Film Production – Meeting the Industry Requirements

This was published on May 15, 2012 on Dream Row’s website.

Film Production-Meeting the Industry Requirements

by Nicole LaChance

Working in movie production does not always mean being an actor, director, producer or screenwriter. There are several more technical areas of expertise in every stage from pre-production to the final cut. Breaking into these fields is not always easy and having the right education and training is essential to your success.

One of the important things to take care of before a scene starts is getting the lighting right. This is where the work of lighting technicians comes in. Lighting technicians often have to be one of the first to arrive on a set and can spend a long time trying to perfect the lighting on a scene. They have to coordinate with the director and art director to find the best lighting for each scene and then, along with their team, make, carry out and dismantle a lighting plan. The job often requires long hours and some travel, but you get to be right in the action of a movie of television shoot.

Lighting technicians require a large amount of technical knowledge. Technicians must know how operate various cables, extensions, adapters, connectors, electrical systems and computer programs. They also need to know how to focus and direct light and run the dimmer switch. The Set Lighting Technicians Handbook provides an in-depth explanation of the technical day-to-day responsibilities of lighting technicians.

There is no standard of training for becoming a lighting technician. Some schools offer certificate programs in lighting, but many professional lighting technicians earn a bachelor’s degrees in either film and television production or theater production. Most reputable film schools will have classes teaching the basics of lighting for film and television. If going the theater route, make sure the school is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theater. When looking at schools, make sure undergraduates have access to professional grade consoles, such as Flying Pig systems or Strand, as well as more conventional lighting systems. Also, make sure the school provides hands-on opportunities through either on-set experience in school productions or internships, as experience is the best way to break into the industry.

By John E Fry

When production begins, one of the most essential jobs on the set is that of a camera operator. Like lighting technicians, camera operators often have to work long hours, often standing, and may have to go on location to helps shoot a film.  The field provides many freelance opportunities, with 34 percent of camera operators self-employed in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is not really a major specifically for camera operations. Most camera operators study film, cinematography or broadcasting at a film or journalism school, depending on their desired area of employment. The American Film Institute and UCLA  both offer MFAs in cinematography and are well-known to people in the industry.  When looking at schools, make sure students have access to professional grade cameras, such as Panavision or Moviecam models, which are frequently used on big production sets. It is also important to look for schools that offer internships and hands-on experience, as experience operating a camera is key to finding a job in the field.  Most camera operators start out as production assistants and work their way up. And for those looking to study up on camera and production slang, The Black and Blue offers a good guide.

Once production is over, a movie enters into post-production, part of which includes editing. Film editors spend hours looking through footage and editing it down into a movie. The days can be long and editors often have to re-edit after getting notes from the producers, according to professional film editor Janelle Ashley Nielson. Television shows can often take over a week to edit and movies can take at least a month, so editors must be prepared to focus on one movie or episode for a long time.

One of the most important things for a film editor to know is the technology. Almost all editing today is done digitally, and the two most important  programs to know are Avid and Final Cut Pro, as they are the most commonly used editing programs. However, being an editor is more than just technical. Editors must know where to make cuts to keep up with the desired message and tone of a film. They often work with directors, producers, cinematographers and sound technicians to discuss the direction of the film.

Many editors go to film schools and earn degrees in areas like film studies to learn about the general process of film making. While at school, they take classes specializing in editing programs to learn the technical details. The Edit Center  and NYU  offer six-week intensive programs for those who want to learn Final Cut Pro without getting a separate degree. As with most disciplines, it is important to look for a school that offers internships and hands-on experience.

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