The Difference Between Photographers & Filmmakers

Red carpet of the Palais des Festivals et des ...
Red carpet of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès during the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am winding down after a couple of intense months, traveling the film festival circuit with my documentary Opening Our Eyes.  I have enjoyed every bit of it, but it wore me out – in a good way.

I find that when I am “out there”, I get richly rewarded in many ways.  I think what I enjoyed the most about the film festivals, and what was the most beneficial to me, was the opportunity to dialog with other filmmakers.  I learned a lot in the process. But what stood out to me was how different these conversations were from conversations that I have with my still photographer colleagues.

Many times the conversations I was having with other filmmakers were centered on a story.  That should come as no surprise because that’s what filmmakers do – they tell stories.  But filmmakers tell stories “cinematically”, so when they are talking about the story that they are currently working, or a story idea they want to pursue, they speak in great visual detail so I see a very clear picture in my head.

My conversations with my still photographer peers, in terms of craft, are more apt to be about how they created an image.  Photographers generally talk more about the role they played in making the photo, like how they lit it or the gear they used.  Sometimes, photographers will tell me a story about what they went through to make a photograph and those stories can be very interesting and entertaining, but again the conversation is more about the execution of the image – than the story of the image.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how and where I fit into the mix. The truth is, I remain in the middle – a true hybrid.  I realize that ever since I can remember, I have always seen stories playing out cinematically in my head, so I guess I have always had a filmmaker’s mind even though it lay dormant for most of my professional career.  On the other hand, as a still photographer and one who has been an observer of life through my camera I see things like light and composition.

So, I am a true hybrid and I can see my still photographic “eye” in the motion work I create. Others who have seen my film have remarked about the composition and lighting, because it does look different and stands out from other documentaries.  Sometimes that has been a good thing and sometimes not.  Regardless, it is what it is – a creation from a still photographer’s eye applied to motion.

Embrace the differences – see what happens.

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One thought on “The Difference Between Photographers & Filmmakers

  1. Kevin Michael Reed December 10, 2012 / 1:03 pm

    Gail,

    Great post.

    Being a bit of a hybrid like yourself, I’ve found the same thing. But I also notice when I speak about my motion work it’s more about the story, when I speak about my still work, it’s more about the equipment. Maybe it’s the medium, or the fact that when developing a motion project we spend so much time thinking about the story that it’s just so ingrained in us.

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