Needless to say, if you spend over a quarter of a century working in the film industry as a director/DP, you learn a lot about success, failure, and what it takes to keep chugging along. During her 27-year-long career, Ellen Kuras, who lensed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as well as directed the Oscar-nominated documentary The Betrayal, has learned all of these lessons and more, a few of which she shares in this interview with ARRI.

Kuras had a lot of interesting things to share, but here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the interview:

Getting your hands on a camera

You can't really make a film without some sort of camera, so it's definitely the purchase that sets everything into motion. These days, you can bust out your smartphone and make a critically acclaimed film that looks like a million bucks, but back in the old days (roughly 5-10 years ago), you needed an actual dedicated camera. And they weren't cheap; even those giant SD mini-DV cameras without interchangeable lens capabilities were several rent payments.

The point here is that if you don't have a camera to shoot your films on, do whatever you have to do get one. Kuras begged her parents and borrowed money to be able to afford her first camera, an ARRI SR2. I spent an entire semester's worth of student loans on my first one, a Panasonic HVX-200. It's a big step to part ways with a big chunk of change, but it could change your life.

Ellen_kuras_on_setEllen Kuras

Know your camera

When you're a filmmaker, your camera is your best friend. The more time you spend with it the better you'll be able to capture the images you want, know your creative limitations, and solve any technical problems that may arise on set. As Kuras says: 

One has a relationship with the camera when you're that close to it and you're constantly touching it and you know it so well and you know how it sounds. You know, it becomes a part of you. It becomes an extension of yourself.

Forging your own path

Filmmaking, like any craft, has its traditions, conventions, and rituals, and while these things can form a solid foundational understanding of how films are made, sometimes they can actually be a hindrance to your creativity. We've all probably had someone at some point tell us, "That's not the way it's done," (to which I hope your response was, "Cool story.") but at the end of the day, filmmaking is an art and art is alive and breathing. It's not held back by rules and customs but liberated by risk-taking and evolution. So, if you like the way something works or looks or sounds but your means of achieving those results is a little unorthodox, who cares? Do it and do it proudly.

Source: ARRI Channel