From a very young age, Jana Cruder has been interested in photography and she’s been refining her talent ever since. But in 2010, after losing out on a big ad campaign because the opposition also shot video, she decided to bite the bullet and learn how to see life in moving imagery.

Cinematography – a natural transition

The transition from photography to cinematography was natural since she’s always thought in stories, moments and scenarios. It was really only the technical side of things that made her nervous, so it took a few workshops and studying to master this art. “Directing came easy, as long as my motion pieces have the support in production quality and editing, I’m happy to do it.”

This new essence of her craft unfolding had her very excited. She just had to get over the fear of motion and just go do it, and do it well! Jana worked hard to produce a few portfolio pieces.

1.  Does the fact that you are a photographer make it easier to evolve to motion or did you receive formal training before you started with your motion work.

I think so. In the Ad world, we are used to directing many wheels of a moving machine. So for me, it was about adding the best people to my team to help me pull off the vision in a moving image. I always suggest that photographers who look to learn or offer motion, hire a great Digital Producer or Cinematographer and then pick a role you want to play. Whether it be to direct a piece so it looks and feels like your stills or being responsible for moving the camera. Hire the right sound and camera moving crew. Oh, and don’t forget to learn the lingo and make sure you realize how much post-production you’ll have, so learn to edit yourself or get working with an epic editor!

2.  Stirring up emotion is a very important function in cinematography. Can you share with us what angles, tips and tricks there are for that?

You can feel it when you’re creating it. You will know when to push further and when to allow something to progress naturally.

  • make sure you have an idea of what you want to create and work to obtain that.
  • allow space for the collaborative synchronization to happen.

Motion is more of a collaborative effort. It takes many, MANY people to make a good piece. A lot of moving parts literally, so communication skills and collaboration would be the golden keys to success.

3.  I’ve heard that shot sequencing is extremely important for effectively telling the story and maintaining the viewer’s interest. Would you mind to elaborate?

There are formulas for creating emotion, drama and resolution in film. Study the formulas that make up 90% of the storytelling so you can see where you want to bend the rules and express yourself uniquely in this medium.

4.  How big of a role does the choice of music play when doing motion?

Music is key! And strangely enough, a line item not a lot of people think about. I love working with custom composers on projects, as the music is a crucial part to the sequencing and composing of the film. It’s a true art. A great composer who understands your work is priceless.

It is so important to the success of a piece and making their work stand out. So make sure to sell that to your client. Stock music is always an option as well and there are some great companies out there that are using cutting edge passionate creative musicians and cutting tracks that are great for commercials.

5.  What would you say are the key elements for creating stunning motion advertising that makes an impression?

  1. Planning
  2. Storyline
  3. Music
  4. Pre- and post-production

Making sure you light and shoot it properly is so important as it becomes painful in post-production to lighten a scene where as with a still photo you can crank it and it looks ok.

6.  You get commissioned for a lot of advertising work, both stills and motion. How does that work? Do you have an agency that represents you or do you apply for the job yourself?

Both. I book a lot of my own work but I also have an agent. She has been able to talk and negotiate in some larger projects where I prefer to sit back and be the artist and not have to talk numbers. Also, sometimes clients feel better when the director or photographer has an agent. It’s like an accountability and credibility thing for a new client, I think. But ultimately people like working with people they find likable. Get out and meet people you want to make great work with and let them know you want to work with them.

7.  How big is the team you work with when you’re on set?

The team depends on budget. My leanest team is 3-4 crew for motion – that’s for a piece that is more run and gun and not as produced as a story, shots or lighting.   For my bigger teams and projects, I can have a motion crew on set in the upwards of 8-10 people. It all depends on what the assignment is and if we have to do both stills and motion. I always try to get two days so we can separate them but sometimes clients ask for both on the same day. That means I have to be 100% on stills and direct the still assistants, then, direct the motion capture and lighting so I have two teams working simultaneously. It’s a lot, so I really prefer to shoot motion and stills on separate days.

8.  You’ve really proved yourself as photographer and cinematographer and you’ve obviously learnt a lot through trial and error. Do you have any helpful tips or insider tricks you would like to share with our readers interested in motion?

PERSEVERENCE! This isn’t an easy profession; it’s a passionate way to make a living. I’ve learned to ask for help, delegate, form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to produce the motion projects and get a good bookkeeper, insurance agent and one heck of a great lawyer.

Motion is a whole different ball game especially here in the US. There are unions and guilds and insurances that are non-existent in the still world.

Feel free to browse through Jana Cruder’s Motion work if you’ve learned something from this Q&A and want to see more of her beautiful motion pictures.