Wisdom: Sol Negrin on Teaching Cinematography

Veteran cinematographer Sol Negrin, ASC understands the challenges of bringing cinematography from the set to the classroom.

Now a professor at New York’s Five Towns College, Negrin’s six-decade-long career—during which he worked on projects like Coming to America and Superman—led to him being handed the 2010 President’s Award by the American Society of Cinematographers and, earlier this year, the Society of Camera Operators’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Not one to hoard his knowledge, Negrin shares his tricks for the best ways to teach—and learn—cinematography.

Einstein once said that, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” But when it comes to teaching the art of moviemaking, that task might be easier said than done, as reading textbooks and analyzing films cannot truly prepare a student for the realities of a film set. In no discipline is a hands-on education more important than cinematography. Sure, an instructor can lecture aspiring DPs all day long about what goes into lighting a scene or the many ways to move a camera, but without getting their hands on some real equipment, it’s nearly impossible for the next generation of cinematographers to translate theory to technique.

Rebecca Pahle (MM): How much can someone learn about cinematography by just studying films? How do you balance more “academic” methods with giving students hands-on experience?

Sol Negrin (SN): One can learn a…

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