3 things you need to know from cinematographer Lachlan Milne

We interviewed recently Lachlan Milne and asked our community to ask questions. Here are a few tips we learned.

Lachlan Milne, ACS, NZCS, is an internationally recognized cinematographer who has directed several award-winning feature films, television, shorts and commercials. One of Lachlan’s most recent credits is the feature film Love and monsters (Directed by Michael Matthews, 2020), Minari (Director: Lee Isaac Chung, 2020), who received six Academy Award nominations, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Director: Taika Waititi) and the blockbuster series from Netflix Strange things.

You can watch the full video here, then browse the top takeaways!

Don’t compare your success to those around you

In an industry so small and networked, it’s hard to ignore what your co-workers and friends might be doing. Especially with the boom in social media bragging rights and marketing, pretty much everyone knows what everyone else is doing lately.

Milne says comparing your success with those around you will only make you unhappy and that you should do your best not to. Constantly checking what your coworkers are doing and feeling like you are not doing the commercial or movie they just saw becomes toxic behavior.

Milne says that everyone has their own path and version of their career, with different paths and different interests. Some things can happen quickly or slowly for other people, and you cannot get stuck comparing yourself to how someone else is doing fine and you are not. He says that he has also been a victim of this in the past and that most likely everyone will do this at some point in their career. This type of comparison will only put an unnecessary strain on your journey, and all you have to do is try your best to focus on your own career as much as possible.

“Stranger Things”Recognition: Netflix

Work with the best people

Milne says the DP and Gaffer relationship should be the most cooperative after the DP and Director relationship.

He says you should always strive to hire the best people (especially gaffers) because you can always learn from them what only makes you better at your job.

He’s not one of those who telling onlookers exactly what light he’ll use, but allowing them to have their own opinion about what might be best for the job. He will explain the concept to the gaffer what he is looking for, but not necessarily dictate which tools to use as you may have a better way of doing it. He says we live in a movie climate that changes every week, with new cameras and LED technology moving so fast that there is probably one device out there that you may not even know will work better makes than the idea that you had in your head.

Milne says your key crews have very creative positions and you need to allow them to contribute as much as possible and make them feel like part of the team. Many DPs may instruct the gaffer to determine exactly which tool to use, but that doesn’t leave you room to learn and open up options that are actually a better idea than yours. He says that you have to be open and try to involve them as creatively as possible.

Recognition: Netflix

Be patient and think long term

When we asked Lachlan what he thought was one of the most important aspects of being a cameraman, he said you really have to be patient and think long term. However, this, he says, could be tricky as it can be frustrating at times when other people / coworkers skip you in a way that makes you feel like it will never happen. It happened to him too, and it probably will happen to all of us at some point, but as he mentioned, everything happens at different times for people and you can’t get upset about that all the time.

He mentioned that Tony Scott was 42 years old when he made his first film Top gun (1986) and started his career much later in life, later making some incredibly great and classic films. To be fair, being Ridley Scott’s brother definitely makes it a bit easier, but the point of the example was that you don’t have to rush to get to your destination because it is should take a long time.

Milne says that ironically, the director is often the least experienced person on the set and that very often she will rely on the cameraman’s experience to make the film. This requires the cameraman to have the answers and have the experience and knowledge to help the director make that vision a reality.

This is where patience and experience come into play. The longer you are in the game, the more knowledge and experience you can use to support production. He says there is so much to learn and that you will learn something new with every job and that the amount you have to learn as a cameraman is infinite. He says it’s not a marathon but a slow sprint. The longer you are in the game, the better you will get if you study all the time. If you focus on just that instead of focusing on whether you are progressing as quickly as this other man or girl, you will have a much better career in the long run.

What do you think of this advice? Let us know in the comments!

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