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Got Spare Time? Stay Proactive as a Filmmaker

In the freelance career there will be free time, unless you are really lucky or fortunate enough to have diversified contacts. If you're a freelancer you've already experienced slow season and know how to prepare for it financially and mentally. If you're new to freelancing or just starting, the holiday season at the end of the year till late February are usually the slow season for productions. You will experience downtime that can last for months. If you're lucky to pick up a few gigs in the slow season, consider yourself lucky.

This downtime can be the perfect time to do research and build skills to advance yourself in your profession. I will mostly talk about the lighting and camera department in film but the same terms apply for other departments.

Here are seven things you can do to improve your skills and expand your knowledge in your film career.

1. Watch behind the scene videos on Youtube

Youtube can be an invaluable resource. You can learn things you don't expect to learn. For film production it is no different. You probably have channels you follow already regarding film production. Here are some channels that you might not know.

And much, much more. The more you get into it, the thread of videos will lead you to channels of your preferences. Don't be afraid to branch away from these channels. I only listed a few different types of sources, there are many channels that are similar. If you are interested in another department, Hollywood Reporter's Roundtable also features directors, actors, writers, producers, and much more.

2. Stay active on social media, join or follow production groups, and improve your exposure.

Social media is an essencial resource to find production gigs. This industry is heavily based on networking. Again these are mostly for Camera and lighting, but there are groups and pages that corresponds to your department.

  • Facebook: If you are in the Tri-state Area, Local Zero Heroes, Filmmakers Community and NYC TV & Film Production Community are just some of the groups that offer jobs but they also offer invaluable information.

  • Instagram: Local728, GripRigs, #cinematographer, Dan_Mindel (Dan Mindel ASC), rmorrison (Rachel Morrison ASC), greigfraser_dp (Greigh Fraser ACS, ASC), shittyrigs, rpstam (Rogrigo Prieto ASC), reedmoreno (Reed Moreno ASC). There are many more Cinematographer, Directors, actos and other professionals that have instagram pages, so if you follow them on twitter or anywhere they most likely have an instagram page.

  • Twitter/Discord/other online social media platforms.

3. Magazine/Books/Podcasts

Try to get your resources for free. I believe that you can get these books at the library or borrow it from a friend. I have a bunch of books that I borrowed and are being borrowed. Go through your contacts first and other free resources like your school before you buy these books or magazine.

Books: American CInematographer Manual, Set Lighting Technician Handbook, The Art of Illusion. I guarantee there is a book that tailers to your department online.

Magazines: American Cinematographer, Film of Lincoln Center, Filmcomment

Podcasts: The DGA Podcast (Interviewing directors), Indiewire Podcast, The Black List Table Reads.

4.Practice at Home with photography, video, lighting, art, sound, anything! Experiment!

Practice with your camera/phone while you're at home or have freetime. There will always be things you can work on. For example, as a 1st Camera Assistant, practice knowing the distances from one object to another. Experiment with different types of lighting, test you camera's limitations, make a short film, do a lighting test, learn or improve your knot making skills, practice your electrical formulas, or time youself setting up a camera or a frame. Anything that can help you when you go back to work.

It is also important to share your experience and tests with other people through social media. A community of filmmakers are ready to give their knowledges and share their experience with the problem you are facing. Share your work online if you made something and get constructive feedback.

5. Analyze your favorite movie

The best way to learn from the best technicians or artists other than listening to their interviews or watching behind the scenes is studying their work. Integrate the information from their interview and see how it was accomplished in the movie.

The best way to analyze a movie depends on what you want to focus on. If you are interested in the visual departments, turn off the sound of the film so you can better analyze their work. Music and sound are very powerful tools to blend the art into one, so by separating the sound from the visual, this allows the visual to stand out more.

Cinematography wise, take notes on the composition, lighting, color, camera movement, symbols, camera angle, lens choice, perspective, height of camera, contrast, motifs, lines, change in visual grammar and many many more.

6. Watch a lot of movies! Stay concentrated with your passion.

You decided to go into the film industry for a reason. And if that reason is the love of movies/shows/media, then it is encouraged to keep watching your movies. Try new movie genre or international movies. I like to discover films from different countries and different times. It is important that you keep your passion and reason for working in the film industry. It is easy to get discouraged during the down season but don't forget why you work so hard for.

7. And finally, this blog at

My articles mostly cater to lighting and camera department but I welcome those who are curious. Here are just some of the Articles:

Work in film production after Film School:

Lens and Psychology:

Quality of Light:

Feel free to comment or email me for any information that I may have missed. I know the importance of a community, so I offer your help to make these blogs as informative as possible. Thank you for reading and stay passionate, creative and productive.


Nyv Mercado

Level Nine Productions

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