The Camera Teacher

October 30, 2023
I was asked recently about a camera teacher I had at NYU Film School. The teacher had shot several award-winning features, but his classes were two grueling hours of resentment and self-promotion. He withheld any helpful information from us as if it was too precious to be given away for free.
There was an unspoken rule that we had to seek a private consultation with him before shooting our student films. I’d written a seven-minute short about two punk rockers being interviewed in a cafe on the Lower East Side. In the film, a homeless man appears outside the window and presses a fresh newspaper up against the glass with the headline, ELVIS PRESLEY DIES AT 42!!!
I went into my consultation with respect and genuine eagerness for advice. One minute into it, the teacher blurted out, “What do you think, you are some kind of genius, wanting to shoot up against windows!?” I was utterly baffled. I explained that this was how the original idea had come to me a few months earlier. I was sitting in a glass-enclosed corner of a cafe, and a homeless man plastered a newspaper with the Elvis headline right behind my head.
The teacher said, “It is impossible!! You will never be able to hide the reflection of the camera! Are you such a genius that you didn’t think of this? I don’t authorize this film!”
I thanked him and left. A week later, with a three-person crew, I shot the entire film in a glass-enclosed cafe and never once had a problem with reflections.
If I learned one thing at NYU, it was this: never hire this kind of person. The Director of Photography is there for one reason: to offer everything they are to help you bring your vision to life. They are literally your eyes. The glass window was crucial to my story, and this teacher’s advice was arrogant, destructive, and blind.
It is no accident I gave Wolf in Living In Oblivion an eyepatch over his shooting eye.
You can watch my student film, God Save The King, here.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician