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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dooso ertoosotheo antoniou Recent comment authors
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I’m personally in favor of the statement that film schools are meaningful.

People often criticize film school in terms of efficiency, saying “We better make a film instead of paying tuition,” “Why you spend a few years for knowledge that you can learn in a week by watching youtube tutorials?” or something.

I think what we can develop in the period of film school is the basement for our style, which takes us a very long “inefficient” time. We learn in class, make films, of course, then also deal with classmates who have different backgrounds, suffer from rejection by professor, be jealous over other student’s success, find a partner to get married with in the future… In other words we have to grow as a human being, and the is what a film school has to offer. We can’t experience them just in a week.

Imagine a 10 year-old boy, who has quickly learned knowledge and technique by online resource, makes a love romance. Do you think it would be worth watching? I don’t think. He doesn’t know yet about love. We want to see a life through art piece, and the life is not efficient.

I enjoyed going to a film school. The experience in the school is an invaluable treasure for me which still pushes me as a filmmaker.

 theo antoniou
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theo antoniou

A very interesting interview. I do think that at present in the evolution of cinema or “pictures in motion” we’re at a point where the tools of the trade, especially the camera, is becoming more important than the stories we’re telling. We’re overwhelmed by tech and it’s supposed ability to “improve” our films.
New cameras, expensive and inexpensive, are being unveiled monthly. While this is very exciting, (not if you’re in the market for a new camera, of course) a story remains a story. It’s either good or not so good.
I’m of the opinion, that no matter what happens technologically, good sense – as in common sense and sensibility as in sensitivity – will always prevail. It’s all about how one envisions and interprets a story from paper to screen; how and what one prepares beforehand for the camera to capture.
Moreover, I think that good filmmakers have this ability which may or may not be honed by going to film school. Although, it would seem, many of these talented men and women do go to film school to hone their skills.
And it’s wonderful that they have at their disposal these image making tools which are improving all the time. However, having the “best” camera or lighting complement, doesn’t mean you’ll make the best film.
I, for one, also think that going to film school is “meaningful” but it might not work for everyone.

 dooso ertooso
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dooso ertooso

Did u use a mrecorder.com on Android for monitro somebody? Can u tell me how It is work?

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