Dreamer: Tommy Fitzgerald

Dream: To Become a Cinematographer

The Dream

I’ve been interested in film since I was a child. Movies like Predator, Alien, Terminator and most of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s back catalog got me hooked on the medium, and I’ve known I wanted to work in the magic of cinema ever since. Obviously, working full time in an industry as competitive as cinema is a hard mountain to climb, but I was lucky in that I was able to focus on it since I was a teenager; it afforded me a valuable head start.

The cinematography is the process of manipulating light and shade to produce the images you see in a film. A cinematographer works closely with the director to convey the visual side of a story to the audience.

The Journey

You don’t need film school, but it can help I applied to the National Irish Film School when I finished high school and got accepted in 2006. I have a bit of a mixed opinion about film schools as a whole; on the one hand, the teachers are generally poor, and they try and confirm you to making films a certain way. On the other hand, you can meet loads of other like-minded people who can become both friends and colleagues.

Your goal may change; that’s ok! I initially wanted to work as an actor and director; however, once I started learning more about the process of making films, I was drawn to the mysterious and addictive world of cinematography.

It took many years of training to be ready It’s not practical to jump straight into work as a cinematographer; there’s just too much to learn. The best way to pick up the knowledge is to work as a camera assistant; I put in countless hours on countless sets in this role.

You might work with your friends for life I still work with several people I met in college. Patrick Ryan and I formed our company, Lagoon Pictures, in 2008, and went on to produce our first feature film, Darkness on the Edge of Town, in 2013/14.

What I Learned

Learn From the Masters Film is a young medium; I often look to Renaissance painters for inspiration. Italian master Caravaggio is a particular influence on my work, as his manipulation of light and shade is second to none.

Don’t Ask For Permission We made Darkness on the Edge of Town on a microbudget and produced the whole thing ourselves. It premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2015, and later sold to Netflix. If we’d tried to fund it in the traditional way, we might still be in pre-production. It was my first feature film credit and a film I’m very proud of.

Think Like a Storyteller One of the most important things I learned is that cinematography is not purely concerned with visuals, although many think it is. You have to think like a storyteller and help the director translate the vision for the material.

Fulfill Your Dreams 

You can follow Tommy’s journey into light and dark via his Twitter and the Lagoon Pictures website. You can also check out Darkness on the Edge of Town on iTunes and Amazon.

Do you love film? Do you dream of seeing how the magic is made behind the camera? Then why not get started today! Link up with your fellow flick-mad BUCKiTDREAMERS and encourage each other to take your dreams to the next level.