Breaking In


One year ago I left school to become a full time filmmaker. In that time I’ve worked as cinematographer on several feature films, traveled the country as a camera man, and recently I’ve become a member of Avid’s mod squad. It hasn’t been easy in the least. For a good portion of the last year I’ve been living out of a suit case, going from one long term gig to the next. Shooting big budget features is my dream, but I still have to pay the bills in between bigger gigs. This has meant lots of corporate video work. I’ve had to deal with many clients who just don’t understand the value of proper storytelling or cinematography in their products. Many times I’ve had to explain the benefits of doing things right only to hear that there are others out there willing to do it for less. The democratization of large sensor cameras has really had a huge impact on the  market and in many ways it is making it harder to break into it all. How many people reading this can say they’ve had a client who has said something like ‘It’s ok, I’ll just use my t2i.’ This is very infuriating, especially to someone who has spent a great deal of time practicing the art of storytelling and cinematography over the past 9 years. I’ve gone from PA on commercials, to low level positions on NBC’s Friday Night Lights and ABC’s My Generation to working indie gig after indie gig only to hear that there are dozens of people out there with low powered laptops and camcorders ready to under cut all of us. How do those of us who have devoted our lives to the art of cinema rise above and stay competitive in this market?

I’ll tell you how I managed. Just share your work. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, just do your absolute best no matter what and share your experiences online. It doesn’t work to just upload to vimeo or youtube; you need to advertise. Make connections with camera blogs and equipment manufacturers, collaborate with fellow filmmakers, write articles, etc. Look at simple camera tests as opportunities to post comparison videos and share the knowledge you gain. Constantly measure your work against yourself. If you see improvement that’s all that matters. People are watching. Last December I left school confident I could make a career out of what we do because the right person saw my demo reel. I am now represented by a prestigious New York firm (known for representing Geoffrey Erb ASC) and the doors are starting to open. In an industry where it pays to know the right people I’ve learned that the absolute best way in is to meet and share with as many of the right people as possible. You never know when someone might need you.

With that being said, I look forward to sharing my experiences and my mistakes here at Wide Open Camera as I continue my journey into Hollywood over the next few years.

Follow me on Twitter: @awalker47

View my April 2011 cinematography reel

Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • Penjoka

    Oh My God Alex, I wish I could be opportune like you to do all of these. Am more than inspired to become a film maker too here in Cameroon and with the little I have, I am doing my best but people like you inspires me a lot to continue in this field and that’s just what am doing. Thanks for being there Alex and I hope we meet one day…


  • Anonymous

    Hey Alex, a lot of good stff here. I think you are right to point out some of the current obstacles for emerging filmmakers today. I also think that if you are talented and stick with it, youll soon be beyond clients with t2i’s that think they can shoot it on their own. I am curious what you mean by “I am currently the youngest working cinematographer with representation”? Youngest cinematographer in SF? On this site? In the world? How old are you?

    Keep it up!

  • Alex Walker

    I was a paid full time DP at the age of 20 with representation. The NY firm made an exception to represent someone under the age of 22, technically making me the youngest working DP. Personally I’m just trying to learn as much as I can doing something I love. 

  • Anonymous

    Ok, so you meant the youngest at the agency you work with. I thought you meant the world! Haha that seemed pretty bold!

  • Alex Walker

    I went ahead and altered the text of the article to be more clear however from what I’m told no agency has anyone under 22.