As a filmmaker, How do you define yourself?

A newsletter from Den Lennie of F-Stop Academy arrived in my email inbox this morning asking this very question.

As content creators of moving images, if our intention is to charge clients for our film making services then this question should be contemplated.

I call myself a “Hybrid Digital Filmmaker” – having originally come from a background as a photojournalist.  I have been telling stories since the late 80’s with still images.  The transition to moving images reignited my passion for the art form.

According to Lennie, How much is there in a name or title? Well, if you read any of the popular film making blogs, it seems that it’s commonplace to call yourself a DoP or Cinematographer.

I have issue with how liberally shooters label themselves with an important title like that given the mediocre quality of their work.

Lennie continues with listing three different definitions within the Digital Filmmaking community:

Definition 1: The Director of Photography is the Cinematographer who is responsible for the process of recording a scene as instructed by the Director. Duties include selection of film, cameras and lenses, as well as selecting the lighting. The Director of Photography directs the Gaffer’s placement of lighting.

Definition 2: A Cinematographer is a person who has expertise in the art of capturing images either electronically or on film through the use of visual recording devices. Also responsible for the selection and arrangement of lighting. The Director of Photography is the movie’s chief Cinematographer.

Definition 3: Cinematography is the art of photography and camerawork in film making.

So, how do you define yourself? And more importantly, how do your clients see you? Do they really care what you call yourself?

Have you heard the phrase ‘Perception IS reality’. Be sure to give this statement pause to contemplate how it can affect your image for others. If you want to be “cool” in front of your peers, then maybe DOP is the right title (just make sure you can deliver what it says on the tin). IMO, too many shooters use the term quite often when in reality they have no idea what it takes to earn that title.

However, here’s a far more important consideration. Ask yourself this, what are clients looking for?

Clients and customers ONLY care about one thing: themselves and their problem and… are you the right solution to fix that problem?

They have on or a mix of the following:

  • A Need 
  • A Want
  • A Desire
  • A Pain
  • A Concern

What they REALLY want is a solution. The question is, can you come up with an imaginative and engaging film that tells a story and addresses those needs and desires the client is seeking a resolution to?

Without the experience to truly tell their story, you are remiss in calling yourself a DoP, Director, etc.  Ego tends to be the driving force in using such titles.  And it seems the more one has gone into debt for in the accumulation of equipment, the more shooters feel entitled to call themselves filmmakers, DoP,’s etc.

Our skills as  Digital Film makers can and should draw on influences from the cinema, and that level of differentiation will impress any client – so long as it delivers the message and answers the question and solves the problem they had in the first place.

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