With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the Filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a Filmmaker. Options include pitching an idea, or a commission through screenwriting, casting, shooting, editing, and screening your project. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to Filmmaker Stefanie McNeal about her work. This is what she said:
What is your name and where are you from?
Stefanie McNeal: My name is Stefanie McNeal and I am from Los Angeles.
Primary role on set?
Stefanie McNeal: Camera assistant and camera operator.
Name a person in the industry that is on the top of their game in your role.
Stefanie McNeal: I look up to and respect a lot of women who work in the camera department. Jenn Gittings, Dawn Suhyun Shim, and Soraya Sélène Burtnett are all talented DPs and camera operators that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and seeing their mastery of the craft firsthand.
If you had to impress someone with your work, what would be the most “well-known” content that you’ve worked on?
Stefanie McNeal: I once worked on a shoot for Omaze, a company that partners with different charities to hold contests with the grand prize being a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a celebrity. I was 2nd AC for the high-speed camera that filmed Arnold Schwarzenegger as he blew stuff up with a contest winner. He rolled up to set in a tank and actually asked me for playback for one of the shots. Even if someone isn’t familiar with Omaze, they definitely know Arnold!
Best craft services food?
Stefanie McNeal: Fruit snacks!!!
What’s the first thing you do, when you arrive on set?
Stefanie McNeal: Introduce myself to any new faces, track down my department and get instructions for the first setup of the day, and grab a cup of coffee.
How did you break into this industry?
Stefanie McNeal: I interned at Division Camera (now The Camera Division) when I first moved to LA three years ago. I worked my way up to head prep tech before leaving to pursue freelance full time.
What challenges have you faced?
Stefanie McNeal: As a woman in this industry, it can be difficult at times to stay afloat in a male-dominated industry. But the hard-working and talented women that I work with inspire me to keep going and pursue my dreams no matter what.
Do you have a piece of essential gear that you don’t leave without?
Stefanie McNeal: You won’t see me on set without a Setwear pouch strapped to my waist. Keeping my tools close by is key when you’re working on a run-and-gun shoot. I recently bought one with a silent open flap at Filmtools. No more noisy velcro!
Current TV obsession?
Stefanie McNeal: I’m almost finished watching the new Queer Eye series on Netflix. It’s such a positive and inspirational show!
Do you binge-watch new shows or pace them out?
Stefanie McNeal: I usually pace out new shows. When I really enjoy a show, I like to make it last as long as possible.
What piece of gear do you have your eye on?
Stefanie McNeal: I’ve been saving up to buy a Magliner camera cart for a while!
Camera – Should you own or rent?
Stefanie McNeal: I’m probably biased from working at a camera rental house, but renting is definitely the way to go. Different projects require different gear. Rental houses meticulously test and service their gear and have a wealth of knowledge that is invaluable when you’re preparing for a shoot.
Lenses – Should you own or rent?
Stefanie McNeal: Rent. Every lens has a different look and feel to it. Give yourself the flexibility of choosing the right lens for the right project and rent!
What is your preferred camera system? Lenses?
Stefanie McNeal: Arri cameras are the best of the best. For camera assistants like me, they’re quick and easy to build and their menu systems are incredibly user-friendly. Cooke, Leica, and Zeiss lenses have been my favorite to work with.
What are you currently working on?
Stefanie McNeal: I recently worked as a camera assistant on some commercial spots for New York Life, a music video for “Stronger Than I’ve Ever Been” by Kaleena Zanders (a song featured on a Super Bowl commercial), and a new episodic series for Playboy. Currently on the hunt for my next gig!
What advice would you give to people interested in this industry?
Stefanie McNeal: This industry is tough to break into, but it’s incredibly rewarding once you do. Don’t give up and keep pushing. Take things at your own pace and don’t compare yourself to others. Success is defined differently by different people. Find your own success.
Where can people follow you on social?
Stefanie McNeal: My Instagram is @bunnycakey. You can also read more about me on my website www.stefaniemcneal.wix.com/film