If you want to get filmmakers worked up in a hurry, talk about film school. Opinions are as varied as they are impassioned. As they should be. Film school requires a lot from a person. It takes a lot of money, a lot of time, and, ultimately, a lot of trust.
Some people know what they’re going to do with their lives before they’re old enough to drink a beer. Some of us take a little longer. Autumn Durald didn’t decide to be a director of photography until after she’d graduated college, traveled the world, and held a steady job in advertising. Once she’d made the decision, though, she didn’t look back. Since then, she’s lensed everything from major motion pictures (Palo Alto) to documentaries (Portraits of Braddock).
The quickest way to do bad work is to worry about doing bad work. It’s that well-known truth all over again: We move toward what we focus on. At some point, the people who make great things stop worrying so much about making bad things, and they start getting work done, getting projects finished, getting pieces out there. They eschew perfectionism in favor of productivity. They work fast — and fearlessly.
As David Foster Wallace famously put it: “Of course you end up becoming yourself.” Which probably just means that everything seems inevitable in retrospect. And maybe that’s why it’s not surprising that despite having so many things working against them, cinematographers Autumn Durald (Palo Alto, One & Two) and Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Cake) have built not only successful film careers, but also families. Which isn’t to say it was easy. Just that, when you hear them talk about it, it makes sense. “I guess on some level, [being a DP and a mother was] always a part of the plan,” Rachel Morrison says. “But I got to the point where I was like, ‘How the hell can you be a DP and a mother?’”
How can you become a better filmmaker when there are so many aspects of filmmaking to improve? It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But here’s the thing: Filmmaking is inherently interdisciplinary. Every piece is related to everything else. Improving one part has a strange way of improving the whole. So when we asked some of our favorite cinematographers for their advice on taking their work to the next level, we realized that everything they were talking about could also be applied to a broader lifelong goal of becoming a better filmmaker. So whether or not you’re a cinematographer, here are some world-class opinions on how to get better.
We’ve talked to some incredible women on our blog: directors, DPs, acting coaches, animators, Oscar Nominees, creative directors, artists. They’ve shared illuminating, perspective-shattering advice that any filmmaker can take to heart. Today we’re celebrating some of the wise women we’ve talked to on our blog by pulling some of our favorite moments from their interviews. Reader beware: the topics are all over the place — from storytelling to panic attacks — but we think that speaks to the overwhelming amount of great advice we’ve received over the years. Enjoy.