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From On Confidence in Filmmaking

May 2, 2007

In the May 2nd edition of the IMDB’s Ask A Filmmaker series, Cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, B.S.C. talked about the importance of confidence and a sense of humor. I thought it advice worth sharing. . .

Hi, I’ve just spent the last hour or so reading your ‘So you want to…’ article, and found it incredibly refreshing to hear an honest analysis on what the movie industry is REALLY like. Unless you were cleverly concealing most of the horrid parts I’ve come to expect when thinking of the big corporate monster that is ‘Hollywood’.

My question is simply: Do I need to get myself a degree in something media based, or know someone who can usher me in through the back door, to truly become part of the film industry?

It is INCREDIBLY competitive and there are hundreds of kids (in the US especially) that are churning out of ‘film school’ who have much more ambition and likelihood of reaching their goals than I ever will. So is there really any hope for me?

Me, I should mention, is a 23 year old from the south of England who once dreamed of being a DP but backed out due to lack of belief in ones ability and a fear of failure… It is also the person who has just started a much respected psychology degree but is now slapping themselves round the face wondering why the hell they’re not doing something they’ll enjoy.

I’m fairly lost, feeling old and hoping there is someway I can follow a passionately revived dream.


Confidence in yourself is one quality that cannot be taught or learned at school. As I implied in the essay you read, being “damaged” by education is a reality for a lot of people with degrees and good school grades. The key sentence in your question is …” …who have much more ambition and likelihood of reaching their goals than I ever will”. You have to ask yourself WHY are these others any more likely to succeed than you? What is it that makes them any more likely to get into the film business than you?

With an attitude of failure before you have begun you will not succeed. “Feeling old at 23” is a psychological state that you need to move yourself away from as soon as possible. On the whole I encourage people to do what they like in their 20’s: this might be studying Astro Physics or learning to Kite Surf in Corsica. Your 20’s are the only truly free time in your life: free from your Parents and (not always!) free from your own partner and children. It’s the time to explore and follow dreams and if they don’t work out, in the words of the song: “pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again.”

Stop worrying about other people and get on with what you want to do. You obviously have a good sense of humor and that does a long way in the Movie Business.
Oliver Stapleton, B.S.C. has photographed dozens of critically acclaimed films, including My Beautiful Laundrette, The Grifters, The Hi-Lo Country , and The Cider House Rules . He received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his work on Earth Girls Are Easy . He is currently filming The Waterhorse in New Zealand.

If you are considering working in the movie industry, Oliver Stapleton has written a brief guide available at

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