In this e[isode of the podcast Clarke talks with the Australian cinematographer Stefan Duscio ASC.
learning to trust my gut has been like a long process. I don’t think I trusted it in my 20s until I got into my 30s and mid 30s. I’m like, Okay, I need to really start believing in my gut, because when I work actively against it, it hasn’t worked out.
Welcome to another episode of the next level filmmaker show, where we interview filmmakers from around the world to explore their pathway to success. What worked, what’s working now, so you can take your Korean business to the next level. I’m your host, Clarke, Scott. And I believe that having the right systems in place is the difference between taking your career and business to the next level, or just being another dude or dudette with a camera. So if you’re tired of hustling for one off projects, the undervalued and underpaid, I’d like to invite you to an exclusive free training I’ve put together for filmmakers, just like you where I share the exact strategies I’ve used to grow my own video production agency. Just go to Clarke, Scott education.com. That’s Clarke with an E. Clarke Scott education.com. forward slash free training. That’s Clarke, Scott education.com. forward slash free training and start your journey to becoming a next level filmmaker today. You ready? Mr. juicio? You want to kick into this standing by? Yep. All right, cool. So the first question I asked everyone is, Who are you? What do you do? And how did you get you start?
My name is Stephen atio. And I work as a cinematographer in Australia, based in Melbourne. And the way I got my starts a very long story, because it was a protracted process. And I kind of reluctantly let the film industry take me over. Yeah, I don’t know I always found the film industry very intimidating and very scary. It always felt very unattainable. So I grew up as loving illustration and comics and writing and was always very interested in more solitary art forms. And so the idea of team based art, like film is always scared me a little bit. And I studied at university in Melbourne and mainly did illustration. But by the end of university, I got more interested in photography, because there were some amazing photography teachers, their schools, this RMIT Katie rocks there. And the photography teachers were just so interesting there that that kind of dragged me over there. I did study some film theory and sound design and animation there as well. But it wasn’t till after I finished at RMIT that I started getting a real taste of the film industry. I became a bit of a jack of all trades after uni and worked as a photography assistant, cinematography assistant, graphic designer, storyboard artist, Illustrator, I was just trying lots of different jobs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I figured if I tried enough industries, tried enough things, I would say, what, what I would fall in love with the most. And I was still very attached to comic book art, for example. And I still had this dream of becoming a comic book artist. And I kind of hit a bit of a crossroads at some point. And, and film kind of won me over. But it was a process over maybe five years after university of trying many things until I realized that I did love film. And it was something that I imagined I could still be doing in my 60s or 70s, for example, whereas the other other things, I felt like that love might wane.
Okay, you. So I’ve got a theory, I’ll test this theory out. My theory is that the way that introverts sometimes not always, so it’s a it’s a generality, and you know, all local generalities, there’s always the exception. I’m an introvert as well. And if I look back at my life, I had a similar kind of the way that I worked out and my wife, my wife’s exactly the same. She’s much younger than me. So she’s still going through it. And the way that we work out what we want to do is by trying many different things, and then going that didn’t work, that didn’t work that so it’s a process of elimination, as opposed to the more extroverted approach where it’s, this is the thing, let’s do it. So why is that? You’re an introvert, I’m guessing.
Yeah, I guess so. And yeah, I had that same approach I thought. I thought you know, like, and I did have genuine love for all those things. I was doing like I designed maybe 50 DVD covers. menus for umbrella and madmen entertainment did light Werner Hertzog and Federico Fellini releases so I got to kind of watch those movies and be a part of the film industry. And so I skirting around it. I got to do storyboards with directors, to meet directors and understand their process. And yeah, and reveal exactly what you say I kind of maybe I was too nervous to jump into the film industry and go, I can do this without having a taste test of other creative industries first.
Okay. And so how did you begin to move towards the the, I mean, obviously, you mentioned was through photography. So take us through that process.
Yeah, so I had a very unusual entry into photography, because what they were teaching at university was more fine art printing and advanced digital imaging. So I was kind of learning these printing in Photoshop techniques, without knowing anything about how to use a camera. So learning the post in, and then it didn’t really learn how to use a camera properly until I after university where I backpacked around the world really, and had I had a Nikon film camera and started to shoot and understand what aperture and shutter speed was different film stocks and just trial and error. And actually, my, I was working in my last year of university, what really changed? everything for me was a chance meeting with a famous cinematographer. So I was working at the George cinema in St Kilda in Melbourne as an usher. And I’d been working there for two years and candy bar and Asha stuff. And one night, Andrew lesney walked in who had shot the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And I was a bit of a nerd, still a nerd and recognized him and was like, Oh, my God, you’re Andrew listening. He shot Lord of the Rings, recognizing more because of a Lord of the Rings, not a film nerd. bit of both. And he was like, Yes, I am. And we talked a little bit and then he went into the theater. And what what movie was he watching? He was watching brotherhood of the wolf. It was a French fantasy film, which was pretty amazing. I haven’t seen it since then. But I remember loving it at the time. And while it was in there, on my break, I ran to the internet cafe to like Google. What? Because you know, no smartphones back then so you can’t just like grab a phone and go What’s he doing? You’re right. You’re dating yourself, man. Yeah, exactly. Internet cafe. Start googling What’s he what he’s IMDb to see what he’s doing. Found out. He was on a film in Melbourne called loves brother that he was shooting. And then when he got out of the theater, I start was saying to everybody, thanks for coming. Thanks for coming. like as if I ever did that, as people are walking past you. Exactly. Just so I could like, you know, hold him up. Because I thought this is like, amazing that this guy’s inhale, so starstruck. And he came out and I was like, how’s the movie, and you know, he goes out was a bit long, which we kind of laughed about, because the Lord of the Rings is so long. But then he just got to talking to me. And he kept talking and talking and talking is very generous with his time and information and to the point where he’s drawing diagrams of how he was exposed, stuck on the back of my, you know, cinema tickets and stuff, and my boss is looking at me, like, what are you doing? There’s people going into the next theater right now you need to open it. But I was like, I don’t care. This is, you know, for me, I felt like it was a once in a lifetime kind of meeting. And then I said to him, Look, I hear on this film loves brother in Melbourne. I’ve never been on a set before. I’m like, very, super, super nervous asking him this. But I just thought if I don’t ask this, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. And I said, I I’ve never been on set before. I don’t even know what a cinematographer does day to day. Would you consider letting me watch for a day? And he was like, sure, and write down a production manager’s phone number on the back of the ticket. And the next day I called a production manager on a Sunday and they were like, yeah, no worries Andrews told us about you will email the call sheet and then on the Monday I was on set watching him work in Melbourne. And then I just was had no idea what any of the gear was what any of the camera gear was. And two lovely cameras Resistance he was working with Katie mill right and tough behling who are both cinematographers now, were very generous to me. And each day, at the end of that day, I was like, do you mind if I come back again, and came back again, at the end of that day, I asked if I would come back again until I stayed for the rest of the film, which I think was another two weeks until they wrapped. And this was in my at the end of my third year of university. So I was had kind of a bit of an open book. And you’re like, 2122, at this? Exactly, yeah. 21. And at the end of that, I said to Andrew, when I finished, I was like, this was amazing. I learned a lot. And he had been saying how he was going to go back to Wellington to finish the Return of the King. The following year, and so I asked him at the end of that, will there be any chance I could do this a similar thing? Do you got big balls? Yeah, I know, I was, again, insanely nervous asking him this. And knowing that, from what he told me, New Zealanders are, we’re in there, right, a little bit territorial about the jobs over there on that film. And he said, I you know, stay in touch, and we’ll see what we can do. And so the next year comes along. You know, I stayed in touch with him a bit on email a couple of times, but didn’t really hear back. And so I thought, you know what, I’m going to book a ticket to Europe, go backpacking, travel the world. Pretty much blank bought the ticket, quit my job, I think at the cinema. And then one day, I think it was on a Wednesday or Thursday, it was like, get a call from Andrew saying, Hey, can you be in Wellington, like this weekend? Monday kind of thing? Would you still want to do this? And I was like, yep, cancelled. Everything. Just immediately went over. I think I had like five weeks over there. Yeah. Oh, what were you doing? I was a camera attachment. So Wow, that was that was a really blessed opportunity. Because I had, I was able to be close to Andrew listening and Peter Jackson to watch them making the film. Everyone in the camp, I had no responsibility really in the camera department. Because I didn’t know enough about the equipment, like I wasn’t allowed to load film or anything. But I could lug stuff around for everyone and try help the second ACS and focus pullers and truck loaders. And I asked them a lot of questions. But I was also given a lot of time from Andrew and other DPS. They’re like john Cavill, who were very generous, because that’ll been doing it for years and years, by the time I came on, I think they’d had, you know, four or five years on that film on and off. So they’re a very tight family. There was no pressure or stress from them, they had time to educate and help. And it was just amazing to watch to watch them. Create that because I’d been a fan of, of those films. And so I’d kind of been thrown into the deep end, really, that was sort of the second set I’d ever been on looking around. But Andrew always brought it down to very real world things. He was like, Look, I know this, there’s 100 spaceflights in the ceiling. But if you wanted to create a soft top light, here’s how you would do it with some redheads or so he was always very grounded in the way he would approach things he was always trying to say, don’t be, don’t be blown away by this. This is this is achievable in smaller ways as well. He’s fantastic as a early inspiration.
Great story, man. Can I ask a question you? Because I mean, anyone that’s listening to this show knows that I really have this kind of love hate relationship with word strategy. Because I think, for me, you work as anyone that’s listened to has heard me say this a trillion times as well. You don’t even get to play unless you work really good. In your case, you didn’t have any work. So. But for me the difference between success and not as strategy, and I have a love hate relationship with that word, because it sounds icky. And at the same time, there’s a lot of utility in it. Clearly, what you did was very strategic. But you know, in a way that there was kind of, clearly clearly he saw, he wouldn’t have seen potential because he didn’t see any of your work. But he saw he saw something. Did he kind
of show passion? Yeah. That’s what he saw that I was genuinely really passionate about it. And I feel like people sense that in. In fellow creators, if you’re genuinely passionate about it. I don’t know what you mean about the word strategy because it can sound kind of icky but Maybe there’s cynical strategy where people it’s easier
this strategy, and then there’s that kind of smart strategy.
Exactly. You know, and then there’s people who are genuinely passionate. And maybe that strategy just comes out naturally, because you’re just so excited about the art that you’re working in all the time that Yeah. Because Yeah, I feel like I’ve got some cinematographer friends who maybe have no strategy, but they’re just so passionate, and so into the art and into the work that people gravitate towards them because of their natural affinity for it. But, yeah, you’re absolutely right. I did have strategy around that thinking, but also, I just kept thinking about the future. I was like, man, if I’m five years later, I never want to think about why what if I did ask him? You know, what if I did ask him, I could if I could do that, and I was a really nervous kid, too. So that was a it was hard to, to go out there. But yeah, I try. I try break out of my comfort zone. Still to this day. It’s, that’s how you grow.
Yeah, totally. So. So what happened next?
After that, I did backpack around the world. And I had a great experience. And when I came back, I had another chance experience mom, my sister who studied advertising at RMIT, my older sister knew cinematographer who she known from university or he was studying photography next door, and it turned out to be Greg Fraser. Oh my god. Yeah. So we need to call you Mr. Lucky. Yeah, I was very lucky. And so she said, I think she might have called him and said, Can Stephen come visit you, you know, hang out with you on set in Melbourne. And at the time, Greg was a very successful commercial cinematographer. He’s still an exit at this point. Yeah, well, it wasn’t at exit. But he was very much affiliated with them. Yeah. Like so. I don’t think he was working as a director’s assistant. There. I
think when they first started out the I think, like when glendan shot cracker bag. Yeah, I shot that on 35 Yeah, that was like he and glyndon and Greg are working closely together. So I think I think Greg was in the the exit office very, very, very often. When I when our like, you know, a shooting cat food commercials. And this is like back in the day.
Yeah. I think this was a little bit after that. Okay. Maybe that one something for cracker bag just before then or that, um, Greg good. I know, Greg was popular. And you and I did love his work, everything. I’d seen it and I loved and so I got to hang out with him again as a kind of camera attachment role. And until I started getting enough experience that I could load film for him. So I’ll probably hang out with Greg on a on a few jobs over a year or two. And then that little commercial stuff, mixer commercials, a couple of spec ads that he done with with budding directors, couple of music videos. I think one of the jobs I did with him where he just had some film stock and wanted to shoot a pet project. But again, yeah, he getting very, very different cinematographer to Andrew Leslie very naturalistic, the way he was working and, but beautiful results. So I loved watching him work. And that kind of led on to another dp Jemaine mimicking who I met and started assisting Jemaine loading for him on a bunch of stuff. And again, while I was doing all that, that’s when I was also working as a graphic designer and storyboard artist and illustrator. And so sort of not getting enough work to earn money of any one of these things, but tried a lot. And photography assistant had a friend who ran a photographic studio. And it was at the time when a lot of photographers were transferring from film to digital. And so my friend taught me how to use digital backs on large format cameras. So I would run out to sit with a lot of photographers who are more film based, and run all the digital for them. So I could was pretty good on software like Capture One and Lightroom. And so I would cook up digital backs to those and just taught photographers through exposure and how to use those systems who work that experience with them. And that was a great regular gig because I’d also see how photographers lit compared to cinematographers, not even light jobs with photographers as well and how to use flash. So sort of a big melting pot of different art forms and again, like I still trying to figure it out. But I heard about these crew nights that the VCA film schools at Arts College in Melbourne that ran I think they run every April, where maybe I went to VCA for music. Oh, great, great. And so the film school side has this crew night, where about 30 directors get in an auditorium. And one by one, each director pitches their movie to an audience of maybe 300 people. And they say, look, here’s my film. I’m a third year student, or I’m a master’s student. I need a cinematographer. I need a makeup artist, I need a first ad. And I need a production designer. Maybe they’ve got some of those roles queued up, maybe they haven’t, and you furiously be scribbling down. Well, that one sounds good, that one sounds good. And then afterwards, so you would just go talk to these directors and say, I love the sound of your film. You know, I think at the time, I’d maybe made a pretty rudimentary website of like, just some of my photography, maybe I’d done a couple of videos. And a lot of directors made it past, you know, a couple one took a chance on me. So I got to learn how to shoot 16 mil. I’d also that’s how I met some really good friends like Ari Wagner, who’s a great cinematographer who was studying there at the time. She was in the same classes at a markup or so, you know, I will try assist Adam and carry on all their short films, and all their weekend work, they might be doing like a music video or another pet project. And then, you know, Ari ultimately started assisting me on some things as well. So I learned a lot of Ari and Adam in those formative years, about how to use 16 mil cameras, how to load film, again, how to study and prep, to shoot a short film, it was a bit of an unofficial film school for me, you know, probably shot five short films a year there on 16 mil over, you know, four or five years. So it was a free film school. I was I was shooting a lot of film, it was great. And it was a great way to meet people and network and get film now as up, get the physicality of being on set up. You know, I’ve volunteered to gaffer on some films because I thought, you know what, I can’t ask
gaffers to do certain things for me. If I don’t know that that rig might take 45 minutes or it takes 15 minutes. And it was it was great. It was really good. Good time and hard time as well.
harder as in financially hard because you’re kind of trying to harm.
Yeah, yeah, financially, physically, because being like a bit of a weedy art student, I wasn’t that match fit, you know, to be on set to be doing 12 hour days, lugging heavy equipment around, bringing equipment home at night, bringing all the camera equipment up to flats into my apartment, keeping it there overnight, and then getting up at 6am and taking it back down to the car again. That was you know, and of course you’re not getting paid for any of that stuff. So you’re doing that in your spare time while you’re trying to earn money on other jobs. But um you know what, maybe financially it wasn’t that hard. I’ve always lived pretty frugally and was a good saver and but uh, yeah, it’s tricky, cuz he’s just going where’s all this going? I have no idea whether this is the right path but and whether I was enjoying it, but eventually I did.
Okay, it’s interesting that you say that. So because you’re very strategic with the story of meeting your first big dp. And then and it’s almost sounds like you’re which is very, in I’m guessing you’re a feeler as well. Do you know your Myers Briggs at all? Do you know what Myers Briggs is? No. Okay, personality test. And it’s a way of it’s to students of Freud back in the day, basically carved up all of human beings into for a bunch of different types. And of course, human beings aren’t types. We’re all human beings, not types. But there are different ways of being able to say, well, this person’s an introvert and extrovert. And another way of carving that up is a sensor or a feeler and someone who’s a feeler feels their way through life. So it sounds a little bit of that as well. So marrying your ability to conceptualize what you should do is that’s the strategy that’s just the strategic thinker. And also, they’re kind of organic feeling like what do I feel is the right thing to do? Sounds like you which is me as well, and and I’ve done the same thing was like, I really don’t know what Whether I’m doing the right thing or not, I just think it is. When I when I say I think it is, what I actually mean is, I feel like it’s the right thing to do, then you push forward as a result. Are you in some? So what I’m hearing is that you’re similar? Yeah. So how do you how were you checking yourself to make certain that you’re like, What? What parameters were you using to gauge success as to whether you should continue or not?
I’m not sure I did, was gauging. I was just trying to learning to trust my gut has been like, a long process. I don’t think I trusted it in my 20s until I got into my 30s and mid 30s. I’m like, Okay, I need to really start believing in my gut, because when I work actively against it, it hasn’t worked out. So I guess I was inadvertedly. Trusting it in my 20s is tricky. I was living week by week, I feel like I still kind of do like month by month going what project sounds right. Always weighing up something versus another thing. And never trying to make any decisions for financial reasons. Always trying to make them for creative reasons whenever possible.
So you say whenever possible. So the implication of that is is that is not always possible. So you’re still you take jobs, because you got a mortgage. And you know, there’s there’s your you clearly got kids because you background which you know, I’m Yeah, yeah, I’m being strategic now. Because Yeah, we’re gonna rip that down. And I was like, No, no, leave that up. But now I’m gonna reference it. Yeah, you’ve got a family, you got kids. So you got responsibilities as a man to to, um, you’re responsible for other human being live the lives of other human beings? So, yeah, you’re taking jobs that are like, Yeah, but I need you know, we’re gonna do this because we need money.
No, not really, I’m pretty fortunate at the moment, like, I probably do one feature film a year, and then the rest of the year do commercials. So I do a right between those two. So much so that I, you know, I don’t think I’ve taken a job for the money really, for a long time. I mean, you could say commercials are all for the money. But I also do really enjoy those and see them as an opportunity to meet a lot of directors who might be developing feature films as well. strategy. Yeah, exactly. And I love meeting crews all across Australia on commercials, who you go, Well, you sort of getting to know crews who you might work on movies with? Yeah, I probably thought, you know, in my earlier days, that every director who are working commercials would have been developing a feature film on the side. I don’t think that’s as much the case as I first thought. But it really does feel like a completely separate industry on its own. I did think there was gonna be a lot more interest into intermingling of those of those crew members and directors and producers. That I kind of,
like, why do you think that is? Is that the level that you’re playing at? Because the, I mean, a lot of guys that I know, are, I mean, you commercial is seen as the way to make money. And narrative is where people want to be. So maybe when you get up to your level, and then you know, Greg’s level and so forth. You moved to LA and you know, you kind of the deacons level, there’s, they I’m sure they never think about money, because it’s they’re gonna work no matter what. Right. So, um, do you think that’s a case of the level that you’re working at in this now? Kind of a divide between those two worlds? Um, I don’t know. I’m not sure if it was always like that in Australia, or anyway, like, I’m surprised. He say that actually, to be honest. I’m really surprised. I would have thought that even when you look at not to mention glyndon again, but Glen did get a big spot for Qantas. Yes. After we shot the cry, and now he’s back into he’s just finished up a feature. Absolutely. So he
does cross over a lot. But yeah, I think Glenn guys like glendan and Garth Davis. exceptions. Okay, those crossover, crossover directors, I think there’s a lot of directors who don’t crossover and don’t want to crossover. Maybe they studied film. But once they’ve gotten a taste of that commercial world, and that becomes a career to them, and they want to be very good at that. Which is totally fine. Yeah, totally. But I thought everyone would have this thing on the side that they’re going to be doing but doesn’t feel like in my experience, as much the case a bit maybe I’m getting cynical, I don’t know. But
the industry has changed a lot too. If you look at the last 10 years, I mean, you know the the Canon five D Mark two they changed everything, the world. But it was so we, you know, as as shooters as directors as cinematographers as filmmakers, we all point to that camera that changed our world. But we forget that what was actually going on outside of our industry was the Chinese manufacturing was getting better. There was a massive financial crisis that hit in oh nine. Yeah, couple that with this camera, and also kind of the digital world becoming more of the norm. Yep, I just went like that. And digital went like that. So everything, everything changed, like the world is a completely different world than it was 10 years, even 10 years ago. And it’s still changing. So he could possibly just be
it’s just that’s what’s happening to him at the time. Maybe, maybe? Yeah, I’m not sure. All right, let’s move to get us perspective from the US even like, because I feel like from afar, it feels like the directors cross pollinate a lot more there. Between moving between features and commercials, but I don’t know.
Yeah, look, that could be the case. I think certainly in the circles that I run, it very much feels that way. Um, I’m still trying to break in. And you know, I’m not a young man, I’ve done well, commercially. But I did I started later than most like I was you had a I had, like 15 years later I started compared to you, not not 15. But close. I was off doing other things before I started my career. Which is, it’s funny, you mentioned that you seeing an opportunity and really grasping that opportunity at giving you a 21 you’re possibly in a different circumstances me but I actually have something that I regret a job that that was like, there’s no money in it. And so I couldn’t take it. But that job if I had to say yes to that job, I would be in a very different position. Now. Very, very, and I don’t want to mention names, but it was a massive, it was a massive television show. My will be would be vastly different. And that, that that is one opportunity. That was one opportunity. If I had to just say yes, rather than No, everything would change. But it was because of my financial situation situation at the time and what I thought I was doing. It’s interesting. You said we were talking about intuition before. I felt like I should have said yes, I felt like the right thing to do was to say yes. And I overthought it I was thinking too much. Yeah. So I my conceptual analysis of it kind of imposed something that was actually wrong. I was and and so even to this day, I don’t I don’t regret anything in my life that I’ve done. except for that one thing, that choice. So but yeah, you gotta live with with that. Yeah, may have ended up being we don’t know, right? Like I who knows what would have happened. So anyway,
we’ve all kind of got those stories to like, if he can take solace in that. So many of us have those stories of, man, I should have taken that job. And that kind of haunts you in your choices for the rest of your life? Because you like, put weight on every decision.
Yeah, but we don’t know how it would have turned out if we had to say I could have said yes. And it could have completely backfired and I’d even in a worse position than I am today. Yeah. So but I do I do regret it. I think the Yeah. Anyway, um, it was a TV show that was all about a book that was written in the 70s. about New South Wales surfing teenage girls. dimension the night, okay. Yeah. All right. So question two is, and we only got through to question two now. I’m always slow. What’s the one thing that you’ve done that strange or unique that you reckons the been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Besides at initial, maybe leap of faith with Andrew The one thing I’ve done it might have been shooting all those student films in my 20s just going back and just putting in those hard hours and just volunteering and volunteering and volunteering and then shooting music video after music video that that led on to
a lot of people do that though. So how’s that unique? Strange. Okay. Do they? I don’t know if they do, like, good. So someone pushing back on me pushing back. Hey, all right. So So are you saying just taking the work no matter what.
That was my initial strategy. have, say yes to everything, because I don’t know anything. So on every project, I’m going to learn something new. I’m going to learn something new on this one, I’m going to learn how to shoot underwater. And this one, I’m going to learn how to shoot. You know, car rigs on this one, I’m going to learn how to shoot this. Every job was so different. I guess. And eventually, it became more strategic what I was choosing because it was like, okay, that’s not that’s not right for me. Now, this is more right for me. And I might have been faced with choices that I’m yeah, I don’t know, what else would I have done? It’s more unique. I feel like I think about it all day. I think I’m just living it all the time. And yes, I have a family and kids now and all that, but it’s still with you all that time, that passion and what how do I? What else can I do to get to the next level? How do I how do I get to the next level of directors? I’d love to shoot for? How do I get to those projects with the better scripts? And so you’re constantly strategizing on how to get there? What are you doing to make that happen? Ah, each year, I guess you step up in, step up those strategies. So, you know, I might have learned how to code my own website. So I was like working really hard on my website in early days to like, keep that really fresh and new and engaged and thought this is really, really important. I’d have just meet and greets with agencies are in Melbourne and Sydney. So I could like meet producers there and try and be pulled up for jobs. These days, trying to get to the next level is more like having better contact with my drama agents. So I’m represented by an agent in Sydney, for drama, and as an agent in Los Angeles. And so I try and speak to them regularly, about what films might be coming up, what scripts might be floating around, try and read those scripts and meet filmmakers. But that needs constant attention now that that machine, and if you let those contacts go, stagnant, stagnant, you can’t just wait for the phone to ring. Because then you’re never gonna progress you’re probably gonna get phone calls from have levels of jobs that you were doing 510 years ago, review aren’t the stuff at the next level. You can’t ever rest on your laurels. You’ve got to keep pushing to that next level, keep pushing to get out of your comfort zone, if you’re comfortable on set, and relaxed. I mean, that’s good. But you probably want to be like scratching your head most days and going How am I going to get this day done? Or this? I haven’t done this before. They’re the experiences you want and they’re going to push you.
Yeah, cool. So the in terms of the contacting your agents, whether it’s the the Americans, or the Ozzy’s? Are you emailing saying let’s catch up for you know, a telephone call. You get Skype call that kind of thing.
Pretty much all phone like I try and stay off email as much as possible. Because I just find we’re in under just masses of emails. All of us these days. Yeah, I get it a day. Yeah. It’s crazy, isn’t it? And like, you just need easily to spend two or three hours a day responding and keeping up with email. Whereas I just fine, fine. As much as possible. It’s better for me, and to get rates on people and how everyone might be feeling about a project. Okay, how often do you do that? Probably fortnightly? Realistically. Wow. Yeah. Realistically, I mean, you know, I spend a lot of time on set. Sometimes, you know, if I’m on a movie, I might, to others let that go for like three months. Yeah. But yeah, well,
between between projects you’re in or pretty much constant contact with your agents. Yep. Yeah. So they give you a script, you read it you will call them back and say now that wasn’t quite right. I really want this one. So what how do I how do I get on to it? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. The um so I’m getting so the question three that I always ask is, what are you doing to sustain your career and that’s so what I’m hearing is making certain that you’re you’re being very intentional with your the development of relationships, and not seeing those relationships as being transactions, do relationship building, not transactional, building.
And that inevitably happens, I think, if you strike up a connection with a director, you want to catch up with them for coffee. If you’re in town, or they’re in town, you’ve guys have time. And so it’s important to keep that relationship strong. And so it often happens when I come out the other end of a film. You know, I take a breath, and then I’m like, Who should I call? Like, who do I want to catch up with? Who do I want to see what’s up what they’re up to? I wonder if they’ve got any projects developing. And so you know, I might call them and try and catch up.
How you making that choice with you, you come out of the Edit, you’re back at home, and you wake up the following day or week, however long it takes you to get over a film. I know, I when I shot 1000 moments, it was like, we wrapped our wreck and it took me a month to get over. Yeah, kind of set. So what’s my what choice are you making? When you make that that list to call? Is it aesthetics? Is it you know, you’re just like the person? Why
both? Yeah, all of the above? Hopefully, it’s, it’s everything. aesthetics, you get along with him, you have a connection. You love their work. You love what they’re trying to say about the world? Yeah. And you kind of your life flashes before your eyes at the at the end, when you finish a film. And you’re like, who rises? Who rises out of that? And what memories Do you appreciate the most? And you’re like, Yeah, I’d love to shoot for that person again.
I wonder what they’re up to. And it’s funny people come and go in your life. It’s like,
I might not have shot for someone for five years, but you strike up that connection again. And it’s like you just never parted. And you can’t ever question it. I think you go crazy. If you’re like, man, why’d they start shooting with that person? I wish I was shooting with them. Or what did I do wrong? Maybe they didn’t like my work. Yeah. All that kind of stuff. Yeah, exactly. You can drive yourself crazy with that with that stuff, especially in a freelance industry where, you know, a director said to me once, when I was shooting for I’m in my late 20s, I think Stuart MacDonald, who now shoots a lot of television in the States. He was saying, Stephen, you can’t get better. When people start younger than you start getting bigger and better jobs than you. He goes because you drive yourself crazy. And always remember that bit of advice, because I feel like I started shooting at a young age and it might have upset some other DPS who had taken a more traditional route into the industry via assisting and operating. And they might have seen DPS like myself, as being undeserved of those opportunities. And I thought, I mean, I never felt I never got that said that explicitly to me. But I sort of promised myself never to give anyone younger than me that sort of flag if I hadn’t meteoric rises or you know, because it’s just not good for anybody.
And certainly not not good for your own mental health. None. At the end of the day, yeah. Life if you’re not leading a life where you’re happy and enjoying what you’re doing, then what’s the point? Yep. Yeah, cool. Awesome, man. So, um, sustaining your career is about sustaining relationships. What do you do outside of business and so forth to like, kind of what are you doing today for you tomorrow? For my career, or however you want to answer like, I do a lot of meditation. So for me going meditation is a is a big part of what I do. It helps my mindset, it helps me keep just being positive, I think is positive in a not in a kind of hippie, dippie, airy fairy kind of wide, like very grounded, but at the same time. Maybe a better adjective is optimistic. Yeah. It’s just always trying to push forward in that kind of positive way. That’s what I use meditation for, and also to become a better person. That’s, that’s a big part of it. What are you doing in a kind of similar way?
Not enough. Like I wish, I wish I did meditation. When I have time in between projects, I might do the Pilates class. Again, that’s enough for as much for my head as for my body because I do a lot of handheld camera work with heavy cameras and want to keep my core and body strong. Yeah, but realistically, I probably do two classes a year now. Like it’s I try and take the thinking from those two classes a year on the road with me a bit and I might, you know, do those stretches in hotel rooms and exercises, but I don’t do enough. And I really miss Sport and Exercise. You know, I was lucky enough to do pre production for a few months in Sydney this year, and I did a lot of walking and the occasional running to like, clear my head. And I listened to a lot of music. So I loved music, and I listened to a lot of that to chill out. But now I’ll probably I’m a bit obsessive. So I probably don’t do enough outside of the industry as I should to stay creatively healthy. Though I also have two children under five I’ve got a five year old and a three year old. So yeah, ugly, too busy, very busy. Every like spare moment that’s not about work is kind of usually about them. Yeah. So there’s little room for anything else within at that age.
I’m actually interested to hear how you using music to inform your career, your aesthetic, interesting that you would bring music up, I know when I write or if I’m prepping music is constant and the music is very much thematic, like it’s I’m using that as the way to emotionally engage an aspect of my consciousness without that sounding or kind of woowoo that will enable me to facilitate the writing down whether it’s like physically writing or just kind of putting down somewhere, the ideas that are in my head that music is the thing that kind of almost dredges the psyche in a way that facilitates that process. How are you using music?
Hopefully in a similar way, like I try I listened to a lot of film soundtracks.
Can you give us some examples? I love moon the soundtrack of moon
Oh, yeah, right. I might haven’t heard that a lot. Yeah. Okay. I’ll add that. I’ve been listening to a lot of your hand your hands and this year. Okay. You know, a bit traditional. I’ve listened to a lot of Hans Zimmer. I’m sure a lot of people listened to him. Yeah. And I’ve just, you know, as I’m sure many people have recently discovered that beautiful composer Hilda, who did Joker and Chernobyl. Yep. And she worked with your hand your hands and as well. But yeah, I listened to it a lot when I’m in pre production, I guess. And I’m kind of trying to develop ideas, build reference libraries of images. Yeah, exactly. Work on my photography. So you know, I might take hundreds of photos in pre production. And while I’m working on that photography, I’ll be listening to music. You know, if I’m lucky enough to be on a location, semi alone that we’re shooting in, I’ll try listen to music in there. You know, cut camera tests that I’ve worked on, and I’ll sort of put some score on those that might be inspiring. And it’s often something that director and I would have spoken about that are, yeah, on camera tests that really helps everyone get into the right into the right movie. And you put you know, some evocative score on camera tests with standings even that you’ve shot. It’s a really great way for you and the director, and the producer and designer to all get on the same page.
Yeah. Yeah, I think Glenn glyndon did that on the cry. I saw I saw he’s stories camera tests. He and Sam. Yep. And but they gave it to the entire crew. Right? All of the crew everyone’s got to see these characters. Great. And they I said to him, I said, I said, Dude, that like that’s fucking beautiful. Like, yet. It just, the act is just kind of standing there looking at camera, and it was in the offices of exit was just one of the one of the office. Yeah, you had music to it. And all of a sudden, this thing just popped up. So you, you really get the feel of what that series was gonna look like. It was beautiful. And it’s such a beautiful looking series too. I love it. Yeah. He’s and talking about a young guy that kind of, you know, when he’s doing amazing what Sam’s
doing amazing work. Yeah, yeah. And he’s got a couple of movies coming out, I think. Yeah, he’s great.
Yeah, cool. Awesome, man. Um, so tell us something you’ve would read watched or heard it inspired you recently.
Read watch or inspired. I’m reading a great book at the moment. I read the first book of this but this is like called director’s close up Volume Two. It’s like interviews with the Directors Guild of America directors nominated for Best Film. And so it’s all just very conversational. Writing with them in their own words, so there’s no interviewer as such. Okay, that that’s fantastic.
And well that I saw the page that you opened up you opened up only and Brokeback Mountain. There you go. So is that going on? How far back does that go?
This is from 2006 to 2012. Okay, and so I’ve read the first volume of that which was before then that’s, that’s inspiring. What am I saying? I’ve gone blank this year. That’s really inspired me.
Actually, before you before before you do that I was before we started recording and before you jumped on, I was looking at your work. I want to ask you a question about your work because the Archons there’s a very deep there’s almost like a gap between your commercial work and your your narrative work, the narrative work, you’ve done a lot of films that are all suck psychological thriller types. were like, it’s almost like the characters that it’s the same movie again and again. Yeah. Your commercial work has some water in it. There’s quite a bit of water.
Yep. What’s going on with that? I don’t know. I guess it’s kind of what I’m attracted to. So I love shooting in nature and wide open spaces and you know, forests and rivers and I’m attracted to work like that. I love travel. I love the adventure of films like being in Colombia shooting on jungle. And yeah, I’m not sure what the water connection is with my commercial work as well. Like again, just just the nature aspect of it. It’s funny I’ve never really thought of it like that because I’d also love to do a film in New York or something and shoot in a big city but I guess the work that I baby choose to feature and the work that I love is maybe more in nature and under natural light. I do do work in studio a lot too. I’ve done like car jobs in studios and all that kind of thing but they don’t often rise to the fore creatively and isn’t something I would choose to you know post out on my website
there is one on your your website that was a recent thing. I think it’s on your blog we shot it on the the lf the Alexa lf there’s just that constant that pushing. Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s all studio. Yeah, that’s all studio. Yeah. Um, how was the lf I haven’t spoken to anyone that’s shot with it yet. So you’re the first guy. How great Yeah,
I love it. And I just shot a movie on it called The Invisible Man. That was shown on the lF as well. Okay, yeah, the lF with the RA signature primes and so it’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s just more of a good thing. So yeah, well I guess there’s a lot more detail obviously because it’s like a four and a half k sensor and but the biggest thing for me is that it opens up the ability to use large format lenses like the signature primes. So you inherently get a little bit more of a larger cinematic look with a bit more depth looks a bit more like your stills cameras you know like it’s a synth same size sensor to a five D now ironically, that we’ve sort of come back to the car a little bit
hopefully not too much people kind of open you know, we get all of this kind of you remember back in the day where everything was shot at one two, and I was like oh my god. Please Will someone bring it down?
I want to see some depth. Okay, yeah,
so my question around the the spot with elf was that he didn’t do that you still made a choice to like, what was it shorter? like five six or something like that?
It might have been probably four or 567 on a 25 mil. But on a 25 mil on the elf, it’s like got the field of view of an 18 mil Yeah, very wide. But why was
why did you choose to still have a fairly kind of medium depth of field on? Because it’s the you know, it’s really still early on with LFO is I saw a suit before he play. I saw that it was shot on the lF and I’m thinking okay, shallow depth of field play. And it wasn’t it was like what
you had great. What was the what was the? What was the reason behind that?
A lot of it was just the physics of the space. And the timing of that commercial was a 62nd commercial you needed to pass through each room in you know, whatever it was eight to 10 seconds for each room. And we were on a 50 foot techno crane that could push in, I think at two meters a second. So it was all about like, Okay, how can you get from A to B to C to D? Okay, I can see in that time if you put on 35 or 40 you saw less of the room and it didn’t feel like the move was as fast Okay, so that’s about the movement. So all about the physics of that there was a lot of maths involved and the director Marco and the production designer have gone blank on the designer, but he designed a really beautiful set and print helped pre visible with, with old, the visual effects studio. And which Yeah, I know was Michael yakin. Oh, by the way, he’s an amazing Sydney production designer. Okay, cool. But yeah, a lot of that lens choice was based on the physics of the previous that we were all working out with the visual effects studio. And
yeah, if you if you shut that one open, you wouldn’t get the sense of movement would just not be there. Right.
Yeah, exactly. And I would have thought it would have been a disservice almost to that lens as well. Like it would have just been distracting for the focus puller to be constantly racking between things while the camera push through that fast. It needed just to be clear. Yeah, what we were saying.
Yeah, okay. Cool, man. Well, um, thank you for today. I really, really appreciate the chat. And it’s always great. The story of how you broke in is pretty amazing. You just inertia. You know, like a young kid Australian like, Hey, dude, I know you. Exactly. Can I can I come to your film set? Yeah, no worries might.
So I mean, I’ve tried to take that generosity with me everywhere. Now. If I get offers for camera attachments, I always try and, you know, have them on set. You know, I just did the Invisible Man. And we had different person on each week, you know, because I think every it’s a very, you know, intimidating industry to jump into. So. Try and help where I can now. Yeah, cool. Thanks. Right. Cheers. Thank you. My pleasure.
So how do you enjoy today’s episode, and here’s what I want you to do. Next, I want you to take one thing that you got from today’s show, and to put it into practice, in your career in business, because it’s only through having the right systems in place, that you’ll be able to take your career and business from where you are today to where you want to be. So again, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. So until next time, I’m Clarke Scott from next level filmmaker. Have a great day.
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