Indy (a college student) writes in:
I’m currently in college, and I’m interested in working behind the scenes for film and television. I would love to someday become a cinematographer, but one question that I’ve always wondered is if I’m too small to hold and operate a camera for long periods of time.
I’m very petite, just a little over 5 foot tall and weigh no more than 100 pounds, I was wondering if my lack of height and perhaps muscle would ultimately ruin my chances of becoming a cinematographer?
Do you think using a Steadicam would be too challenging? I have no experience in using camera equipment or even holding a camera so I have no clue. Sadly, I have no idea if I’m too short to capture the actors on camera (besides low angle shots) and I’ve only ever seen men handling the cameras.
Working your way up the ranks, though, is going to take time. No one’s going to let you anywhere near a camera just yet. First, you’ll have to be a set PA, then move over to camera PA, then 2nd AC, 1st AC, then operator. Granted, the ACs have to lug the cameras around plenty, but still, you’ve got a good five years to bulk up and practice, at least.
Steadicams are indeed heavy, but that’s also a specialized skill. Not every operator uses a steadicam. Heck, not every movie even uses handheld cameras at all. Most everything is shot on sticks or a dolly.
Women work in the camera department all the time. I’ve been a loader, and the first 1st AC I worked under was a woman. The show I’m on now has a female DP. From my own personal experience, among the “hard crew,”1 I’d say the camera department is the most open to women.2
Don’t assume your limitations will be an impediment. Your small hands might make it easier for you to make on-the-fly repairs to camera and gear, squeezing into small spaces and such. Get yourself out there and do your best.
You might make a fantastic cinematographer some day.