Don Morgan

[COOL JOBS HOLLYWOOD] Be a Cinematographer

Cinematographer/director of photography Donald Morgan (‘Girlfriends,’ ‘227’) explains the tricks of his trade: it’s all about the lights

by Gil Robertson IV, August 14, 2013

Don Morgan

to be picked from the crowd at the time. Mentors opened doors for me, but I did my best to step through that door with confidence and lots of hard work.  

I never stop learning, going to product conventions to learn about the newest technology. I also like to push the envelope. I was a lighting director to start. When I became a DP, I shot with video cameras for the beginning of my career. I then saw that everyone else was shooting film on four cameras with film. So I taught myself to shoot the Panavison camera with wheels for the rack and focus.  

I also had to learn the different film stocks and how they transferred to video. It was tough, but I knew I had to stay ahead of the game. Sony TV gave me the opportunity to shot the first HD sitcom. From this project, we went on to reconfigure the new HD cameras to fit the sitcom environment.   

EBONY: Please share some advice for others who look to follow in your path.

DM: I would stress to all of the young brothers and sisters to grab a camera and start shooting. Now! There is no time like the present. The sooner you learn how to set up a shot, the better. Then think about a bit of art history to be versed in what has gone on in public art.

There are film and television schools out there to look into once you have done your undergrad work. And here in Los Angeles, there is a great school at the local junior college call Hollywood CPR, where you get college undergrad credits for doing production shooting. But there are many ways to approach getting into the business. Now in the US there are filming hubs in Florida, Atlanta, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico. They are always looking for new blood. So go for it. Just make sure that you have some schooling under your hat.  

Strive to know as much as the boss, even if you are the plebeian. If the boss figures out you know more than the average newbie, you will move quickly through the ranks. Cream rises to the top.

Gil Robertson IV is a noted A&E and Black lifestyle journalist, author and producer. President and co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), he resides in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Follow the AAFCA on Twitter @theaafca.


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