- “Story is king.”
- “I don't care what you shot it on if the story sucks.”
- “A fancy camera doesn't equal a great film.”
- Cutouts of these quotes are placed onto the oak board
I certainly agree with these statements. But I strongly disagree with the following:
- “The camera doesn't matter.”
- “The camera is less than 5% of a movie.”
- “There is no point in getting a fancy camera, just shoot it on what you have.”
- “The camera isn’t important.”
Cameras are the film! What you shoot on does matter! Let me explain myself.
The camera is the most important tool you have to create a film. Without a camera you have radio. Without camera OR sound, you have a book.
A cheap, easy to use camera does 90% of what a more expensive one does. But it has limitations.
As you grow as a filmmaker, you don't want to have to be fighting the camera to make the film you need to make. You want to be able to harness the tools that camera is giving you.
Our season 3 film "Keep The Change" was shot all at night. We upgraded from a Canon t3i to a Sony a7s so we could harness it's low light capabilities and create the film without having the tug back at the lack of light. Could we have made Keep The Change on a T3i? No. We could have made A VERSION of Keep The Change, but it wouldn't have been the same film.
Does an expert carpenter solely rely on his saw? No, of course not. The saw might be the tool he uses the most, but he also has very specific tools for certain jobs. He doesn't want to be fighting with his tools when he creates a masterpiece, he wants to have the tools he needs on-hand so he can create his masterpiece without compromise.
A hollywood camera is the same thing. It's the saw... but it's also the chisel, and the plane, and the hammer, the square, the vice, and the tape measure, all in one. A hollywood production team use the big beefy expensive cameras because they need the perfect tool for the job. They don't have the time to fight with their tools. They don’t have time for unreliable equipment.
For them, time is money. Every mistake they make increases shooting time. What costs more: getting the $100,000 camera compared to a $1000 camera, or having to pay Robert Downey Jr another $250,000 for an extra day because your shot was out of focus...because you decided to shoot on a Canon 5d Mark 2, you know...because the camera doesn’t matter.
And it works cheaper even shooting with 2 $100,000 cameras! If you can cover two different angles in a scene you have pretty much split the shooting day in half...still cheaper than getting Iron Man back onto the set.
I am comparing extremes here, but it’s still something we can consider. As indie filmmakers we can’t buy a second camera or super expensive camera, but we can make choices to purchase or rent something which will speed up and aid production, and help tell the story which you need to tell.
Now don't get wrong! I loathe the sentence "Oh your film looks awesome, you must have a really good camera!" That's like telling Gordon Ramsey his food tastes great because his oven is expensive!
But as indie and amateur filmmakers, it's our job to know the limitations of the tools we have available, and to utilize them. Challenge yourself, of course! Embrace the flaws, embrace the indie look. Limitation drives creativity. But don't say the camera doesn't matter, because it does.
It’s all about the right tool for the right job.
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