Tuesday Crew Day: Zachary Hunter

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Tuesday Crew Day: Zachary Hunter

Where are you from, where are you located now, and what are your ties to WV?

I was born and raised in Charleston and lived in West Virginia until I moved to Florida at age 18, where I studied film at Full Sail University. I currently live in North Hollywood, California, where I work in the industry as a Cinematographer and Assistant Camera.

What was your first job in film production and what was the experience like?

My first job in the industry was as an Office Production Assistant. The production office was never where I wanted to be; I wanted to be on set. So, I jumped at every opportunity I could to get on set. Eventually, I found my way into the camera department as a Camera Production Assistant, which is entry level bottom of the rung. The PAs help around set doing all the menial tasks -- grabbing coffee, passing out call sheets, picking up gear, running around town buying things for the office, and cleaning up trash after everyone else has gone home for the night. It’s not glamourous, but PA work is really where you find yourself. It is where you find out if you are cut out for this industry. It’s back-breaking work with long hours - 14 hours a day or more in the rain or sun. You know you are meant to be here if you are willing to stick through it.

What was your last job and what were you responsible for?

I recently finished shooting my first feature documentary, “To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story.” As cinematographer, I work with the director to establish the look and tone of the film. Cinematographers are the heads of two departments, Lighting and Camera. I cooperate with the gaffer, who manages the Grip and Electric team. They will set the lighting per my instructions while I operate the camera. I will also discuss with the 1st Assistant Camera about camera settings and other technical necessities. On this specific film, we traveled all over the country gathering footage for a story about Kane Hodder’s life. He plays Jason in the “Friday the 13th films. It was such a fun film to work on. I shot footage in New York, Hawaii, and Los Angeles among other locations. This was a solid crew, and we didn’t run into any outstanding technical hurdles. Often working with the sun is my biggest headache, as managing the lighting can be problematic, especially at the end of the day when the sun starts dipping below the horizon. The challenge here is maintaining a consistent look throughout the footage. If ignored, it can create some huge issues when you realize the scene goes from midday to dusk in the cut. I guess I would say that is my prime function. To create a look and maintain its artistic consistency through the film.

What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the film industry?

There are countless quixotic primers for those looking to find a career in the film industry. Many do hold a great value, but all mean nothing if you don’t love it. If you are interested in working in this industry, especially on set, you have to truly love it. You have to love it more than money. You have to love it more than going out with your friends on a Friday night. You will sacrifice relationships and your free time. You will be broke. You will struggle. You have to bleed film. This isn’t a job you apply for and show up 9-5. You have to find it, you have to chase it, and you have to maintain it. Success in this industry is predicated on love, not just love of the art but the love to work. You have to love it so much that even when you’re not working, it’s all you can think about. Nonetheless, to be in this industry is extremely satisfying and rewarding. We get to travel and meet interesting people. Every day is a unique experience. The 9-to-5’ers live one day over and over their whole life. In the film industry, we gain a lifetime’s worth of new experiences every year. It is a worthwhile adventure. There is no great reward without great sacrifice.