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Camera Department Case Study

Danny Spencer, Sterographer and Lighting Cameraman | September 2016


Ever wondered about the work of a Stereographer? Danny works across film and TV in the Camera Department.

What inspired you to enter the industry?

I loved the imagination and the visuals from the films of Terry Gilliam,  Caro/Jeunet and Luc Besson.

I was also in awe at the adventure and beauty in the films of David Attenborough and Michael Palin. I had always been a keen photographer and after a backpacking trip across Asia I decided to try and pursue a life in TV and Film.

What is your current position, can you tell us what your responsibilities within your positions are?

I am mainly a Lighting Cameraman, but I have learned that to survive and excel in this industry you have to adapt and learn new skills constantly as the programming and technology evolves.

In 2009 I worked on a project as an assistant filming the Queen in 3D for a Channel 4 special  featuring various 3D projects. The technology fascinated me and the Stereographer told me they were holding an open training day to learn 3D. I attended and I was the only one! I learnt the basics and before long I was working on the French Open Tennis in Paris. I learnt as much as I could and the interest in 3D surged and before I knew it I was working on Pirates of the Caribbean 4! I took a chance on new technology and ended up being in the right place at the right time.

As a lighting cameraman my responsibilities are to ensure everything looks good on camera.

As a Stereographer my responsibilities are to make sure the cameras are lined up correctly, ensure the correct 3D is applied though out the take and that the shots will flow together.

What career path did you take to get you to the position you hold today, and how did you get your first paying job?

I tried post production first and realised that I didn't just want to be in a dark room for months at a time so I joined the crew at a Facilities House who supplied Camera, lighting and sound equipment to the TV industry. It was a hard job with lots of driving and delivering equipment and very badly paid, but over time i learnt all about the kit. As my knowledge grew I went out as an assistant and as that increased and I made lots of contacts. When the time was rightI then took the jump and went freelance. I have never looked back.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when leaving education?

Do not assume that your degree in whatever you have means to much to this industry. What you have learnt is invaluable but what you will have to learn is immense and endless. Lots of the skills you will learn happen on the job and cannot be taught in university. Do not be shy about approaching the people you want to work for and be persistent.

What was your first impression of a film set?

I found film sets fascinating, exciting and scary. There is an etiquette to these environments and you can tell immediately people who don't know what they are doing!

I still get a real buzz visiting Pinewood especially.

What has been the most memorable part of your career so far?

I have been very fortunate to have experienced many exciting projects all over the world. I worked on the Film 'Les Miserables" at Pinewood for 6 Months, filmed for Ridley Scott's film 'Exodus, Gods and Monsters' in Spain and have worked on so many TV shows from Xfactor, Towie to Gold Rush and Great British Menu.

But my highlights are the two David Attenborough films I worked on. One I spent 4 months in South Georgia in Antarctic filming Penguins and the other I spent 2 months in the Galapagos filming the amazing wildlife there.

What advice would you give to new entrants (specifically your department/area of the industry) to help them establish their careers?

Learn as much as you can. There are lots of varied roles in this industry, many you don't find out about until you are working within it. get a job as a runner ASAP!

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