Am I a rubbish cameraman or is it my autism?

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      Hey hey,

      my name is Daniel, I am 45 and am currently struggling to make ends meet with my camera work.
      I am aware that networking is a crucial part of the job but I have never been very good at it.

      As I recently learned, the reason for this is that I seem to be autistic (just without the magic ability of counting toothpicks, unfortunately)

      While I seem to get along with pretty much everyone and (at least to my face) people tell me I am easy going and not unpleasant company, social interactions do cost me a lot of effort. Meeting new people is something I instinctively avoid and that poses a significant level of anxiety and resistance to overcome.

      I first studied physics and then communication design (focus on film/moving image),
      so I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken any more by the time I graduated. I was then offered to teach a bit of photography at James Cook Uni in Cairns and Queensland College of Art and Design/Griffith University in Brisbane, which I enjoyed but it was ultimately not what I had studied for. I then moved to London, UK and have been working on small commercial productions for the last ten years.

      I guess I somehow hoped that maybe my camera work might become good enough to make up for my shortcomings in networking and one day I might make it out of the world of low budget commercials or at least get enough of them to get by.

      But recently it seems like things are going backwards and I am wondering if I might be some kind of Florence Foster Jenkins of low end camera work.
      It is hard for me to judge my own stuff and while I have never deemed anything I shot to be particularly great and see a lot of flaws in my work, it’s perhaps even worse than I see it?

      I don’t want to fish for compliments – I just feel like it’s time for a reality check and to figure out if I am fooling myself and should better get a barista job.

      This is some of the stuff I have shot …  do you think, this is good enough to keep trying, even when you are useless at networking – please feel free to be completely frank.

      Thank you for taking the time!

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    • #215772

        I have not the experience to suggest to you how to improve you camera work or in which areas you could work to get a better result (i leave that to Roger, David or other forum members) but honestly I liked your examples and I didn’t notice any “rubbish” work in the videos I watched. Which is your main area of expertise? Music videos and short movies? As far as I am concerned you are good enough to do that!

        This said I think the majority of people has some level of social anxiety, some is better at hiding. I am afraid that, to say one, meeting new people is a problem for a lot people. It’s a problem for me too, for example. I think that there’s a huge gap between being very shy and being autistic, did you do some test with doctors expert in the autistic spectrum  to have such a diagnosis?

        But actually I think that you found yet the real problem : the networking one. From what I’ve seen in almost every field, not only artistic ones, the real boost to your career is knowing the right people and being the right person at the right place in the right moment. You do a great work with A  and when B needs the same work, his friend A will say “Why don’t you call Daniel? He’s great at that job!”

        Consider also that , from what I’ve seen in many fields, there’s a diminuition of job offers in the artistic fields (to my opinion this is due to the explosion of AI tools that are killing the dreams, hopes and jobs of countless people) .

        I’ve your same age and more or less a similar background, I studied environmental sciences and i work as a science and maths teacher at school but i’d would have liked to do very different jobs (i worked a bit in the illustration and comics field and cinema is an old love of mine). But I have to take care of my family too and I have to be realistic: i need a stable and “normal” job to rise my children, I can’t feed them with my dreams.
        So, be realistic : are you in the position to work on better networking to improve your career opportunities? Do you see around (in your city, online, etc) enough job offers to keep a stable career to live of your camera work? Do you think the market in your area of expertise will stay stable in the next future? Does your family depend on your job? Do you have somebody you worked with in the past that could help you networking proposing you for other jobs to people they know? Is it an option to do a regular day job and a second job as camera operator? I did it for some time (working at school in the day and working as illustrator in the night)  i admit it was very fun and it allowed me to pick the illustration jobs i liked – i had another source of income – but it was so energy consuming that i had to give up the illustration one. But it could work for you.
        I hope it may help somehow!


          do you think, this is good enough to keep trying, even when you are useless at networking

          It’s good! Your handheld work in my opinion is the best and I could instantly tell that you have a feeling for framing, creating depth but also pacing and an understanding of what needs to be told.

          The first thing that came to mind was…London. I would guess there are many, many cinematographers trying to make it besides you. So networking may be even more important in that environment.

          I’m as old as you, am an introvert plus for the most part of my life I had a metabolic disfunction that made me chronically tired but also social interaction was exhausting. I did not talk much on jobs and was quite concentrated, because I always feared to run out of energy before the job was done. I also had mild but constant social anxiety – even though people always liked me – but that’s something I needed to learn: no-one is ill-willed and people like me.

          For these reasons I was very bad at networking too, but was lucky to live in an area where there is lots of demand but little supply, so to speak, and the agencies I work with somehow had larger clients.

          So I have no tips how to network, however, I can tell that I went through phases that felt like things are going backwards, too. I think this is rather normal in our business. And I’m afraid luck and being at the right place at the right time plays a larger part than one would like.

          Which leads me to our industry’s famous saying: the most important thing (in networking) is to show up. Whatever opportunity rises, just show up. The rest will write itself and in my opinion, cannot be controlled fully. Show up. Much will lead to nothing but some things will.

          You said being on the autism spectrum causes anxiety and resistance when meeting new people. Maybe this is something you can work on with a specialist? It seems to be what holds you back from creating more opportunities.

          One last thing, if you feel you need more work to showcase to get better/other jobs, you may consider shooting a short film and make it as good as you can. I noticed people often are more impressed by narrative work than commercial work or music videos.

          Sorry for my chaotic response and good luck!


            This is my own opinion so take it as is.

            In cinematography as many other professions once you have reached a certain level of knowledge and practice it’s not about what you know anymore. It’s about who you know. But you already knew that.

            So don’t worry anymore about if you have what it takes or not. Do you know everything or will you know everything at some point? No. Does your knowledge helps you to find those answers in case you need them? Yes. Even the greatest DPs don’t know everything but they know how to learn it and/or who to ask for help. I bet even Sir Deakins learn new stuff at every shoot he does. If you embrace that, the passion for learning new things everyday, you will be fine.

            Talking about your autism. Everyone has to deal with their own issues. No one is perfect. So we are all humans and we all suffer from one thing or the other. So everyone is trying to deal with their own issues. Some are milder and easy to work around others are more difficult. But don’t think the rest is having it easier than you. You never know what the others have gone through to improve themselves. So focus on you, focus on improve your own shortcomings.

            About the lack of work. We are right now on a low period. Everyone more or less is struggling. Still networking is very important. Some people, myself included, have hard time networking, for others it’s easier. But it’s something you have to do. And if you feel your location is not giving you enough work you change location, change the type of work you do. Cinematography has a very broad spectrum. For example if commercial is stale at the moment you try to find documentary gigs. I even know DPs with big awards on their pockets shooting weddings, so yeah, we all do work to put food on the table.

            Personally I come from a journalism background and I have no problem to return to it shooting docs or even news reports If I need to. Actually I enjoyed documentaries more than commercial gigs tbh. There is money to be made anywhere. So your job is to tell stories with images. Embrace that and don’t feel less of you if every gig you do is not the perfect film breaking it on the next film festival. The things you will learn will help you at some point. Sir Deakins has mentioned many times his past work as camera man shooting documentaries help him in his career as narrative DP. Christopher Nolan shot corporate films and Sean Bobbitt was a news cameraman for years. Will you make it as big as them? Who knows. Does it really matter? No. Enjoy your own path and don’t stop learning and improving yourself. It doesn’t guarantee anything but you will be happier.


              I’m autistic.

              I’m an engineer; I design and run the technical department for Top Gear Australia, The Mole, etc.

              I got work by embracing aspects of autism, leaning towards the technical side of camera technology.

              Cinematography is a path of mastery; nobody will ever know enough.


              Gabriel Devereux - Engineer


                Looks really good to me. But  I do think there is an element within the artistic endeavour that you yourself must beleive in it as good or at the very least the possibility it will become good. Encouragement is important but the drive must come from within.

                I think making money is  just hard. There is obviously a correlation between the quality of ones work and the jobs you get but its hardly direct and at times not really fair.


                  Your cinematography is lovely.

                  I understand completely what you are struggling with, and I’m even older.  I generally prefer to be alone than in a room full of people.  My advice: recognize and accept that it is a struggle, but it is the price you have to pay to get where you want.  Also, remember you don’t have to talk all the time…. ask people about themselves and your conversation will flow by itself.

                  Try to dose your anxiety by scheduling the social workload- plan only a certain amount of it and remind yourself that is what you are doing, so you can feel less overwhelmed.

                  Now I must try to follow my advice…

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