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Sundance Cinematographers Tell Indiewire The Best and Worst Advice They Received

By Max O'Connell | Indiewire January 23, 2014 at 2:17PM

There's plenty of advice out there for aspiring filmmakers and cinematographers, some great, some garbage. With that in mind, Indiewire asked the cinematographers of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival what was the best and worst advice they ever received, as part of our How I Shot That series.
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Song One

There's plenty of advice out there for aspiring filmmakers and cinematographers, some great, some garbage. With that in mind, Indiewire asked the cinematographers of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival what was the best and worst advice they ever received, as part of our How I Shot That series. Here is a selection of their responses:


Best Advice:

"Don't feel pressure to run to the frontline and film. Follow your gut instincts and get in and get out and only if it there are essential moments for you to tell your story." -- Cinematographer Rachel Beth Anderson ("E-Team")

"Vilmos Zsigmond told me, 'Jim, nice guys finish first and when you are successful promise me that you will help the next person.'" -- Cinematographer James Chressanthis ("Cesar's Last Fast")

"First and foremost: It's not a race. Enjoy the whole journey and be proud of yourself even when things aren't going your way. Not everybody has the courage to follow their dreams." -- Cinematographer Alex Disenhof ("Fishing Without Nets")

"If you want to be a cinematographer, start calling yourself a cinematographer." -- Cinematographer John Guleserian ("Song One")

"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")

"Pick something you love and work your ass off, no matter what people say." -- Cinematographer Rex Miller ("Private Violence")

"Don't quit your day job too soon. It's important to make sure you pick your projects and that you aren't getting in over your head financially with equipment. I waited tables in between films I was directing or shooting. I'd totally consider getting a job like that again before I took a script I hated just for money. Bad work sticks with you forever." -- Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo ("Rich Hill")

"I've never received any specific career advice, but in this business, one saying always sticks with me, which is 'other peoples successes, are not your failures.'" -- Cinematographer Brett Pawlak ("Hellion")

"E-Team."
"E-Team."

"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")

Read More: Here's What Sundance Cinematographers Think of the Transition from Film to Digital

Worst Advice:

"When someone says 'it will be good enough.'" -- Cinematographer James Chressanthis ("Cesar's Last Fast")

"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")

"The worst thing anyone in the film industry can ever do is convince themselves that they are so important that they can't be replaced. I've seen it happen to everyone from PAs, to actors, to producers, to directors, to myself. As soon as you convince yourself that you are so important to a film that the whole thing would collapse without you a poison seeps into your brain and it will ruin you eventually. I believe they call it hubris. Stay humble and remember that the PA next to you is just as important as to the production as you are." -- Cinematographer Jay Hunter ("Life After Beth")

"A distinguished cinematographer once told me that in order to be a good DP you have to marry your camera and sacrifice having a life outside of film. But with the correct balance, I think you can achieve both-- having a full and diverse life, as well as having a career-- and one really enriches the other." -- Cinematographer Shachar Langlev ("Alive Inside: The Story of Music & Memory")

"'Have you considered the army?' (I swear)." -- Cinematographer Rex Miller ("Private Violence")

"'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 your making and gives you the breathing room you need to grow. My agent, Lana Wilson, 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")

"First day on my first job a grizzled old timer looked down at me and said 'Get out of the business while you still can.' Who knows maybe he was right, but I honestly can't imagine any other job I'd rather be doing." -- Cinematographer Ryan Samul ("Cold In July")

Best AND Worst Advice

"'Don't let the technical S*@# get in your way.' -- Chris Doyle" -- Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt ("Low Down")

This article is related to: How I Shot That, Cinematography, Sundance, Sundance 2014, Filmmaker Toolkit: Production







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