• Mark Caldwell

Why Did I Start?

‘Remember why you started’ is how the motivational poster goes. It has often made me try to remember but the truth is I didn’t start for any given reason that I knew at the time, it was a long time ago and a lot of it was accidental.

I'd helped as a stage hand or stage technician in theatre productions while at college in the late 90s which I enjoyed but I didn’t really pursue it, it was a nice side challenge but nothing more.


Then I found film societies at Uni, I was studying engineering and the people in those societies needed technicians who could handle lighting/camera setups. The technology interested me, so I learned. Generally I found I enjoyed helping people achieve their vision, it was fun to see something go from what was in a studio or on location, through the edit process (which was still awful in the late 90s/early 00s) to a screen people could watch and hopefully enjoy.

(2001) On set and disgusted with a dead Canon XL1

I’m grateful that I learnt, it taught me a lot and gave me safe space to experiment. Unfortunately I couldn’t continue to do that as much as I wanted while trying to get a degree, so things went largely on hold for a few years.


I’d always been good with computers, programming, electrical/electronic devices and so on thanks largely to having science- orientated parents but it was the first creative thing I was any good at that people just needed help dealing with technical complexities.


I had no friends, family or contacts in the media industry and I knew vastly more about the technology and methodology than I did about the industry. So eventually, as I didn’t really know how else to go about it, I went to Metropolitan Film School, Ealing Studios to learn more but more importantly dig deeper into an industry I knew very little about.

(2006) Self portrait to remind myself I could light after a difficult film shoot

To cut a long story short – it worked, it helped me because it put me in contact with people who were beginning to deal with cutting edge cameras at the dawn of digital replacements coming in that could provide a better and cheaper workflow than the older 35mm technology. I had still learned the older 35mm technology but the newer digital field excited me far more.


The details of this will be better served in a future blog post but as an engineer and someone who understood cinematography, I was unique for a short while.

(2013) Still going despite a lot of personal set backs

This post started as a stream of consciousness on a page, I needed to understand for myself why I started. More than half my lifetime ago now I wanted to go into medicine and become a doctor but life never works out the way we expect or hope. I am a qualified scientist and engineer, sure, but I never made that much further leap to medicine. For my sins, and much to my parents' horror I suspect, I found film –or more specifically – I found film technology and a field of people with great ideas that only lacked the technical knowledge to get those ideas through production.

So why did I start? Because I wanted to help people.


And specifically because I wanted to help people create. Over the years I’ve become more focused, I’ve needed to pay the bills and become a full-time professional but ultimately the reason why I started was to help. So I’ve started this blog because I want to try and help more people as best I can, mainly the technical people in cinematography but hopefully a wider audience within the film industry too.


And if you’ve read this far, thank you.


Onwards and upwards in 2018 at the end of a challenging shoot

#cinematographer #setlife #filmproduction #productionlife #filmcrew

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© Mark Caldwell 2020

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