Do You Need To Go To Film School? – with AFI’s Stephen Lighthill, ASC – ON THE GO – Episode 88

In this episode of cinema5D ON THE GO, we talk to Stephen Lighthill ASC, former president of the American Society of Cinematographers. As he is also Head of the Cinematography discipline at the American Film Institute, he seemed like the right person to ask the age-old question: do you need to go to film school to become a successful cinematographer?

Although mostly self-taught, Stephen is of the opinion that there are some aspects of film school that offer valuable knowledge, such as History of Cinema or History of Art. These are a lot harder to self-teach than the practical aspects of filmmaking.

Additionally, the AFI offers an environment that helps nurture your work by allowing your work to be critiqued – and learning to take criticism in a safe environment can prove very useful for when you are out in the real world.

We also talk about the impact that technology has had in the industry. Beyond the clear advancements in camera technology, Stephen believes that the area that has seen some of the biggest innovations is that of lighting.

Another big aspect that has changed, in his opinion, is the way sets are run. Stephen Lighthill believes they tend to be somewhat more disorganised and undisciplined, due perhaps to the impression that – unrestricted by a limited number of film rolls – there is “free” media on which to record. This of course is a fallacy, as more advanced productions require increased resources in post production. A clear example of this is in the time required to sort through mislabeled rushes, or the needless transcoding of excess material.

And what about camera technology? Stephen believes that advancements are going to make cameras so similar in terms of specs at much lower prices, that the most deciding factor between one model versus another will be the ergonomic aspects of each camera.

Stay tuned for the next part of our chat with Stephen Lighthill ASC, where we discuss the curriculum at the AFI Cinematography program.

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