If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize in this industry is that creatives are very opinionated (me included. No judging going on here!) And we’re particularly opinionated when it comes to determining who can be called whatever it is we call ourselves (e.g. filmmaker, photographer, etc.) This point was made clear to me again twice in just the past week. First, on the very hot episode of Crossing the 180 where I interview Patrick Moreau, Kevin Shahinian and Joe Simon, we get into a lively discussion about what it takes to call oneself a “professional.” It was suggested that the level of equipment you use has something to do with it. It made me wonder…if you shoot films with a cell phone, you probably can’t be called a professional. Or, can a person who shoots films with a T2i be considered a pro? I’m sure the 5D Mark II video shooter may not think so. No worries, the 1D Mark IV shooter is most likely looking down on the 5DM2 shooter too. And the RED shooters scoff at all you “line-skipping” hacks. Thank goodness we have the Alexa and Sony F900 filmmakers to put the RED filmmakers in their place. And then there are those cinematic purists, the “old guard” if you will, who think you can’t call yourself a “film”-maker unless you are actually shooting on real film stock.
Photographers have fun with this topic too. It starts with equipment, then it devolves into whether people who do a lot of Photoshop work can be considered “real” photographers. Based on heated dialogs I’ve seen on photography boards over the years, it would appear that the amount to which you are a true photographer is inversely proportional to the amount of Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets you use.
This whole topic came to a head just a few days ago on the Planet5D blog. There was a post about the pending Masters in Motion workshop being organized by Shoot.Edit.Learn (formally CanonFilmmakers.com). The event has all the “usual suspects” like Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom and Joe Simon, as well as other luminaries like Tom Guilmette and Adam Forgione among others. The very first commenter on this post (who used an anonymous pseudonym) took exception to the fact that these guys were calling themselves “filmmakers,” let alone masters in filmmaking. (I guess he’s not familiar with hyperbole in marketing. But I digress). That was followed up by another commenter who concurred (someone who had the cojones at least to use his real name). Over a span of 27 comments (as of this writing) the debate went on as to what it means to be called a “filmmaker.”
It always baffles me when people make a point to tear down fellow colleagues in the industry who put themselves out there to train others; especially when the people they are tearing down give away tons of free info on their blogs sharing their knowledge. If Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer and working commercial DP can’t call himself a filmmaker…if Philip Bloom, a 20+ year veteran in the industry who’s been a 2nd unit DP on a George Lucas film cannot call himself a filmmaker…if the rest of the amazing talent in this event can’t call themselves filmmakers, well then, I might as well just hang up my T2i now and go back to selling financial software. 🙂
So, what makes a person a filmmaker? How much of the process must he or she do to earn that moniker? Is a screenwriter a filmmaker? How about a DP who ONLY does that job? He doesn’t direct. Doesn’t edit. Just DPs. How about an editor? Someone who just edits? And if you do do everything, what quality level must your films be to earn the title “filmmaker?” Or maybe it should be based on how many views your video gets?
What does one need to do to become a photographer? Must they know that inverse square law of light thingy-ma-jiggy? Do they have to know how to use a light meter? Do they have to have attended Brooks Institute or the equivalent?
And if people pay you good money for the work you do, can you really call yourself a professional if your work sucks (regardless of whether or not your client likes your work)?
I’m not offering any answers here folks. Just askin’ the questions.
Good Examples We Should All Live By
Now, here are two videos that show what a real photographer looks like…
… and a couple of real filmmakers!