How to develop your portfolio

There are many different ways to develop your portfolio, within this I will discuss a few possible approaches and impart some advice.

1)Just shoot something

Get out there and make a film, an advert or even just get some nice shots. A cinematography showreel for example, can perfectly reasonably include scenery, timelapse or complex shots you’ve done yourself. With smaller and cheaper cameras and software, there is no excuse to not have a film that you can say is your own. Shooting solo also allows means the work is fully yours, and can be promoted as such.

2)Write a script, plan your film, build a team

Write a film, plan it out, get a couple of friends to help shoot it and others to act in it. You can do this with fairly basic simple stuff when as young as ten, and will likely continue it as get older, go through education and make films in your own time. Leading a team is invaluable experience as it shows you people have faith in your abilities, and gives you a chance to get your creative vision out on film, and gives you portfolio work you can claim a lot of ownership to.

3)Work on someone elses film at a high level

Working on someone elses film as a camera operator, for example, can be very rewarding. A lot less work is needed from you in prep of the film, but you will still at the end, get good work out. Film is a collaborative process and, I fully believe you should test yourself working for other people. See what their vision is, and help them develop it. Less space to give out your creative vision on the film, but still some.

4)Work on someone else's film at a lower than normal but still technical level

When your just out of college, university or wherever, working on films that are being produced at a far higher quality than the work you take a leading role in (for example, your used to shooting documentaries on handycams, assisting a bbc camera op shoot one on a Panasonic hpx500, your used to shooting on dslr, help someone else shoot on red). It can give you the chance to get your hands on more expensive kit than on your own projects, is a great networking opportunity, and a brilliant place to learn. The portfolio and future portfolio you get from it, is of your role on projects at a level near to where you might get work in the near future.

5)Be a runner

I’m not a big fan of having hundreds of people on set just to make coffee, and although it can be a valuable first time stepping onto a film set, runners are often lacking responsibility, or chance to prove themselves. If you are running on set, need to question and work out how it will get you to the next level, and whether it gives you portfolio and working relationships likely to lead to work. Sometimes it can be a great opportunity to learn, both bits of the production assistants/producers role, and the lighting/camera side. However runner doesn’t stand out very strong on a cv when applying for a job as a camera operator, and you can claim no creative control over the project.

My last advice is just to value your time, take the best projects available, work at a variety of levels within projects, and learn lessons on every job you work. if you do this, and put in the hours of work (10 thousand plus to become an expert) your portfolio will soon be of a high quality

Hope this is helpful to someone

Ben