SIC Podcast: Ep 29 – Carving Your Path

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SIC Podcast: Ep 29 – Carving Your Path

It’s tough breaking into the industry and knowing whether you are making the right decisions, or not. Should you dive-in straight as a DP or go up the ladder from the bottom? Are you scared to make the leap into a freelance lifestyle? It’s a lot to wrap your mind around when first starting out in the business.

Lydia and I  discuss my path to becoming a DP and how having someone to lean on in tough times is key!

Play it here:

Or download the file here:

December 2016 Podcast


Question 1: (00:01:37 – 00:12:03)

Hi Shane,  I’m a 20-year-old cinematographer transferring to a large film school and I wanted to know what your philosophy is about education at the start of a career.  My school’s undergraduate program is a wonderful course that seems very similar to the experiences you reminisced about from your Emerson College days. However, I’m conflicted as to whether I should stick with my current undergraduate program route or try to get a master’s degree in film production. Their master’s program is only open to 12 people each year and is almost entirely focused on producing a thesis feature film alongside specialized advanced training classes for whatever role the student wishes to pursue such as the cinematographer. If I can get in, do you think such advanced courses would be beneficial? Or would it be better to get out of school and start the long climb up the industry ladder instead? What should a film student’s overall game plan be towards education to ensure they’re starting their career off on the right foot and not wasting time and money at school?  Thank you so much for the educational resource you are providing, I hope you inspire other ASC cinematographers to follow in your footsteps towards educating the masses.   Michael

Question 2: (00:12:05 – 00:21:36)

Hello! I’m a young film maker (17) trying to pick a skill set to hone in on, but I was wondering, should I try my hardest to be the best at one thing or learn as much as I possibly can about a lot of things? Great work, keep it up! Quentin

Question 3: (00:21:47 – 00:21:47)

Hi Shane,  I was just wondering what your opinion is on becoming a DOP the traditional way (trainee, assistant, focus puller, operator, DP) vs. the modern way of just become a low budget DP and working your way up via low budget films, corporate jobs, etc. I’m a camera trainee and I love everything about working on professional TV dramas and films at the bottom but I do also shoot as many short films as possible in my spare time (but this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like).  I have worked with many trainees and assistants who want to work their way up to DOP one day but I also have many friends who just work as a DOP or camera op on low budget films and corporate jobs and although they don’t earn much money and some of them have never even been a professional set, they’re out there actually being a DOP and getting to practice their lighting and camera skills and I often get pretty jealous of that.  Do you have a strong opinion on which method is better? Or does it simply come down to what’s best for the individual?  Cheers! -Adam (Manchester, England)

Question 4: (00:30:45 – 00:46:42)

  • I hear a lot of cinematographers say they started as a camera assistant or a grip or PA and worked their way up.  If I may be blunt, how did they work their way up?  I’ve never heard them mention their journey up the ladder, so to speak.  Did someone just look at them and say, “you know, they could make a great 2nd electric,” or was it them just asking “hey can I try this”?  My understanding is that if you’re really good at a job, then your employer will do their best to keep you at that job and more than likely won’t let you move up the ladder.  How did you transition?  What conversations, work,  etc. did it take to get you to the level of cinematographer?
  • Hi, Shane, my question is about working your way up when starting at the bottom.  It’s become my understanding that if you’re good at what you do, the people above you will do everything they can to keep you there.  How do you work your way up?  Do you just go up to someone and say that you want to try a higher up position?  Or do they just look at you doing your thing as a grip and say, “That guy would make a good second electric,”?  If I want to be a cinematographer shooting studio films and narrative television, should I have a strategy centered around this question or would that mess up my chances of doing that level of work?
  • When it comes to working your way up the ladder in the film industry, a lot of cinematographers mention that they started as a camera assistant or as a PA or, in your case a grip truck driver.  Then they mention that they eventually became a gaffer or an operator or something.  But what I have never heard about was the transition from that first position, to that next rung on the ladder.  I’ve never been able to work my way up anywhere, let alone on a set.  Even though I know they worked for it, from the outside looking in, it seemed as if it was handed to them.  How exactly did it go down when you transitioned from an entry level position to the next position up? Chandler

New Year’s Resolutions: (00:46:52 – 01:04:33)

  • Eating well/ Health
  • Exercising
  • Stretching- F & D hamstring pull
    • Increases blood flow and nutrients to your muscles
    • Stamina
    • Flexibility and range of motion
    • Burst of energy
    • Mind more alert
    • Increases overall health
    • Reduces cholesterol
  • Chiropractic/ Massage
  • Importance of Sleep- Found out I had sleep apnea
    • People who get less than 6 hours a night are at risk for:
      • Diabetes
      • Stroke
      • Heart Disease
      • Earlier Death
      • Accidents
      • Lower productivity
      • Kills sex drive
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
  • What drives you as a filmmaker
  • What goals you can set for yourself

All audio was edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

  1. Patrick 2 years ago

    Getting rest or finding a safe way home after set is a precious tip. I’ve crashed my car on my way home once by falling asleep after set. Since then if I feel tired or that’s unsafe to drive home after long work hours I simply sleep at my car. That’s a really important thing you guys talked about that many of us doesn’t really notice.

  2. Patrick 2 years ago

    Complementing my earlier comment, I’d definitely be interested in a lifestyle section. Chris Herr had this touch in some of his vlogs back in Prague where he showed boots he used, sunscreen he found was good, rain gear, all this kind of stuff that I think somehow hasn’t anything to do with camera, lenses and lighting, but somehow bond us together all across the planet who works in the film industry.

    The thing that drives me as a filmmaker is that now I know it isn’t a dream, it’s a reality, it’s possible, it’s right in front of me to go out and pursue my career in film and people like you enhance that feeling.

    Kind regards, from Brazil,

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