The Cinematographers of Sundance Share the Best and Worst Advice They've Ever Received
It's safe to say that there's absolutely no shortage of advice floating around when it comes to the various aspects of the filmmaking. From writing and directing to shooting and editing, the internet is rife with advice from everyone and their mother. However, not all advice is good advice. The folks at Indiewire know this, and in their extensive interviewing of the cinematographers of this year's Sundance Film Festival, they managed to dig up both the best and worst advice that these excellent DP's had ever received. The results are borderline enlightening. Read on to see what these cinematographers had to say.
"A camera operator once told me that you're not hired because you know the gear or the technical process better than someone else, you're hired because you communicate with the actors and director better than someone else. I find this to be very true. Communication is probably 90% of what I do." -- Cinematographer James Laxton (Camp X-Ray)
"The best advice I've heard comes from a quote by the director Michelangelo Antonioni who said that it took him 10 years before he had any idea of what he was doing, and any success to match. You can't rush your career. You can only keep trying harder and harder and hope it all clicks at some point." -- Cinematographer and Director Andrew Rossi (Ivory Tower)
"I think it's bad in cinematography when anyone tells you that there is a right or a wrong way, or a formula to do a particular thing. There are definitely little tricks and shortcuts to getting to a certain place, but for most instances, there are a million different ways to get to where you want to be with an image." -- Cinematographer Zachary Galler (The Sleepwalker)
"'Always be shooting.' I don't understand this mentality of working all of the time. As a creative, I feel having downtime in your life to reflect on the work that your doing is just as important as staying busy. It allows you to think about the choices you're making and gives you the breathing room you need to grow. My agent told me this in our first meeting and I immediately knew we were a match. Whenever I'm not working I'm either spending time on my bicycle or making black and white prints in the darkroom I use downtown." -- Cinematographer Topher Osborn (Dear White People)
All of this advice -- or anti-advice, if you will -- resonates very strongly with me based on my very short time working on films. Narrative filmmaking, at least when it is practiced traditionally, is a balancing act of technicality, art, collaboration, and communication, with that last one being the most important. Without solid communication skills, which is something that requires a whole lot of practice, your career in the film industry is doomed before it even begins, no matter how skilled you might be.
As for the worst advice portion of this, it's interesting to see someone call out the mantra of "always be shooting." While there's no doubt that experience is one of the things that allows us to improve as cinematographers, and it's great to be constantly adding to your reel, the idea of "always be shooting' can be an unhealthy one depending on how you approach it. If you allow your work/life ratio to lean too far towards work, it can hinder your personal life, which will absolutely be reflected in your work. Finding a balance isn't easy, but when done correctly, it should enrich both your personal life and your work.
Make sure to head on over to Indiewire to read the rest of these cinematographers' pieces of best and worst advice. It certainly is an enlightening read.
What do you guys think? What are the best and worst pieces of advice that you've ever been given about the film industry? Let us know down in the comments!