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What’s it like to be a cinematographer?

Sep 16, 2015

There are so many roles in the filmmaking process, and our students at Bus Stop Films have had the opportunity learn about them all! In our blog post on what’s it like to be a cinematographer also known as a DOP (director of photography), we chat to Bus Stop Alumni, filmmaker, writer and actress, Audrey O’Connor  about her experience working as a cinematographer with Henry Smith on our 2012 film, The Interviewer. Audrey also recently and autonomously, shot and edited  her own 2 min short film ‘What’s the Mystery’ where she exercised some fantastic cinematic techniques.


  1. Audrey, you were keen on learning about cinematography on the film The Interviewer, what does a cinematographer do?

A Cinematographer is in charge of the camera department and the people involved like the grips & gaffers. It is his/her job to make sure the lighting and the camera angles are right to get good shots and also get the focus right.

  1. So why is lighting important for a film?

Lighting helps the mood of the film, it also lets you see the actors. If you have bad lighting you wouldn’t be able to see the actors or the scenes properly.

  1. What was it like being the cinematographer with Henry on the film, The Interviewer?

I loved working with Henry on The Interviewer, it was interesting to learn what it is like to be a DOP. Henry taught me how to set up for a shot and how you frame a shot. I would like to work with Henry again on my own films so I can learn more.

4. What kinds of equipment do cinematographers use to get the right shot?

A Cinematographer uses a light meter to measure the amount of lighting on the actors; when I was acting in a film, the cinematographer used a ‘dolly’ which is tracks to put the camera on to get a smooth shot moving into close up. Another thing you need is different lenses for different shots.

  1. What are some of your favourite shot sizes and camera angles?

My favourite shot sizes are medium close up when you want to see the actors faces; when you use a wide shot, you get to see more people and more of the scene.

  1. You recently made your own 2 minute film, ‘What’s the Mystery” It’s very moody, can you tell us why you made it?

Well, I wanted to know what it was like to see a mystery and show something interesting that people might want to see; I write a lot of stories about adventure so one day I started filming in my backyard where we have a cabin. I liked the shots and it gave me the idea for the story. I really liked the owl in my film; I got the idea because we have a lot of different owls that come in the trees and once there was a ‘great’ owl on our fence, so I wanted to have that to make my story more like a mystery.

  1. What were the cinematic choices in lighting for your film and why did you make those choices?

I usually wake up early and I can see our cabin from my bedroom; in the early morning (before the sun came up) it was really quiet and it felt like a mystery so I did some filming early morning and two more lots of filming just after the sun was going down. I wanted a rustic look for my mystery.


More about Audrey O’Connor.

Audrey has accomplished a lot at such a young age. She is a passionate filmmaker and performer, she has attended Bus Stop Films for three and a half years, during which time she worked on three short films in various roles. Audrey works at Roadshow Films, dances with the Special Olympics Dance group, acts with Beyond the Square’s Rukus Ensemble , plays tennis & enjoys creative writing film. In 2011 she was the face of the NSW government campaign, Don’t DISmyABILITY and had the lead role in the short film Yolk which went to the Berlin Film Festival.