This weekend I was lucky enough to be asked to be the 1st Assistant Cameraman (1st AC) for a music video some audio and film colleagues are collaborating on.
But what’s a good weekend of shooting without starting with some drama? On the way to the shoot site, I was involved in a pretty serious car crash. The driver went to hospital*, however I was lucky enough to walk away with only minor injuries of whiplash and bruising. So without too much delay I continued onto the shoot site, still extremely excited and surprisingly not in the least bit phased.
Along with being the 1st AC I became responsible for lighting design and set-up, gaffer and grips. This was great as I desire to learn all aspects of film and it was a great opportunity to do so.
On overall reflection I found I was strongest with artistic ideas that required me to think-on-my-feet. The artist was a very feminine beautiful young girl singing a gospel song to Jesus. Everyone on set was male except for a girl who specialised in audio. So the space for my influence opened up and I really think excelled in it. I designed her hair and makeup in conjunction with how peaceful or chaotic a certain shot would be. I ran all my ideas by the director and he was happy to have these done. I’m glad I could contribute so readily to this important aspect of the shoot. I also offered opinions on certain shots we should capture which were welcomed. My favourite technical areas were setting up and framing shots, and problem solving with the lighting design.
As DOP the biggest thing I struggled with was multi-tasking. On the day this meant keeping the moving subject in frame whilst making sure not to pick up any lighting stands. Which I did. Even though it was only one shot I was quite upset at myself, but the director kindly assured me you learn this with experience. Now I feel safer within the team and environment, reassurance goes a long way!
Lighting design was a bit easier for me, possibly due to the fact that I love lighting! The director was going for a purple tinge on tungsten lights (that emphasised the colour of flames) and I helped set out the 3 cameras and 3 lighting stands. We adhered to the 3 point lighting rule and it illuminated our subject whilst adding depth to her.
Overall I think I take direction extremely well and have learnt how to tactfully gage when the director is looking for some alternative ideas or is happy within their own, regardless of how I feel about them. I think that’s super important, not to undermine the artistic vision but to help achieve the director’s vision. I’ve noticed through past shoots that many people struggling with giving up that control and trusting someone else artistic direction. I’ve struggled at times! But nonetheless humility is important and will make the production run smoothly AND people will like working with you more. So many wins!
The Film Connection (2016) explains how humility is an important key toward becoming successful in the film industry:
“In this vast and competitive industry, I learned very quickly, being a producer and screenwriter, that possessing true humility cannot be stressed enough. Once you land a job (and usually your first position is one that nobody wants) this will literally help create work you will do in the future. Humility, which in this business entails the willingness to do any job no matter how menial, with a smile on your face and excitement in your voice, will do more for your reputation than anything else. People will remember your attitude and how well you “played” with others on set more than the job you did. This industry is basically about people telling stories about people. So if you’re someone that is a team player, parks your ego at the door and helps make the entire experience a success, you, my friend, will be working all the time.”
It was a long day of filming, then some of the crew had gone to bed late and there was one person in particular who was grumpy the next day, only speaking to me sarcastically and condascendingly. I deduced that either it was personal or he felt more comfortable being rude to a female or the ‘new person on set’. Giving him the advantage and assuming it wasn’t personal, I asked him if he slept okay and he told me he slept horribly. Clearly it was my gender or my status within the group, not me personally. Satisfied with the justification I worked silently through his sneers at me. (Just to finish the story) on the way home we were all more relaxed and became nice and respectful again.
It’s unpleasant situations like these that I don’t look forward to, yet am extremely appreciative of. It’s through conflict that I grow in character as I use maturity and common-sense to deal with them. I am satisfied with how I handled the young man and feel confident to face the inevitable situation again within the film industry.
I asked for feedback as I’m always looking to better myself and grow. The producer said she is happy to invite me along to any other productions she has going and the director said he valued my hard work. You can find it below in the first link, the second link is an example of a shot that I designed and filmed that night.
A snippet I designed and filmed for a Music Video recently.
The audio is still attached so as to help sync the audio later in post! The piano was on fire (outside this shot) so the strings had to be loosened to avoid snapping, as you can hear.
*The music video is currently in post-production so I could only offer a snippet of work.
After this whole experience I can confidently say I’m excited to go into any production as whether it is a good experience or a bad one, or a mixture of the two, I am learning and growing in skill and character and I wholeheartedly look forward to future productions.
*note: the driver is now thankfully okay.