Bob Gillen on Storytelling

Tag: camera operator

Pre-visualizing Your Shoot

Veteran camera operator Georgia Packard learned pre-visualization from Ansel Adams. When Packard was a kid, she took summer classes with Adams. “Ansel Adams was such a wonderful mentor,” Packard says, “teaching me pre-visualization in his still photography. We would go out with a pin-hole ‘camera’ shoebox with only one exposure. I knew I had to get it right the first time! I walked around my subject looking high and low, moving far left and right before releasing the cap.”

“I still do that on my film sets,” she says.

Camera operator Georgia Packard

Camera operator Georgia Packard

Pre-visualize Your Characters

Great advice for writers too. When you put your character in a scene, pre-visualize. Walk around the scene in your mind. Move your character right and left, high and low. Your character is a boy, a high school freshman. He comes home from school one afternoon to find his grandfather lying on the floor, gasping for breath, suffering a heart attack. Walk around the boy. What POV are you using? Looking over his shoulder as he spies his grandfather? Are you seeing his face freeze in fear? Is the grandfather conscious? Does the boy try to talk to him? Does he scan the room for the house’s cordless phone? Does he pull his own mobile phone from his backpack? Does he spin around, hesitating, looking for help that isn’t there?

What does the boy say to the 911 operator? Speak confidently? Stammer? Does he say, “I’m not sure” as a first response to each of the operator’s questions? Is he on the floor next to his grandfather? Standing over him? What’s his stance?

Writers Can Learn from Filmmakers

Packard’s advice: “Never let anyone tell you how impossible it is. Don’t let anybody steal your dreams. If you are passionate about your craft, wanting nothing more than getting an opportunity to live your dream, go after it. I often appreciate these warnings of doom because they focus my resolve and I ‘prove them wrong’. You will never know if you can do it unless you do it. Don’t try, do.

Here’s the full interview with Georgia Packard.

Catalyst to Collaboration

Action camera operator and DP Lawrence Ribeiro joins us again (See his original interview) with comments on the importance of observing and appreciating viewpoints in camera work.

“Viewpoints, in my eyes, are the catalyst to collaboration. Create!”

“Some years ago,” says Ribeiro, “the combination of doing search and rescue, heli-logging and studying Native American mythology/tracking gave me the eyes to see and feel the land. The wind, clouds, leaves’ colors, soil texture/impact, sound of the birds…all tell a story. They are much more accurate than most modern devices, as nature has been around a lot a longer. The ability to observe is almost gone.”

action shot behind motorcycle

Action shot

setting up an action shot

Setting up an action shot

shooting a scene on a cliff face

Shooting on a cliff face






“Back in the day the director would tell the DP to go to the museum to study a specific piece and spend hours looking at it. Studying the source of light, the quality of it, the mood, etc. And that in turn would get into the movie, eventually.”

Degas painting


Pollock painting


Modigliani painting







“So does that mean the piece’s overall mood,” asks Ribeiro, “could be the point of the view of the artist who created the piece? … Or it could be the director’s point view, because after all it was he or she that told the DP to look at the piece? What about the DP’s work, as he transferred that mood onto a new medium with HIS choices and viewpoints?”

action camera operator

Action camera operator

These quotes are taken from Ribeiro’s thoughts on viewpoints and collaboration on his blog. See Ribeiro’s film reel and read his entire commentary on his site.


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