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After nearly 6 years of filmmaking, I just made my first cinematography reel. I'd love to know what you guys think of it!
It was good. This is just a preference but it felt a little long. Some of the shots were cool but slowed it up. IMO I feel like 1:30-2:00 length. I also like the way it ended with the bloody hand and cut to black.
November 10, 2017 at 4:47PM
I agree, nice shots but cut it in half
November 11, 2017 at 6:20AM, Edited November 11, 6:20AM
You have some good shots in there but, it's too long and, IMO, much of it is not graded well. Looks like a lot of it came straight out of a dslr with a profile that it had right out of the box. You say it's your first cinematography reel but, you credit yourself 'Writer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor' which, immediately, communicates to everyone that you did this all yourself - meaning, no one else worked on it (whether they did or not) and it implies amateur. You'll need to decide on one if you want to be taken seriously.
You have a good eye. Just keep your exposures within the dynamic range of the camera, get with a good colorist, use better music and cut it to 1 minute. Kill your babies or your babies will kill you.
November 11, 2017 at 10:10AM, Edited November 11, 10:11AM
Why would I be taken more seriously by people by pretending that I was only the cinematographer on these films? If a shot is good, isn't it more impressive if people know that I was essentially working as a one-man-band when I created it?
November 11, 2017 at 11:34PM
Just trying to let you know that higher end productions are not looking for one man bands.
As you are currently casting yourself, there are jobs out there that might net you a modest amount of money. And, certainly, at this point in your career, those will be the jobs available to you. Do them, of course. That's the ladder to climb.
But, as a way to try and illustrate my point, let's separate potential clients into 2 different arenas... 'Mom and Pops' and 'legitimate Advertising Agencies'. Advertising yourself as a one man band isn't likely to help your chances at real advertising agencies as they, typically, hire individuals to fill each position we are discussing. But, the 'mom and pops' might hire you to make a youtube video for their sandwich shop down the street.
Trying to help... not tear you down.
And, hey, what do I know? I've just been doing it for 30 years.
November 12, 2017 at 11:23AM, Edited November 12, 11:23AM
Ahh, I guess I see what you're saying. I don't really think working for a major ad agency is in the cards for me given where I live and my experience. I actually made this more with narrative work in mind.
For the last couple years I've mostly made a living winning video contests, but over the last year or so I've been a lot more proactive in finding freelance work in about the $2k-$5k range for local businesses. Video contests are drying up, though, and narrative film is my true passion, so until I can get funding for my next feature I'd like to try finding some work as a cinematographer on some local and regional shorts and features. Shorts with 4 and 5 figure budgets, features with 5 to low 6 figure budgets. That kind of thing. I have quite a few contacts in the Christian film world who are working on films of that scale, so I may even be able to find some jobs outside of my region.
So that's more what I have in mind here. I think I have quite a lot to offer those kinds of productions.
November 12, 2017 at 12:46PM, Edited November 12, 12:46PM
As far as the industry is concerned, a writer, director, dp, producer, editor, just means pretentious a-hole. Be careful.
November 13, 2017 at 12:55AM
People don't view that a *little* differently when you're just making your own no-budget work in small town USA?
November 13, 2017 at 3:25AM
As long as you want to stay there, your way of working is fine.
November 13, 2017 at 10:03AM
So do you suggest not doing so much myself, or simply not advertising how much I do myself?
November 14, 2017 at 2:45AM
When you have so many titles, you should not play dumb, It just affirms what people assume.
November 14, 2017 at 5:56PM, Edited November 14, 5:56PM
Good grief this discussion has gotten nasty for no good reason. I am not playing dumb; I'm asking you questions because despite the fact that you've never written more than a single, semi-cryptic sentence in this entire entire discussion, I thought that maybe you actually had something to say that was worth hearing. I guess I was wrong.
November 14, 2017 at 7:55PM
David, everybody has to do all those things starting out and, sometimes, on actual jobs but, in, let's call it, the seasoned professional world, the general consensus is that advertising yourself doing all those things doesn't do much for your credibility. Kinda the antithesis of it. Pick one and go with that.
November 15, 2017 at 1:53AM
Ultimately, writer/director is where I want to settle. I love cinematography and editing, but with a real budget those are the tasks I could hand off to other people without completely feeling like I'm getting away from the reason I got into filmmaking in the first place, which is to tell the stories I've been dreaming up my whole life.
November 15, 2017 at 12:11PM
David, Indie Guy just added another point that was in the back of my mind while I was writing my comment to you. And I was being lenient when I said it might be OK for the mom and pops of the world. I'm going to retract that now and say, it's always bad idea to 'advertise' you wore all those hats. It absolutely screams amateur. And young and stupid. And arrogant. Not to mention, pretentious. You could always just put something like "By David West". If anyone asks, then you can tell them you did it all by yourself.
BTW, I've made these comments at personal expense as I notice that my NFS 'score' has dropped about 150 points just for talking about this with you. (As if this rating means anything, ha!)
November 13, 2017 at 9:39AM, Edited November 13, 9:42AM
One of the reasons why it may not be best to advertise yourself as someone who does all those roles is that it makes the film seem "cheaper". Kind of makes it seem like you didn't have the budget to hire the right people, or know enough people to pull it off. Not saying that you need to change anything, but this is how you could look at it.
November 16, 2017 at 11:10AM
"Kind of makes it seem like you didn't have the budget to hire the right people, or know enough people to pull it off."
That's exactly the case, though, and I genuinely don't get the running theme in this thread that I should pretend otherwise. The most expensive project featured in this reel is a feature-length adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress that I made for my church on a budget of about $2,500, which basically just paid for gas and food for people. Everything else cost a couple hundred bucks or less and was paid for out of my own pocket. If someone enjoys one of my films then gets to the credits and realizes that it basically had no crew or budget, they'll probably be more impressed. And if they don't enjoy the film but get to the end and realize that it had no crew or budget, they'll probably cut it some slack. Either way, I fail to see how being upfront about the hats I wear reflects on me in anything but a positive light.
November 16, 2017 at 10:14PM
When I was a young man, I felt the same way. And did the same thing. It took years of experience to make me realize that the professionals (and, back in the day, people didn't call themselves professionals unless they really were one) I showed my work to were groaning inside as they watched the credits. Many years ago, I had a piece accepted in a video festival. It all look pretty good on screen and I was basking in the feeling that I had put on a good show. Then, the credits rolled, except for the music, everything was credited to me. There was a very audible groan in the audience. It was, easily, one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
As Gareth Ng said above, it makes the work seem cheaper and, simultaneously, makes you look arrogant. And arrogance on young people is not attractive.
Keep doing what you're doing. You seem pretty unshakable in your beliefs. Sometimes that's a good thing. But, not listening to the voice of experience can be detrimental to progress. Judging from the upvotes on your comments, looks like there are a lot of folks here agreeing with you.
Hmm, wonder what the age range of those vote-casters is?
November 17, 2017 at 11:32AM
It doesn't seem like anyone is trying to downplay your accomplishments, we're just trying to tell you the impression we're getting, which is pretty much what you were asking. For example, you mentioned that you want to be a writer/director, yet you made a reel showcasing your cinematography. It's a bit like you're taking a step in a different direction than what your true goals are. Yes, wearing multiple hats is a great accomplishment, especially if the end product is good, but advertising it might not be. People would be more impressed if you tell them after watching the work. A rare example of someone who fills multiple roles is Steven Soderbergh, who is Dir, editor, dp, of his own films but doesn't credit himself multiple times because he feels that each time a name is mentioned, the value of it goes down.
November 19, 2017 at 9:46AM
The main reason I'm making a cinematography reel is because I don't really see a ton of opportunity in my region for me to get hired onto a production as a writer or director (and, frankly, I wouldn't really want to be hired onto someone else's idea/script as a writer/director). I do think that there is a fair bit of opportunity for me to get hired onto other peoples' short films, commercials, and modestly budgeted features as a DP, though.
And it's not like I'm disinterested in DPing and editing. I do all the sound design on my projects, but I kind of hate doing that, so as soon as I can afford to that's the first thing I'll hand off to someone else. But I love cinematography and editing and I feel like a lot of directorial decisions are made in both disciplines, so as long as I can continue doing them myself I will. My big goal for the next year or two is to secure a low-six-figure budget for my next feature, and I'll definitely continue to DP and edit on that film. Keeping a lean crew is one of the ways I'll be able to get the most bang for my buck and shoot the film in 60+ days instead instead of 14 or less like most films of that budget.
I do kind of agree with Soderbergh on not just having your name all over the place, but to me that's an argument for taking something along the lines of the "Written, directed, and photographed by..." credit that Jeremy Saulnier took on Blue Ruin, not for using aliases or abstaining from credit.
November 19, 2017 at 2:25PM
This post derailed fast!
November 17, 2017 at 10:09PM
Haha, you can say that again...
November 18, 2017 at 1:42AM
Don't understand why you would say that. David asked for a critique and some of us went out of our way to give him our honest thoughts. In an effort to help.
Seems that David and some others don't like what we told him. That's fine but, that's not a derailment.
It's the classic case of someone asking for advice then, instead of 'taking it under advisement', arguing about it. Take the advice or not but, don't submit yourself for critique then, become insolent when you don't like what you hear. Say thank you and move on.
I often wonder why I even try to help.
November 18, 2017 at 10:56AM
So since this thread is still going, I should probably post the link to the updated reel. I realized that the clips from one of the projects featured in the original never got converted to the sRGB color space so they were displaying far too dark on YouTube. This version fixes that and makes another small change or two.
November 18, 2017 at 1:45AM
Hi there David,
does matter now after all these discussion to post the above link?
Adding to the thread, people believe more in specialists. One-man-band will attract only the cheap projects where you will be paid for one skill and asked to deliver all. Just try to understand what these guys are trying to tell you.
All the best.
November 19, 2017 at 5:46PM
Thank you Richard, and anyone else about the advice for “industry specialization!”
I just reformatted and updated my Vimeo to reflect that my main sole purpose is to be a cinematographer over all else.
Thanks again! Hopefully other people will find value in your words!
November 21, 2017 at 2:29AM, Edited November 21, 2:36AM
Thank you, Zachary! But, it doesn't seem likely on this site.
November 22, 2017 at 12:02PM
Hey David, your reel looks great -- but yeah, I agree, maybe distill it down to about half of that.
As far as the discussion that is taking place here, I think too many people are focusing on the "arrogant" perception of it. Some people might think that of one man bands, but it's whatever, it's not really the full question at hand. In my experience, when it comes to getting jobs in the industry doing gigs, claiming that you got everything done with no budget/no people might instill a sense of fear that you do not know how to work with higher budgets and manage crew/talent. Most agencies want to know that you can work within a system like that and, if budgets increase, you know how to properly put that money on the screen. Most people starting out, or who have only worked as one man bands, don't really have those skills yet, and most agencies production companies know that, and that's not what they're looking for.
While I love DIY filmmaking, I only bring this up because your reel has a Doritos spec commercial, and your goal is to get low six figure, which tells us that you are looking for industry work and/or financing for a narrative. And, regardless of the situation of "why" or "how" you worked the way you did, it's not going to matter to companies. (it may have in the 90's, but the climate has changed).
I absolutely think there is a place in the broader discussion for being an economical filmmaker, but it needs to come from a professional standpoint (knowing how to work with producers, staying under budget by using coverage in a specific way, etc), or maybe when it's time to do some pitches on treatments. I think what the others are saying, that in the demo reel stage, it's not really helpful to focus on that aspect, especially as a way to get some slack for lesser shots. I say just kill those lesser shots from your reel (plenty of other shots are good enough), and push it out as a DP reel. Then, maybe re-cut it and re-purpose it as a director reel focusing more on that aspect, and sell yourself there to others. If that's the route you want to go.
Anyway, just my two cents, keep it up, your stuff looks great!
November 21, 2017 at 9:53AM, Edited November 21, 9:53AM