There is no doubt about benefits of education across all sectors of human existence. More so it would seem as if life has been so simplified, through more of digital smart work than physical hard work. This arises from gradual and unavoidable 21st Century, trendy Artificial Intelligence, AI. Many filmmaking craftsmen and women have of course embraced the rudiments of the AI era. To the extent that AI might even replace screenwriters, given the flourishing of software and attendant ease in learning anything, cinematography being no exception.
Filmmakers across the world are also taking advantage of lowered production and post-production costs. Therefore, there is no time like Internet era; wherein aspiring filmmakers and videographers have been enabled to produce tons of entertainment for a widespread global audience.
It was the same rudimentary and unstructured digital experiment that reinvented Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood. Producers shot on VHS and stored on CD or DVD and smiled to the bank. But what is the best way to gain cinematography skills: formal film education or on the job experience?
Indeed, long before Nollywood Nigerian filmmakers made movies solely on celluloid. It was understandable to study and understand analogue tools or cameras like the 35mm or Super 16 in distant film schools. That would have been quite demanding for many 21st filmmakers or videographers, who would also need to uncover ‘hidden’ skills to produce the amount of internet audio-visuals uploaded every other day. Truly digital filmmaking tools have progressively reduced the cost and increased access to knowledge and skills today.
This means we have choices of structured and continual trial and error learning. It means the skilled filmmaker could do without formal certification from structured accelerated learning. Amazingly so because most contemporary filmmakers produce on 24 frame-per-second, shallow depth-of-field visuals, largely allowed motion picture standard and useable setting across various digital cameras. There are also the added advantages of durable digital capacity storage, preservation and conversation across formats. These have helped new and experienced filmmakers tremendously.
Accordingly, filmmaking skills is matter of choice; depending on personal need and preferred learning location- physical hands-on, school structured or virtual. And there is no time like now- a new normal. What seems to matter is what you want to say as filmmaker may never be impacted by anything taught in structured formal school studies or hands-on apprenticeship.
Although proper film schooling boosts careers, engender connections, promotes ethical practice, rapid changes have long come to the industry and professionals themselves. Perhaps it is better to acquire hands-on craftmanship in today’s rapidly changing world. How else but through network of opportunities with millions and get hired via Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo among other platforms? Of course, as we move from structured personal DVD lectures to streamed YouTube and Zoom webinars (web workshops) or seminars.
It also means learners or trainees could use their best adapted learning methods- more visuals than audio or both. And also follows that with any method of skill acquisition certain cinematographers prefer some movie genres, as some have been at ease shooting Short-Comedies (SHORTCOMS). Some cinematographers may prefer working for big movie studios, television stations, small program-focused small studios or freelance careers. Some could even own their own production equipment and sell skills too.
Whether from structured school learning or practical training, any cinematographer should develop independent creative thinking and build versatility. Afterall cinematographers’ seniority in film photography is never in dispute. No wonder they are also, pervasive directors of photography. This is always certain, because they sometimes with hands-on exposure work their way up from camera and equipment room assistants.
Howbeit formal A-levels or higher qualifications in arts, art and design, graphics or photography should well prepare the potential cinematographer or director of photography. A straight walk into practical apprenticeship should at least be enabled by vocational qualifications in art and design or creative digital media production.
That is not say that some cinematographers have not earned their due degree certifications in other fields and eventually explored natural artistic or filmmaking talents. All the same: whether in unstructured hands-on learning or structured physical or virtual learning the 21st Century cinematographer or director of photography has vast library of resources and varied audiences to serve.