Torches Burning

In the language of this Twitter generation: OMG! The plethora of imaging platforms that exist today breaks with more than 100 years of filmmaking history. When I was part of the “next generation,” the big excitement was being able to record sync sound with a camera mounted on your shoulder (the converted Auricon). That was followed closely by the thrilling debut of the Éclair NPR, which, fully outfitted, weighed about 50 pounds, considered a small camera in its day.

Those were liberating moments in moviemaking because as heavy as those tools might seem today, they allowed cinematographers to record images in ways that had never before existed. How cool was the introduction of the handheld Arriflex, which brought the French Nouvelle Vague, and then later, handheld sync camera systems ushering in cinema vérité and cinematic moments more alive and fresh than we ever imagined at that time.

Each generation has its breakthroughs, but they all seem quaint compared to what’s going on today: imaging platforms, price points, and form factors that, as little as ten years ago, did not exist. The question then becomes, What is the impact on this generation’s careers and craft, when every phase of making narrative and reality imaging has changed? Does it mean a different approach to storytelling?

Fundamentally I would say it does not. The choice of imaging platforms still mirrors what my generation experienced in choosing film stocks, lenses, filtration and lab treatments, which were the ways we differentiated ourselves in the blush of our careers.

Of course, as young filmmakers, you are going to need to distinguish yourselves, perhaps more than we ever had to. And this voracious global consumer market we now see for motion pictures, television and Internet content is so large and sweeping, there is room for everyone to make a mark. That’s the good news.

The downside is that the competition is fierce, and you must find a way to individualize your brand (so to speak) quickly, and without the benefit of lengthy apprenticeships my generation was still able to enjoy. Being a part of the Local 600 community provides a distinct advantage; our investment and commitment to training and education in new technologies is a built-in way to forge a unique identity in this industry. Our Emerging Cinematographer Awards is a prime example of a Guild-sponsored event that has been helping young members for more than 15 years.

I would urge you all to take advantage of what this Union has to offer.

And from one former “next generation” hopeful (who is just as excited about all of this new development as when he put his first Éclair NPR on his shoulder) to the next, keep those creative fires burning. They are the same flames that fueled us and continue to spark this amazing new revolution in visual storytelling.


Steven Poster, ASC
National President
International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 600

Related Posts