TV pro shares tricks of trade

Oscar-nominated director gives lessons to area filmmakers

For Sam Branch and other area filmmakers and photographers, the chance to learn their craft from an Oscar-nominated photographer and producer on Sunday was too tempting to pass up.

Branch and about 65 other people flocked to the Marriott Hotel in Baton Rouge for a chance to soak up knowledge from Alex Buono, the director of photography for “Saturday Night Live,” in a day-long workshop titled “The Art of Visual Storytelling.”

”I just wanted to get a better knowledge of cinematography and learn more about what I do, the details of what goes into a professional production and hopefully incorporate that into what I do every day,” said Branch, the creative director for the First Hattiesburg Church in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Baton Rouge was the 16th stop on a 31-city, 62-day tour in which Buono demonstrated how people can incorporate the techniques and skills he learned on big-budget movie sets and “Saturday Night Live” into what they do, sans the big budget and expensive equipment.

“A lot of this is about me trying to help everybody understand different ideas, tips, tools and techniques and this is how we do it, this is how we work so fast,” Buono said. “A lot of this is about empowering them to understand that you guys can do this too.”

His next stops are Houston on Tuesday and Austin on Thursday.

Buono received an Academy Award nomination in 2003 for his short film, “Johnny Flynton,” and was the cinematographer for “Green Street Hooligans,” “Shanghai Kiss,” and the documentary “Bigger, Faster, Stronger.”

The workshop was broken up into two sections: a seven-hour daytime cinematography workshop and a three-hour evening visual structure seminar.

In the cinematography workshop, Buono walked the group through the process of shooting a pre-recorded piece for “Saturday Night Live” — in this case, the “British Movie” skit from 2011 — and staged mock shots with equipment his students used to achieve the same effects they saw on the show, walking the crew through lighting and filming angles and techniques.

For the visual structure seminar, he focused on visual language techniques that filmmakers use in major films and the essentials of visual storytelling.

Lafayette photographer and business-owner Scott Richard traveled to the Capital City to learn more about the latest technological advancements in photography.

“I keep track of the latest, greatest stuff and decided to come out,” Richard said.

He primarily works in still photography, but now wants to venture into cinema.

“It’s been pretty interesting, from taking a script to making a shot list to actually putting that to use and getting it in the camera,” Richard, owner of Scott Richard Photography, said during a break in the morning workshop.

For Clayton Chitwood, the executive producer of a small-budget television studio in Covington, who said he came in hopes of better understanding the photography side of production, the information Buono handed out was invaluable.

“I’m trying to see it from (the director of photography’s) perspective so I’ll have a little more knowledge when I’m on the set,” Chitwood, executive producer of 8-DOF Productions, said.

“I don’t need to be the one with the camera,” he said. “I just want to be able to understand, and if I tell the camera guy how about we do this, I can put it in a way that he will understand what I’m talking about.”