Apprenticeships for camera operators are very uncommon as the field is competitive and typically requires education and experience for entry-level employment. Students with an interest in cinematography can more easily learn the trade via school-based training programs or internships at local film companies.
What Are Cameraman Apprenticeship Programs?
According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, camera operators who work in the motion picture, television or video production industries typically need 1-2 years of on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs aren't typically available, but aspiring cameramen can get similar training through formal degree programs and internships. Degree programs in broadcasting and film studies can provide students with the opportunity to build their knowledge and skills as offer opportunities to participate in internships. Apprenticeships and internships are similar in that both can provide aspiring professionals with the opportunity to acquire real-world experience.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that camera operators who work on today's film sets must know how to work with digital cameras and computer editing software, which allow for more technical flexibility and eliminate the need to change lenses and load film. According to the BLS, most professionals have completed a bachelor's degree program in broadcasting, film or a related field of study.
Shorter educational opportunities may provide students with the skills they seek. A film crew technology certificate program is offered at Columbia State Community College, which is a 12-month program designed by industry professionals, both at the local and national level. This school is only one of only a few schools in the country that provides training on the ARRI Alexa camera, and it is the sole learning institution in Tennessee with a professional grip and camera crane.
Internship programs available through film institutes and schools can provide students with the opportunity to work for a film production company or on a feature-length movie project. Benefits include the chance to train alongside industry professionals and hold real-life, on-set responsibilities. Students can gain experience with a film production company or spend time as a digital filmmaking trainee. Successful completion of a program may help qualified candidates obtain entry-level positions as camera operators or cinematographers.
The University of Pittsburgh Film Studies Program works with various companies to offer a variety of internships for film students. Flipside Media, for example, has an internship for students who have finished their basic coursework. Students get experience in cinematography, screenwriting and editing. Interns may be tasked with shooting a full length movie or may shoot and edit music videos for Youtube. The Manchester Craftsman's Guild is another partner company that offers interns work experience with a variety of cameras and different videography software. Students need to be proficient with editing software and cameras prior to applying.
In general, camera operators are responsible for choosing shooting angles and maintaining the focus of the equipment. Their assistants, which might include interns, maintain, store and set up the cameras and accessories. Those employed by broadcast studios may use more than one camera at a time and film from a fixed position. Camera operators who work with cinematographers on motion pictures may use a variety of cameras:
- Stationary cameras
- Mounted on cranes
- Mounted on tracks
- Mounted on dollies
- Analog film
- Stop motion
Cameramen find work in various places like television studios or under film crews on a movie feature. While apprenticeships aren't generally available in the traditional sense, students can gain skills through film programs and internships to become qualified in their craft.