Here are 88 pieces of advice from top cinematographers. They seem like cinematography advice, but they go a bit further than that.
These are my favourites:
‘The edges of the frame are often more interesting than the center.’
Luciano Tovoli, ASC, AIC
Life is like an airplane: you either get onboard, or you don’t. It’s up to you.
Xavier Grobet, ASC, AMC
On my first day on my first job as a PA, the production manager was late, and a grip said, ‘It is disrespectful to be late on a shoot day.’ That made a big impression on me.
Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC
Don’t try to be someone you are not.
Alar Kivilo, AS, CSC
Stay calm, listen, observe and lead by example.
Jonathan Taylor, ASC
From George Miller: ‘Just be bold, Dino! Be as bold as you want!’
Dean Semler, ASC, ACS
I’ve learned so much from reading American Cinematographer, and the best professional advice I ever received was from an interview with Gordon Willis. In it, he stressed the importance of always having a point of view when approaching a scene. It’s the first question I ask myself when I’m designing my coverage: what is the point of view, or whose? Once I’ve answered this question, everything falls into place with much more ease.
Ernest Dickerson, ASC
When I was an AC, a gaffer told me, ‘Don’t run on a set,’ because you show everyone that you probably forgot something. I still don’t run on set, and I try not to forget too many things.
The film business is like a prizefight: It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get up and go again.
From my agent: ‘Be the happiest guy on set.’ He was right.
Frank B. Byers
From Tim Beiber: ‘Show up early, don’t sit down, and act like you give a shit.’ It’s easy to remember and has far-reaching implications.
Jim Denault, ASC
From Jordan Cronenweth: ‘Minimize compromise, be prepared for rejection, and save your money
Thomas A. Del Ruth
The advice I got the first day I worked in the film business: Always be five minutes early to work, never five minutes late. But more importantly, live on the edge when it comes to your photography — take risks. Put your ideas on film and fall down a few times; it will make you a great filmmaker.
From John Frankenheimer: ‘Alan, whatever you do in this business, don’t ever let them push you into shooting something you know is just bad, something you’ll end up regretting or hating. Simple rule of thumb: don’t shoot s**t!’
Legendary gaffer George ‘Popeye’ Dahlquist used to tell his lamp operators, ‘Boys, if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re 10 minutes late.’ Readiness is a big part of what we do.
We’re all replaceable.
Ron Fortunato, ASC
Early in my career, an old veteran told me, ‘The industry is a lot of fun, but never forget it’s a business with a lot of money being spent every second. Don’t laugh your way out of your job, and if you stretch your arms out and you can’t touch the camera, then you’re probably in the wrong place.’ Good words to remember.
Craig DiBona, ASC