Behind the scenes – Jobs in FilmYou don’t have to be able to act to have a career in film. Whether your interest is in lighting, sound, special effects or one of the dozens of other careers available in the film and television industry, there’s a world of opportunities hidden behind the cameras just waiting to be explored.
A Career In Cinematography
For 22 year old Caroline Moody, it’s the love of her craft, rather than fame and fortune that drives her to succeed in her chosen field of cinematography. The Queensland Uni Technology Film and Television School graduate kick started her career by winning the 2000 Australian Cinematographers Society Encouragement Award (for new Queensland filmmakers) for her work on the short film, The Drunken Bath.
What does a Cinematographer do?
A cinematographer is responsible for lighting and the overall look of the film and works closely with the director in deciding what shots and camera angles to use. Moody, whose ultimate aim is to work in feature films, says she was drawn to cinematography because of the balance of creative and technical aspects in the job. “Cinematography requires imagination,” she says, “there can be basic ways of lighting?but stand out cinematographers break the rules.”
The job sounds glamorous but requires a lot of manual labour, particularly when you’re starting out. “Cinematography at my level is very physical,” Moody says. “You end up lugging everything around. Lights and cameras get to be very cumbersome.” According to latest figures available from the Australian Film Commission (AFC) only 11% of cinematographers are women, so it’s not surprising that the camera departments on most shoots are quite blokey. Nevertheless, being a female on the set has never been a problem for Moody. “It’s the attitude that you walk in [to the job] with? I think it’s important not to feel disadvantaged. Assert yourself, but also be willing to listen to other people’s ideas.”
Moody says working on film sets is a lot of fun although working through the night is common, particularly on low budget films where money for locations is scarce. “If your location is a business, for example, you have to film when they’re not open. You get the hours [to film] whenever you can. For The Drunken Bath we were filming all night for a couple of nights but it was good fun. Max (Maxine Williams, the film’s director) would go out and get us all ice cream and we’d be eating ice cream at 4am.”Networking
Like most aspects of the film industry, networking is everything. “It’s the biggest part, apart from talent,” Moody says. “I’ve worked on corporate productions, ads and short films. I got the work mainly through contacts or invitations. It’s all been by word of mouth.” Nevertheless, continuity of work is a common problem in the industry. “You get bombarded by opportunities all at once then it slacks off. It comes in waves. But at a high level you can jump from one job to the next, especially in advertising or documentaries.”
So how do you get ahead in the field? Networking is the key. Moody says her next step is to use her contacts to find an ‘attachment’, an industry professional who you “follow around like a sheep for a period of time on a shoot”. Caroline, who plans to travel to England this year, says her dream is to get an attachment with a British cinematographer. “Some of their work is beautiful,” she says.
How to get a foot in the door
A university degree in film and television is a great way to get started in a career behind the scenes but it is by no means the only way. Cinematographer Suzanne Barker entered the industry later in life after setting up a video production company with her husband in Townsville. “I worked on boats as a hostess and deckhand while my husband and I built the company up,” she says. “When we first got going we lived on our boat. We had wires and cables and cameras everywhere? That’s how we got our company name, Mainsail Productions, because we started out on the boat.”
Barker is self-taught and believes that getting ahead in the industry is a matter of self-confidence. “I just got out there and did it without any formal training, but since I’ve been in Brisbane I’ve done a few short courses at QPIX on lighting. I’ll go to anything like that to further my knowledge.”