Youthful Innovation vs Seasoned Skill: Finding the Cinematic Sweet Spot

Conversations with Cinematographer Carlos Vilkerman

Cinematographer Carlos Vilkerman conversations

Lately, it has been pointed out that I am the oldest one on set. Sometimes I don’t know what to make of the comment, but the fact is that it has made me reflect on this particular fact.

Most often I hear from directors, “hey, don’t hesitate to tell me if you have any different views or if you think my idea is not going to work. You have way more experience than I do.” But sometimes directors seem insecure and feel that their skills are unduly challenged.

I believe that in cinematography the value of experience often surpasses the advantages associated with youth. While youth can bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table, experience provides a depth of knowledge and refined skills that are crucial in the complex and collaborative world of filmmaking.

One of the primary advantages of experience in cinematography is the honing of technical skills. Cinematography involves a myriad of technical aspects from operating cameras and understanding lighting to mastering post-production techniques.

Since no two shoots are equal, an experienced cinematographer has likely encountered a wide range of scenarios and challenges, allowing them to develop a deep understanding of the technical intricacies of our craft. This knowledge not only enhances our ability to navigate various shooting conditions but also contributes to the efficiency and precision required on a film set.

Experience fosters a nuanced understanding of storytelling through visuals. Cinematography is not merely about capturing images with a camera but about translating the director’s vision into a visual language that enhances the narrative.

Seasoned cinematographers have likely worked on diverse projects, enabling us to grasp the subtleties of visual storytelling, including the use of lenses, framing, composition, camera movement, and various looks aimed at evoking specific emotions or skillfully building narrative themes. This depth of understanding contributes to the creation of visually compelling and thematically rich cinematic experiences.

The collaborative nature of filmmaking relies heavily on effective communication and teamwork. Experienced cinematographers have likely developed strong interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate seamlessly with directors, producers, and other crew members. This collaborative acumen is essential for bringing a unified vision to life and navigating the inevitable challenges that arise during the production process.

While youthful energy and creativity are surely valuable assets, experience often brings a steadiness and reliability that is indispensable in the high-pressure environment of filmmaking. The ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, make quick decisions, and troubleshoot inevitable technical, professional and crew problems efficiently is often the result of years of hands-on experience.

While there is undeniable merit in the fresh perspectives and innovation that sometimes a young filmmaker can bring to cinematography, the depth of knowledge, technical proficiency, and nuanced understanding of storytelling that come with experience are invaluable assets in creating exceptional and enduring cinematic works. Ultimately, a blend of youthful creativity and seasoned experience can lead to a harmonious and effective collaboration in the world of cinematography.

Carlos Vilkerman January 2024