Frames: Confessions of a Rookie DP

Ron shooting a scene hand held

Episode 1 is out! The long awaited “Great Controversy” series is out in the Internet wild for many eyes to see! The realization of years of preparation, prayer, and hard work is emerging and what an awesome experience it has been!

Now, as an artist, I’m under no illusions; I WANT to know what the thoughts are on the table.  As creatives, we divulge ourselves, exposing our creative vulnerabilities with the hope that it’s taken seriously.

Which led me to a late night grazing on a tech forum where my work was the discussion of the day. This forum was seemingly comprised of experienced cinematographers and film critics who spent some time on a set. They were discussing episode 1 of Great Controversy at length!

My first instinct was, “Whoa! People are actually watching this outside of my Facebook friends list. Cooooool!”

As I kept reading the differing critiques (some harsher than others) I thought to myself, “Man, if they only knew the truth.”

Enter, this blog.

As the title suggests, here are my confessions:

1) I have never picked up a professional grade camera to compose a single shot of narrative film in my entire life up until the very first day we shot this project. I’ve never lit a set with light meters and a team of gaffers.

2) The camera we shot with (Black Magic Cinema Camera) didn’t undergo ANY camera tests. We received the camera the night before our first shoot the next day. The camera was also the first of 5 pre-ordered cameras in the entire United States for a camera line that had difficulty shipping from the manufacturer. Hence, there were no rigs made for it or gear specifically manufactured to fit this camera. We had a basic DSLR rig that had to be reverse configured just to function with this camera with some level of mediocrity. I shot without a focus puller or a 1st AC.

3) None of the crew had ever been on a set; especially on location and 98%of the show was shot on location. Big locations.

In short, those 10,000 hours of practice they talk about, didn’t exist here. Those 10,000 hours went to reading A LOT and watching A LOT! Actually, if I took inventory, the director and I had probably spent 30,000 combined hours breathing and sleeping film, consuming the great works from the most revered artists in the industry. However, we’d still not had never spent a single day on a set.

While I’m confessing, I laugh hysterically when people come up to me and ask “How did you get those shots?” as If I’ve been doing this for ten years. I say to myself, “Ron, you’re still learning. You’re just a rookie.”

That said, there’s nothing more exhilarating to me, than being behind a camera. I love what I do, and I praise God everyday for giving me a burning desire to create art that bears meaning.

I hope to take you all with me on my journey from being a rookie to…being less of one.

That’s all I can confess for now… There are SO MANY crazy stories behind this project. As the show continues to unravel, so will my confessions!

- Ron

Ron framing a shot

I’m not interested in safe. If we need to put a camera in the sky, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
— Ron Toussaint
Posted on September 12, 2013 .