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Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Photographers

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, where we bring you the work of photographers, videographers, and other visual artists we think you should be following. 

Vincent Laforet is a filmmaker and photographer that belongs in any reasonable list of Notable Storytellers (read this short piece to understand why we haven’t mentioned him in this column before). Long before he became one of the pioneers (some, including me, would say he is the pioneer) of making films with video-capable DSLRs, he was a staff photographer for the New York Times – and a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer at that.

Reverie was the film that started it all. Shot over the course of a weekend on a pre-release 5D Mark II borrowed from Canon (that he wasn’t supposed to have, but managed to get Canon to loan him anyway), it set off a storm in the world of video and put Vincent, an already accomplished and talented photographer, on the map in that rarified world.

Reverie from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Reverie was followed eventually by Nocturne, a short film shot to highlight the capabilities of the then-new Canon 1D Mark IV. If Reverie was Vincent “bad cologne commercial,” as he once called it, Nocturne showed off not only his ability to successfully scale a vertical learning curve, but also his increasing prowess as a storyteller in his newly adopted medium.

Nocturne from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

When Canon decided to break into the world of filmmaking in a more “serious” way, they did so with the introduction of the Canon C300. Vincent was one of the filmmakers tapped to create a short film that showcased its capabilities. The result was Mobius.

Mobius from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

To fans of Vincent’s Mobius’ circular timeline was reminiscent of Nocturne. But where Nocturne was almost a run-and-gun shoot that utilized primarily natural light, Mobius was practically a full-on Hollywood production, complete with VFX (Visual Effects), a comprehensive cast and crew, and a decent budget.

Mobius :: Behind The Scenes from Blake Whitman on Vimeo.

In between these three landmarks, Vincent has been a director, DP, and Executive Producer for multiple projects. From corporate videos to commercials, he continues to hone his craft and his storytelling abilities before, we’re sure, he bites into a feature film.

The Gear Page at Vincent's Blog

The Gear Page at Vincent’s Blog

But during this time, he has also done something so invaluable, so important, that if I had one label – and one label only – that I could use to describe Mr. Laforet, it would be this: Educator.

Being the pioneer in a field brings with it some very important factors. You are the first to make the mistakes that need to be made in any new field. You are the first to see the potential and the deficiency in the available technology, spot the needs, and identify solutions. Most importantly, you have the ability, should you chose to seize the opportunity, to direct the filed in tangible, significant ways.

Too many pioneers haven’t bothered to do so. As a photographer who started with film, I fully remember how hard it was to get the pros in the field to give up their methods and teach the next generation of shooters. With the fantastic results coming out of cameras like the 5D Mark II, Vincent was in a position to capitalize on the deplorable trend of hoarding information for competitive advantage.

The Education Page at Vincent's Blog

The Education Page at Vincent’s Blog

He chose not to do so.

On his blog, Vincent gives away what I consider to be an absolute masterclass in HDDSLR filmmaking. I’ve been reading it for over a year now, and I’ve learned more from it than I have from some books.

He starts with a page on his blog that details – with accompanying video – every single piece of gear that he has or does use. He breaks down his setups, names brands he trusts, points out things he doesn’t like, and covers them in such detail that most questions you have about his rigs are answered right there. Better yet, each gear section has a comments area, where Vincent often chimes in to answer what few questions remain.

Then there’s the new addition to his blog, The Educational Page. This page really has to be seen to be understood. The closes analogy I can think of to it is David Hobby’s Lighting 101 series. Essentially, it is a collection of tips, tutorials, interviews, and behind-the-scenes videos around the topic of filmmaking.

Honestly, if he packaged all of this loosely and sold it, I’d buy it.

But Vincent’s paid training is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

Starting in 2010, he partnered with the folks at creativeLIVE to create intensive educational content. He has two courses on there, and both are part of my personal learning library.

In the first, An Introduction to HDDSLR Cinema, “first-time filmmakers and photographers making the transition into video will be introduced to many of the core building blocks necessary to make their first short films. Students will come away from this online workshop with a good understanding of what tools they need for their productions, and when and how to best use them.”

The first 90 minutes of this class are embedded below.

The second, HDDSLR: From Still to Videopicks up to a certain extent where the first left off, and is a more hands-on approach to the storytelling and production processes.

Watch these two courses (they’re not short, and contain the edited contents of a total of six days of learning) and you’ll come away with your brain hurting and your inspiration signing.

Being as accomplished in the video realm as one is in the stills realm isn’t easy. Apart from Vincent, I’ve seen perhaps a couple of photographers who’ve made the jump with any kind of significant acclaim. It’s a hard jump, mentally, physically, financially.

More importantly, it’s hard to see someone make that jump and continue to tell stories effectively while maintaining their technical chops. Vincent has managed to marry his mastery of technical information with his passion for telling stories and has done a stellar job of using this knowledge and experience to inform and educate novices and experts in the world of image making alike.

You can find out more about Vincent by visiting his blog, blog.vincentlaforet.com. He is also active on Twitter, at @vincentlaforet.

That’s it for this edition of Notable Storytellers. As always, questions and feedback are welcome in the comments below.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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