Two [Career] paths, diverged in a wood…

7 May

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, and a recent post on social media prompted me to write about it.

A fellow I follow mentioned that he was finishing his second day as a PA on a large set. This was his first time in such a position. What confused me, though, was that he brands himself a cinematographer, and seems to do most of his work as such.

Everyone’s career path is different, obviously. And the titanic shifts in the industry in the early- to mid-00’s have promulgated the idea that anyone with a camera can be a DP, and anyone who makes a short film is a director. The idea that you need to work your way up the ladder has gone by the wayside, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

I’m old fashioned, and have a strong sense of authority (hence my joining the military) which, I admit, can hold me back sometimes, but also has helped me immensely in adapting to new environments. Knowing who’s in charge, and where your boundaries are, is key to not overstepping and/or pissing off someone in a superior position. But being in lower positions, and seeing how those in authority act, has given me much more insight (with a much lower risk) than otherwise–had I been thrown into those authoritative positions without that experience, I’d be the one making the mistakes that someone else would learn from. Having worked as a PA on film and a runner/utility in Live TV, I’m much better prepared to work at a higher level, for two reasons: first, I know what is required of people in positions under mine, which helps me respect what they do; second, I can use my experiences to help with scheduling, workload, or any number of other things that I need to worry about at that level.

Perhaps this is just me, grasping at some nostalgic idea, but I don’t think that everything about the past is wrong. Have people gotten stuck on the ladder? Sure. If we can jump up a couple of rungs, should we? Why not. But consider what you’re missing.


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