Interview: Working as a DP at Age 16

I get a lot of emails from high school students asking for advice. The reality is that your high school’s A/V program is advanced as any film schools’. Seriously. In the old days, yes, a big name school might need $70,000 to buy a quality camera.

But if your high school has any HD Panasonic or Sony Cameras, or any DSLR Cameras like the t2i, t4i, 5D, or 7D… you’re using a lot of the same equipment they give students at almost all undergrad film programs. And the Final Cut Pro editing lab you have in your high school is using the same software they use at New York Film Academy or NYU.

The point is: you have a lot going for you, even if you are in high school. And you don’t need to be in New York or LA or have a “connection” or degree to start working on film or video sets. I personally got my first PA gig when I was a junior in high school, a small city in upstate NY. No, not near New York City. I grew up closer to Canada. More on this in future posts. But in the meantime, I want you to listen to this.

HS-BuzWallickBuz Explains How He Started Working Without Experience or a Degree

A couple years ago, I interviewed Cinematographer Buz Wallick. Buz was 21 years old at the time, focused primary on EPK production, and had been working steadily behind the camera since age 16. 16?! How did he get started so young, with no experience, and no degree?

In the interview, he very generously shares his story, and humbly acknowledges that he has been very lucky. At the same time, it’s not that Buz was just lucky. He did something few 16 years olds do: he took a chance and just started taking action on doing what he wanted to do, instead of waiting for permission.

He conducted himself like an adult, carried himself with confidence, and followed his passion. How it unfolded is pretty hilarious.

Buz even went to film school in San Diego for a couple of semesters, but soon found that he was missing too many classes because of paying gigs in LA. And that’s really a quandary isn’t it? If you’re supposed to be going to college to get a degree to get a job, but you already have work coming in, does it make sense to get the degree?

Buz’s Father, an English Professor, didn’t think so. He was smart and practical in a way few Parents are these days: he saw that his son was already on a career path and knew that, in this case, school was just getting in the way, and none of his colleagues cared about the degree anyway. It didn’t have anything to do with how Buz was able to light a scene.

By the way, for anyone thinking about paying the big bucks to learn how to light a scene: you need to hear how Buz learned it. He learned it literally on the job, about an hour before he was supposed to do a professional interview. It’s a pretty hilarious story.

We also talk about the real path people take to becoming a director, and what it’s really like working in the film business.

This 2010 audio interview used to be part of the “Film School Secrets” e course, but I decided to make it public. Here is the full 60 minute interview. Buz talks about how he actually started working at 15 at about 18:00 in.

  • This is Buz’s IMDB Profile:
  • He also was the DP on “Scream: The Inside Story”.
  • You can check out Buz’s site and Podcast by clicking here.
  • This is a trailer for the documentary about “Nightmare on Elm Street” Buz shot , Never Sleep Again”. Buz has shot with many of the biggest names in horror cinema, including the stars of “Scream”.
You can buy the DVD of this below:

And finally, this is Buz’s reel:

Buz is only one example of the hundreds and even thousands of working film professionals who have no formal training, no degree, and never went to film school. If you are serious about ever Directing your own movies, make sure to learn more about our new course by visiting

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