The Biz /// Cinematographer Kevin Klein shares his film industry advice in Q&A

Cinematographer Kevin Klein, guest interview Catalyst Berlin Film Production BA

As part of our recent series of Film Production BA workshops on the business of the cinema industry, cinematographer Kevin Klein joined tutor Jon-Carlos Evans and his students for a live Q&A. Read our round-up. 

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“I have been many places – but it's never enough. Let's go somewhere together.” Cinematographer Kevin Klein’s website about text perfectly captures the spirit of filmmaking. Not only does it say so much with so few words, but it alludes to three of the fundamental cornerstones of the art form, all of which fuel our creative courses at Catalyst: knowledge, curiosity and collaboration. The final, unmentioned, cornerstone? Vision – the vision of the individual creator.

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Kevin’s vision led him from California to Berlin, where his knock-on-doors initiative saw him quickly climb the ranks from graduate filmmaker to director of photography. Now he works between the commercial and indie worlds as a renowned freelance cinematographer. His portfolio sits visually delicious ads for mega brands such as Nike and Audi beside beautifully thought-provoking documentaries like What Difference Does It Make?, a film exploring the process of making music. 

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Recently, our Film Production BA students were lucky enough to spend a couple of hours soaking up Kevin’s wisdom, in an internal online Q&A session hosted by tutor Jon-Carlos Evans. It was part of ‘The Biz’, a programme of 12 workshops which introduced our students to the wider business of the cinema industry, emerging and ancillary technologies, and the peripheral worlds of new media and video art – all the while initiating invaluable professional connections.

During the session, Jon-Carlos asked Kevin a broad range of questions about his career progression and network development, his experience of straddling both the commercial and indie worlds, and his creative process behind a couple of his inspiring recent projects. We loved his advice to our fledgling filmmakers on starting a freelance career in Berlin.

“The oldest cliche is kind of true: it is about who you know.”

“The oldest cliche is kind of true: it is about who you know,” he said. “But that shouldn’t be something that scares you. It’s just how people work. It’s about communication. It’s about trust. That’s really it. Just imagine being on a project and you need someone that you trust. You’re going to go for someone, most likely, that you’ve worked with before, that you know is capable and trustworthy, that’s going to show up, and you know what to expect.” 

We have to agree! It’s exactly the reason we consistently see student collaborators at Catalyst working together on professional projects after graduation. Though that’s not to say that it’s impossible to get on a film set with people you don’t know. Kevin reassured our students that everybody starts somewhere. 

 “Work towards getting that confidence to make decisions for yourself and to think ahead.”

“My biggest advice is that if you show up on set,” he continued, “just learn how to be aware, and work towards getting that confidence to make decisions for yourself and to think ahead. Try not be the person that has to only be told what to do and waits around.” He cautioned that the right attitude is a fine balance between showing initiative and knowing when to step back. Another fantastic piece of advice: always keep your call sheets! He described the call sheet as a “golden document” full of contacts you can harness in the future.

When Jon-Carlos opened up the session for our students to ask their own questions, they covered everything from technical advice to personal inspirations to technological advancements. Kevin’s answer to Zac’s question on how he aims to move the audience with his work particularly stood out.

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“What I’m searching for is really an honesty in what I’m doing,” Kevin explained. “I want people to feel that there’s an intimacy and a connection with the people that I shoot. I’m looking for a beautiful middle point between having something that’s planned and something that’s very raw, unexpected and vulnerable... It’s about setting the stage...I want people to feel that there is love behind that image...there is a kind of magic happening on that film.”

More industry insight

Keen to learn more about the film industry from the experts? Head to our recap of freelance cinematographer Kevin Klein’s Q&A session.

Filmmaker Carman Ho Q&A session on the film industry at Catalyst Berlin Film Production BA