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I hear a lot that you should focus on one job, especially in filmmaking, because it's a "collaborative process". But my spirit guide lately has been Jim Lujan (writer/character designer/animator/voice actor/composer/editor). Today I was looking a lot at where to start learning to compose music for films.. which is a job made up entirely of skills I don't have (but with time, anyone can do basically anything of course). Then I started thinking I was being dumb.. I still want to believe at least learning some of everything is going to be helpful, even if you never end up doing it, just for ease of communication with your team maybe (actually I'm keen to do it all as well) - but I know I'm closed minded at times and possibly in the minority, so I'd like to hear some opinions.

I know Tarantino was very relieved to get the advice from Terry Gilliam "As a director, you don't have to do that. Your job is to hire talented people who can do that -- Your job is explaining your vision. Your job is articulating to them what you want on the screen."

Is the biggest risk that I do it all and just don't realize that I suck at half of it?

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I feel you. I love doing my own cinematography , maybe because it's kind of challenging to me, and I'm kind of a control freak, but recently I've worked a few times with a really talented and nice DP who owns a Red with Schneider lenses (he's even shot stuff for Schneider for their booth at NAB) on another director's project and he's offered his services. Ed David on this board has offered too. And lately I've been thinking I'm not really doing myself any favors by doing my own cinematography, and that I might even be holding myself back. But I still have that nagging feeling driving me to do it all myself. It's compulsive. Maybe if I let a good DP shoot one thing for me, I'll never ant to go back to doing it myself.

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If you only suck at half of it you're way ahead of most of us. :)

I think the advice that you should specialize is mostly given as career advice. It makes sense. If you spend half the time doing something, you won't get as good as if you spent all your time doing that one thing. And it's difficult to market yourself as someone who does two things okay instead of one thing well. (This isn't as true in smaller markets. Outside LA, London, NYC, Vancouver, etc. generalists or people who run their own one-man companies can thrive. It's harder in a big market.) If you're not that worried about supporting yourself in a big market, just do whatever you want! If you're excellent at one technical, often tedious thing and good at networking (say, you learn Avid or Nuke relatively well, which can be done in six months, or you learn to pull focus and join the union) you can make six figures right off the bat, or close to it. And then from there you can support yourself in a big city (well, barely), learn from others, and see and observe how it's done. Then you can either learn more about what you're doing or observe what other people in entirely different departments are doing. David Fincher took this route, not because he wanted to do it all himself, but because he wanted to be able to so he knew no one was slacking on set. Or you can take that same route but find other people to bring onto your projects instead of learning from them! Once you get signed to a major agency like CAA or get a creative director job at a big company (which can take five years or more, admittedly) or get signed to a production company as an advertising director, then your agent or company will put together packages of talent for you when you direct. I worked on a project with a first-time director who had no technical skill, but he did a really good job writing and directing because of the team they put together and that he collaborated with. Another friend of mine was signed to one of CAA's top agents right out of school and he didn't know what an f stop was. Maybe he did, he just didn't care. He was a storyteller with a great crew. Another friend had a similar experience, signed to a major company right out of high school. Again, not technical, but visionary.

A LOT of festival winners and Vimeo sensations secretly have major agencies and production companies (think CAA, WME, the Mill, etc.) doing the dirty work. They say if you wear every hat you get judged by the one that first you worst. But if you wear them all well (or even half of them), more power to you. Maybe you will have to pick up the slack for someone some day, maybe it will help you run the set faster. That knowledge will help out every step of the way. But you DEFINITELY don't need it. At all. And the fear that you do can hold you back. 

If money is not your main consideration, and if you're not struggling to pay the bills in a big city (which can kill your success; it's not always a good idea) just follow your bliss. I think Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh would do every job on set if they could because they come from a technical and formal background. But a lot of people are simply very passionate about one thing, and that one thing is why they get hired. Most directors aren't super technical, they just have great taste and people skills and management skills and are good storytellers.

This is even true of film schools. Some of the best (Columbia, for instance) provide less technical education than a day on this forum would. Some of the best (AFI cinematography) provide more technical experience than you can find on the entire internet. By far. It depends what the student wants!

If you can do what you want, do what you want. I wish I had the luxury but I gotta pay rent lol.

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10 hours ago, Liam said:

I hear a lot that you should focus on one job, especially in filmmaking, because it's a "collaborative process". But my spirit guide lately has been Jim Lujan (writer/character designer/animator/voice actor/composer/editor). Today I was looking a lot at where to start learning to compose music for films.. which is a job made up entirely of skills I don't have (but with time, anyone can do basically anything of course). Then I started thinking I was being dumb.. I still want to believe at least learning some of everything is going to be helpful, even if you never end up doing it, just for ease of communication with your team maybe (actually I'm keen to do it all as well) - but I know I'm closed minded at times and possibly in the minority, so I'd like to hear some opinions.

I know Tarantino was very relieved to get the advice from Terry Gilliam "As a director, you don't have to do that. Your job is to hire talented people who can do that -- Your job is explaining your vision. Your job is articulating to them what you want on the screen."

Is the biggest risk that I do it all and just don't realize that I suck at half of it?

I guess it all depends. On so many factors. 

Do you have the time to multi-task? Everyone works at a different pace. I feel I can, on an average, do things at a much faster pace than the average person. And yet, there are many things I do slowly, because either I like to take my time doing doing them, or I am genuinely slow at those particular taste. So I should, maybe assign those take to someone else, or improve my skills and speed doing them. The first seems easier as ab option.

While I have learnt how to play a fee instruments and can carry a tune, I know Absolutely Nothing about composino music. I am genuinely interested in it, but right now, trying that, may be a bad option. I should only indulge in it when time is a luxury and when I can find myself some easy and quick instructions/ instructor.

I love writing, first and foremost,  and I have realized that I am pretty decent at cinematography too. But when you direct your film, you shouldn't get too tied down with too many other distractions. Also and lot of directors realise that cinematography is something they do only till such time as they find a great cinematographer (ala Nolan and Wally Phister).

Filmmaking is a group effort, at the end of the day. And filmmaking is a LOT more about management skills, that creativity. You have to be able to get work out of people, in completely the way you imagined things. And since the director leads a film, he is actually the de facto head of the management team. 

 

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I did everything when I started in 1999, but my first education in the field, and my first job (in 99) was sound. In the first years a was working as a lightning technician assistant (was the original title), actually we won an award for lighting on the most important short film festival here, and in general I was trying to take a taste of everything. I was camera assistant in a feature, and a few other short films, and then I moved to TV (mean while I had finished my first part of my education 2 diplomas in Sound Engineering and Multimedia computing and programming) where I was working as a sound man, and I started doing editing in my spare time (which wasn't that much anyway!).

Then I went to film school for a BA, and started using cameras more and more, and then I put a little of that in my arsenal as well, which finally got handy, when because of the continuous financial crisis here, soundmen were almost eradicated by production companies, so I was able to do camera for some low budget productions, and a few other humble jobs to pay the bills (in a country with 25% unemployment and almost 50% in young ages).

In between, and because of some unrelated issues, I just "forgot" to do my personal projects. Working on a apolitical, political documentary about Greek democracy (the last many years! it is my personal Gillian's Quixote), and I am preparing a short that I should have done a decade ago!

In the end, the thing that you are doing first, and best, is the one most likely to stick with you, and it is sound for me.

You have to be realistic with your self and find your talents, and be humble, learn from the most experienced and try to do your best, quietly and efficient. Do not waste time day/night dreaming about being John Williams, except if you really have a talent, but you should know until now. John Carpenter was writing his own themes!

In the end, I feel very good doing all these things in different roles, and that allows me to be better in my field (as I know a lot of things about other people responsibilities), help some times and some people -not all-, appreciate that, and I can have an opinion about mostly everything in our field ;) !!

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