Some images are great because they capture the world we all recognize. Others are great because they show us the world like we’ve never seen it. Mike Olbinski, storm photographer and time-lapse filmmaker, falls firmly into the second category. His work seems in this world but not of it. Clouds inflate to colossal heights in seconds. Rain falls like water squeezed out of a sponge. These storms have character. They have drama. Olbinski’s films show us our world but with a super-human perspective of time. Maybe this is what storms look like to God.
You don’t need a reason to make films, but it helps. Case in point: Paul Pryor, director and cinematographer best known for his work with TOMS Shoes, Charity: Water, and The Adventure Project. Paul makes films for a very simple reason: to help people. His work has helped raise awareness and funds for some of the most important issues facing our world today. (Thanks, Paul!)
There are two stories behind every photograph: the story of what was being captured, and the story of capturing it. Tales by Light, now streaming on Netflix, focuses on the latter, documenting the wild, often perilous journeys of world-class photographers as they create their spectacular images.
It took seven years from the time Reed Morano graduated from NYU’s film school to the time she worked as a DP on the Academy Award-nominated film Frozen River. Seven years to begin making the work she wanted to make. Which is why when we asked her what advice she’d give to a young filmmaker, the first thing she said was perseverance.
Natasha Braier always knew what she wanted to do; she just wasn’t sure where she wanted to do it. While growing up in Argentina, she became interested in photography at a young age and soon began making films with her father’s 8mm camera. “I never really thought about filmmaking as a career. I was just following an artistic expression that resonated with me the most,” Natasha told us. After attending art school in Argentina and film school in Barcelona, she was eventually accepted into a master’s program for cinematography at the prestigious National Film and Television School in England.
In film, it is not enough to be a storyteller. You have to be a storyshow-er. A storyvisualizer. You need to tell stories cinematically — which, as you might expect, is what Jennifer Van Sijll’s book, Cinematic Storytelling, is all about. Sijll explains there has been an unhealthy divide created between the technical side of filmmaking and the story side: “In teaching filmmaking, story and film are often taught separately. Screenwriters are housed in one building, production people in another. Unintentionally, a divide is created where there should be a bond. Technical tools become separated from their end, which is story.”
Some people know what they’re going to do with their lives before they’re old enough to drink a beer. Some of us take a little longer. Autumn Durald didn’t decide to be a director of photography until after she’d graduated college, traveled the world, and held a steady job in advertising. Once she’d made the decision, though, she didn’t look back. Since then, she’s lensed everything from major motion pictures (Palo Alto) to documentaries (Portraits of Braddock).
There’s this concept in psychology called “flow.” It’s that moment when you become so fully immersed in your work that you lose all sense of time, sense of space, and sense of yourself. They say it happens when your challenge is perfectly matched to your ability, and that people who often reach “flow” are the happiest people on the planet.
There is so much good advice out there, but almost none of it sticks. For every thousand pieces of advice you get, you might remember one or two. But what does stick is significant. You can learn a lot about someone from the advice they’ve retained. And you can learn a lot from them too. For the past few months, we’ve been asking filmmakers what advice has stuck with them. Their answers were as varied as their work. But we noticed something: When advice does stick with someone, it becomes not just advice they remember, but advice they give. It becomes their advice. In other words, the best good advice becomes part of who you are. Maybe something below will do the same for you.
When Planet Earth first aired in 2006, it showed us our world in a way we’d never seen it before. It was an awe-inspiring example of not only the beauty of nature, but also the power of cinematography. It was a foreshadowing — or maybe even the catalyst — of an increasingly cinematic approach to nature filmmaking. Last year, a decade after the original series premiered, the BBC aired Planet Earth II. Once again, it challenges the boundaries of what we thought was possible on film, and it expands our understanding of the natural world around us.