Barry Braverman Speaks Jan03

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Barry Braverman Speaks

Veteran cinematographer Barry Braverman has the ‘been there, done that’ T-shirt when it comes to shooting video, and he’s written the book about how to do it.

Barry Braverman v3In fact, that book is now in its 3rd edition. VIDEO SHOOTER 3rd Edition from Focal Press offers the kind of information found in high-dollar film schools, but iswritten in an engaging, non-academic manner to make it accessible to both novice and experience filmmakers alike.

Mike Parker – What first sparked your interest in cinematography?

Barry Braverman – Like most filmmakers, it was sparked during childhood. I was drawn to the camera when I was 10 or 11. I started working with a friend and discovered I could impress my mother and entertain my friends. I think the positive reinforcement spurred me on. I was more interested in becoming a filmmaker than a cinematographer. I was more interested in telling stories than just taking pretty pictures. I went to school in France, and joined a cinema group at the university. I had the best camera of anyone in the group, so I was kind of goaded into becoming the cameraman for the group. Later in life I was meeting a friend for lunch at a production company in New York. I got there a little early and the receptionist offered to let me sit in the screening room while I waited for him to arrive. The head of the company came in and I introduced myself. He said, “Oh, you’re the cameraman.” I think it was that validation from someone at his level that really propelled me forward.

Parker – Why motion pictures rather than still photography?

Braverman – We all start with still photography. Still photography is the ultimate in slow motion. It is a visual story, frozen in a moment. When I first stared out I had a Polaroid camera that had six shots on a pack of film. When that’s your paradigm, you have to think about every picture you take, just because of the expense. That disciple translates well into motion pictures. Motion pictures are the same notion, just extended over time. I think the digital world has kind of diminished the craft, because shooting digital is nowhere near as expensive as shooting film; it has certainly democratized the craft. But it has made access to the highest levels of the craft more difficult, and it inspired me to write the book to encourage discipline and rigorous control of the frame and its content.

Parker – Do you consider yourself more of a journalist or a storyteller?

Braverman – Isn’t a journalist a storyteller? I think a journalist is a storyteller, but the construction of the story is specific to the discipline. We are all storytellers.

Parker – What’s the best advice you ever got regarding the art and craft of shooting video?

Video-Shooter

Video Shooter 3rd Edition available now from Amazon.com

Braverman – That came from Ralph Steiner, an American photographer and a real curmudgeon. I had the privilege of meeting him while in college. He talked about how every image is an exploration, and how it was important to not make the image too easy for the viewer to decipher. If you want your images to be valued, you should use techniques to make it more difficult for your audience to determine what the heck you are doing. It has the effect of drawing the viewer more intensely into the story. You want to make your audience suffer. When your audience suffers and travails along with you, they share in the victory of the story more intensely.

Parker – When it comes to shooting video, which is more important: experience or training?

Braverman – Experience. I’m not a big fan of film school. I didn’t go to film school. I think if you are a filmmaker, you are going to make films, no matter what. It’s like breathing. It is something you have to do. But an aspiring cinematographer needs to spend time with masters of the craft. I don’t think you can value experience highly enough. You’ll get more training from one week on set than you’ll get in four years at film school. Film school might be useful for teaching collaboration and for making contacts. But I think in most cases it’s actually counter-productive.

Parker – Last words?

Braverman – I’ve had a lot of fun and a lot of great experiences being in this profession. I mean, someone actually pays me to do this. I love having the ability to impact people, it is a tremendously satisfying artistic endeavor. It can also be incredibly frustrating. I encourage young filmmakers to work at not only becoming proficient in the technical aspects of the industry, but to also learn how to effectively collaborate with other members of the filmmaking team, and that’s not something that gets taught in many places. The ability to withstand rejection will stand you in good stead in this business and in life.

Discover more about Barry Braverman online at http://www.barrybraverman.com/