEARED sharpest of all of them, although there was seemingly less noticeable resolution difference than I was expecting among most of the cameras versus in the last one of these shootouts. More accurately, there seemed to be more noticeable artifacts even in the sharp-looking ones. Camera I in particular seemed to have the most distracting idiosyncrasies among the "sharp" images; it seemed to be over-sharpened in post which was presumably responsible for part of this. It also had the weirdest "bokeh" I've seen when the window was defocused but that's probably not the sensor's fault.

D and G seemed to be the fuzziest. D seemed to get sharper in the closer shot but overall it just didn't look very good. I could look past the fuzziness in G.

I thought dynamic range was a bit hard to judge because there seemed to be a lot of weird color correction in the backdrop that made it a bit hard to recognize blown-out highlights, and the compression seemed to really hurt the blacks in almost all of them.

Honestly, they all looked both better and worse than I thought they would and I can't really judge them fairly because I can't help but guess witch ones are which.

June 15, 2012

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cows

You mean I have to wait a MONTH for part two?! I ranked my top three (in no particular order as picking between them is a little hair-splitting) as B, C, and F with H a strong runner-up, (though B is a bit too warm for my taste, I liked the overall image). Weird seeing D with almost no discernable bokeh. Also, putting a dark-complected woman in a yellow top in front of the reddish wall (black and white striped skirt to top it off) was pretty genius. The woman stepping outside also had some interesting results.

June 16, 2012

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Almost positive D is iPhone (no bokeh) and G is 7D (softer image). I think the best image quality is from B, F, and H. Wouldn't be a shock if B was GH2, but would be if GH2 was F, which I think looks most filmic (I'm thinking Alexa).

June 16, 2012

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ernstdante

I picked F as my favourite after watching them multiple times, followed by E and then A. It's weird how watching them over and over changed my perception (focusing on the details) and had to remind myself to ask which one feels the most organic.

June 16, 2012

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Stu Mannion

I thought B was sharper and brighter, but I got the impression that they simply increased the light to accommodate less dynamic range. B looked too "Video-ish" - not filmic - I ranked it 8 out of 9 with D coming in ninth.

I thought F was the winner with H coming in 2nd. Then A, C, E

June 16, 2012

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Robert Anthony

Shocked that people like B best! Yes, well lit, but there are harsh jaggies and stair stepping all over the window framing and the lamp. View it at 1920x1080 if you can't see them. C & F are clean. H is clean but feels harsh. Because the lighting of each was up to the cinematographer, it's difficult to compare them — so many different styles and desired outcomes in play. Really not wanting to wait a month to find out which was which...

June 16, 2012

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Glad Zacuto have produced this test and I don't mean to be too negative but...

1: Far too much DP waffle. A raft of meaningless platitudes. Did anyone learn anything useful from any of these vague assertions and statements of the obvious? Overall this felt like padding (of the self aggrandising variety).

2: Ugly lighting and composition during the interview sections (imo obviously). Looked more like corporate video not cinema. Ironic given the subject matter, possibly.

3: The test scene (when it finally arrived) looked horrible. Even if it was designed to test latitude etc it could have been more aesthetically pleasing and less distracting. As it was it wouldn't even pass muster in a 90s soap opera. Making all of these cameras look so bad was quite an achievement.

June 16, 2012

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Gregg Toland

In a certain sense I agree that this episode could have been a much more scientific and sterile. But that would no doubt defeat the point of what Zacuto is trying to accomplish with this test.

As someone who's studying cinematography and trying to learn everything he can, I found their "DP waffle" and the subsequent platitudes to be somewhat enlightening. I wouldn't say that I learned anything in particular, but the attitudes and personalities required to do the work that these people do became very apparent. Not to mention that there's an inherent sense of sentimentality between these guys, and a strong sense of the people who have preceded them, that makes the cinematography community feel like exactly that, a tight-knit community rather than a technical profession.

Perhaps this stuff is just filler to the more experienced folk, but to me it's pure gold.

June 17, 2012

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Robert

Oh and some of the credits were misleading, e.g. Bruce Logan was not the DP on 2001 (he was in vfx).

Hope the next episodes deliver more meaningful content (camera comparisons).

Sorry about the negativity :-/

June 16, 2012

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Gregg Toland

The best part for me is that most of the people making this happen are over 20 years old.

June 16, 2012

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dixter

This is how I scored them (after watching each clip side-by-side against every other clip i.e. 64 times over).

B: 16
A: 14
C: 11
G: 8
E: 7
F: 7
H: 5
I: 0

For a lot of the scenes, my choice was quite arbitrary. It's very hard to pick a 'better' picture in a lot of cases. But I can't wait to find out what Camera B is (and Camera I).

Someone's posted a downloaded zip file with still frames on Red User, btw.

June 16, 2012

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Daniel

Yes definitely confused why anyone would like B, it looks like like plastic to me. I liked H the most followed by F, then its a hard tie between C and E. My initial guesses, were H=alexa, F=red, B=GH2, G=7D, D=Iphone4...

June 16, 2012

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Db

Camera B is the most well-lit, so I'm thinking GH2 since the cinematographers said they had to light it up more to compensate for lack of DR. I don't think they needed to do that because the iPhone seemed to do okay without the extra lighting (no blown out window, we know its camera D), and GH2 certainly has more DR. I like the overall clarity of the image, but the jaggies on the windows bother me (could be compression artifacts) and if that was on the big screen, would be very noticeable. It also looks the most video-ish, so camera B looks best is some regards, worst in others. It could be the Red or F65 downrezzing (unless they shot 1080p). F looks most filmic to me, and I'm thinking Alexa. The online poll has camera B in 1st and camera F is 2nd, everything else is far behind, so if it reflects the audience poll in the theaters, B would be the F65 and F the Alexa, but B could very well be the GH2.

June 16, 2012

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ernstdante

My quick impressions:

A Flat but very usable

B High color, high contrast, great sharpness but a bit plasticky

C Quite nice and professional but not cinematic

D is for Dismal. iPhone. Lighting alone isn't enough, people.

E Not enough DR, quite poor

F Nice color, but a bit bleached out. Chilly, papery.

G Rich color, some highlight oddness, but nice enough. Brownish.

H Very very good DR. I am impressed!

I Dark, brittle, not flattering

In order of preference: H G B C A

June 16, 2012

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Peter

Who wants to start guessing what they are? I have no insider knowledge but I'll have a stab at the ones I've got a feeling about:

A - ?
B - GH2?
C - Epic - pretty sure. I think they've stuffed this one up in post with too strong windows. Also the HDRx gives a weird motion blur.
D - iphone - yep
E - FS100?
F - Alexa?
G - 7D
H - F65?
I - ?

June 16, 2012

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Stu Mannion

I watched it on a tiny netbook without knowing all the cameras on test but I also picked out the alexa (F) and the Red (C). Then I gave up when the tests kept coming, wondered if I'd succumbed to confirmation bias and figured I'd have to rewatch it on a larger monitor.

The scene looked like TV drama and the Alexa? (F) hit that look 100% but it's not something I'd ever want to replicate. It's interesting you picked up on the REDs ghosting, I didn't notice that on my screen and just called it based on the color rendition (improving that hideous day-glo attire).

June 17, 2012

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nobody

I can say with 100% certainty that C is the Epic. because of the HDRx ghosting artefact when moving quickly in front of the recovered window.

June 16, 2012

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If camera B is the GH2, that would be a shocker since it is easily winning the online poll for best image, but I still have a few problems with it--the jaggies on the window and a video-ish look. Clarity and sharpness would more suggest the F65 or Red Epic, and the jaggies might be due to downrezzing (unless they shot at 1080p, then the jaggies would be inexcusable on such pricey cameras). F really seems to be the Alexa. Hope there's spoilers soon because I really don't want to be thinking about this (and I will, being the geek that I am) for the next month,

June 17, 2012

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ernstdante

I felt like I was watching a michael moore film for the first 16 minutes, I couldn't get to the tests. I'm all for free information, just not vague propaganda about future opportunities for up and coming filmmakers. I found it so funny when they answered the question is talent born or is it learned and no one advocated that it was born, when at the same time there was one woman and one minority in the doc vs a dozen or so white male cinematographers.

June 17, 2012

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Ryan

... What does nobody answering the question as talent being innate have anything to do with "one woman" cinematographer being among "white male cinematographers" ? What is your point guy?

June 17, 2012

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Jesse

My point is nepotism, if "talent" was only factor that created successful dp's then you would see a more diverse group of filmmakers.

For all the nobodys including myself who want to make feature films, and make enough money to make more, they shouldnt be watching pipe dream docs like the first half of the shootout, the reality is the amount of films that are distributed each year in whatever genre of film your interested in are limited, meaning there is limited money and limited seats at the table. If you're a nobody, you will be competing with sons and daughters of writers producers and directors in the industry. Unless you are a genius, which theres a 99% chance that you're not, its a unbelievable uphill battle to break into the industry on your own, and I think a doc like this like to glamorize the summit without mentioning the climb.

June 17, 2012

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Ryan

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