Page 1: From First Cameraman to Director of Photography
Page 2: Film vs. Digital Video
Page 3: Oliver Stapleton: So You Wanna Work in Movies?
Page 4: What It Took to Create 'Collateral'
Page 5: Bleach Bypass - Digital Intermediate - Steadicam - Louma Crane
Page 6: Cinematographers-Turned-Director: A - F
Page 7: Cinematographers-Turned-Director: G - Q
Page 8: Cinematographers-Turned-Director: R - Z
Page 9: A History of Aerial Cinematography
SO YOU WANNA WORK IN MOVIES?
A response to people who ask: What do I do to get into Movies?
By OLIVER STAPLETON, BSC
'This is called a department although in reality it is quite small. It consists of a Trainee, Loader, Focus Puller, Operator and Lighting Cameraman. In the USA the same jobs are called Loader, 2nd Assistant, 1st Assistant, Operator and Director of Photography [DP].
The Intern or Trainee is just that - a learner. In some countries this person drives the camera truck, but only in sensible places like Australia. In the USA and the UK the truck driver drives the truck and then.. well.. hang out - usually in an unused star trailer playing poker or reading a bad newspaper. Recently some UK truck drivers have started helping out on set and learning to load the camera - so that they aren't truck drivers till death. I like this.
The Loader loads the camera, oddly enough, with film made by either Kodak or Fuji. Agfa used to make film but gave up, which was a shame. Now they only make film for Prints. Loading may not sound like much of a job, but in actuality it is very important. If the wrong film is in the camera, or if it gets loaded twice, or lost, or put in the wrong can, then the scene which corresponded to: Scene 56 - The army advanced over the hill, the jets dropped their bombs, and the volcano erupted... could be lost. When this happens the Loader can become deeply unpopular very quickly. Kubrick fired one loader on his first day of work for walking across the set holding a magazine upside down. This was a trifle harsh, but there is a right way to do the job, and the rules are there for a very good reason. If you screw up the minimum cost is about $20,000 and the max any figure you might care to imagine. So this job is important, as well as being the bottom rung of the ladder to becoming a DP. There's at least one loader in the UK who is over 50 years old so it shows you don't have to move on.
The 1st AC [or Focus Puller] has one of the hardest jobs on the set. And itís one of those jobs that are never noticed until it is wrong. Focus pulling not only involves what it sounds like, but also the Focus Puller 'runs' the department, in the sense of taking care of all the camera gear, and making sure that everything is tickety-boo. A focus puller relies heavily on the Operator to tell him if the shot is out of focus - after all only the operator is actually looking through the lens.
The Operator is a very different animal in the USA to the UK operator. And then again, many films in many countries are lit and operated by the DP, so it isn't a separate job. In all unionized places, it's looked at as '2 jobs' for obvious reasons - more employment. There's a lot to say about camera operating, and this isn't the place to do it. Operators often stick at the job and never move up to DP, as they like the job so much. Can't blame them, as I like it too, and often operate my own films. I look at being a DP as a two-part process, one mental and one physical. The lighting requires you to stand or sit and point your finger at lights and talk to your gaffer and key grip. Not much physical activity here. Operating means that your body is bent into all kinds of shapes, and made to endure the most uncomfortable positions for as many takes as it takes. This can be quite physical. Hand held work is very physical as the camera is quite heavy and you have to have good balance and strength to move a camera well. Steadicam is a device that means the operator can move about with the camera, but it is steady. The best Steadicam operators achieve a level of steadiness and exactness of composition that is virtually equivalent to a dolly shot. The worst ones make you feel as though you are on a cross channel ferry in a winter storm. I never learnt to use this device, as I never fancied it. Anyway, it's only for tough guys/girls.