For this weeks The PEN we are focusing on Cinematographer/Editor Joel Barnes. Joel has worked on many of the Big Pig Production Co. projects as a cinematographer and has been a vital member in our success. He has also done work for Crafted Film Co., and the Untold City. We asked him what it was like to start in this business as a cinematographer and we are happy to have him share his experiences.
I have been a freelance editor/cinematographer for about 4 years now and if I could pass on any advice to people starting out it would be to film as much as possible. Have a friend who’s in a band? Go film their show. Know someone with a small business? Make a video for their business. Is an artist or performer you admire coming to town? Get in touch and see if you can conduct an interview.
Basically, get in touch with as many people as possible and just ask. The worst thing they can say is ‘no’ and if that is word you don’t like to hear then this business might not be suited to you. You will hear that word a lot.
I started out doing live music videos for theuntoldcity.com, which is a collaboration between a couple photographers/videographers and myself. It was a great way to start out and practice filming live events. It was also a great way to work with limitations; with light, sound, cramped spaces and drunks falling into you for half the show. This was usually a lot of fun and taught me the most important aspect of filming: patience. Big, industrial sized bags of patience.
Above all, don’t hesitate to take yourself a little seriously. Please not too seriously though, no one likes a pretentious film nerd and they’re abundant. When I first started out and would be discussing how I shoot video I would mention it in a way that it seemed like more of a hobby that a career pursuit. Naturally I didn’t get a lot of work until I started calling myself a videographer and an editor. It is kind of stupid and simple but the more you hear yourself describe yourself this way the more you’ll believe it too. You’d be surprised where work can come from. I have gotten some jobs just by talking a bit about what I do with people at parties.
The really tricky part is working with the right people. The best projects I have ever worked on were because there was a strong team working with me on some aspect of the job. Perhaps this is just 1 other person, maybe a crew of 10 or more. Your real strength is knowing people who do the same thing as you and being able to work with and learn from them.
Though it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, to me the consistent thing about video work is that you’re always learning. From the moment you start there will always be something new you need to know or learn. So go learn it.