Guest Article: Cinematography DeCal #2 – Film, Purpose, The Meaning of Life, etc.

The Cinematography DeCal at UC Berkeley

Hey film friends! Welcome to the first and only edition of “Sheila Wagner Writes a Blog Post on Toby’s Cinematography DeCal” – although, with the way things are going in this class so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually dedicated more time to writing about how dope this DeCal is.

Each week someone will be posting a write-up on this blog about what happened during the previous week’s class – what was learned, his/her thoughts, any new found love for cinematography…the goal is simply to provide yet another resource for those interested in the course’s content! Week 2 was less focused on the technical aspects of filming, but it certainly focused on a topic that is just as important: Purpose. What do I mean by purpose? Well just sit tight – I promise that the following article will be as educational as possible, and I will make a wholehearted attempt to keep it entertaining and readable. So here we go.


Dwinelle: Great building or greatest building?

Our first official class took place not in Ishi Court like last time, but in a room inside beautiful Dwinelle Hall, which is famously known for being easy to navigate through and for always being the perfect temperature. We sat down and introduced ourselves (one thing to always remember: networking is key in this film industry, and overall it’s nice to know the names of those sitting next to you!), then later got together in groups and discussed what we hoped to achieve in the class over the course of the semester.

From a personal standpoint, I hope to improve my technical skills with cameras (DSLR? ISO? Hello? Help? Guys??) and to learn the basic inner workings of a film set (who’s the DP? What do you mean, “1st AC”?). Okay, honestly, my problem might lie in my clear inability to memorize the meanings of abbreviations.

But in order to truly achieve and succeed, sometimes you have to make tough decisions. We then discussed how we all go about this decision-making process. Do you go with your gut? Or do you try to think rationally? Some people let everything fall into place, others are a bit more proactive and flip coins. The problem is that our minds are complicated, and it is extremely difficult to consider everything at once when making important decisions. But have no fear… there’s plenty of ways to organize your thoughts. One possible solution to this issue is to create a Mind Map: You write down two options you’re considering, then you write down all the pros/cons/factors of each option. Warning: it might get a little messy. However, it can be a great way to get everything onto a page, and, hopefully, to make a decision.

Mind Maps 4 lyfe

 You should totally check out Toby’s Mind Map by clicking here. What a beautiful piece of artwork! I won’t share specifically what I had written on my own mind map (Was I debating between two career paths? Or was I contemplating whether I should eat pizza or ice cream for dinner? You don’t know, and I won’t tell you), but I do encourage you to create one for yourself. You’d be surprised as to what you may discover about what you value and how illegible your handwriting gets. Or is that just me…?

We then got into groups again, and were asked the following: What is your goal in life?

A heavy question indeed. But as I talked with my peers, I learned that we had many goals in common, whether it’s directing a full-length feature or leaving a large mark on the world. At UC Berkeley it’s so easy to succumb to the competitive nature of other students, but in this classroom, it felt so nice and refreshing to learn that many of us are actually all striving towards the same things when it comes to film and when it comes to life.

Here’s a picture of us becoming BFF’s

We all wanted to dive into the actual cinematography process right away, but I’m super glad Toby had us take some time to think about why we wanted to do so in the first place, and how that reason fits into our overall life purpose. What is your purpose? What keeps you awake at night, what has you waking up early in the morning? If your purpose is artistic, can it survive tough times? Did you know there are two kinds of purpose?

Find something that makes you happy and find something that improves the world. Being an artist is a lifelong commitment. How committed are you?

The point is, we took some time to figure out how we wanted to grow, either as artists and even as humans. This had us considering what we live for, and what we value – as Toby says, “When you work in film, your values will influence your working style.” There’s a serious truth to this, and I’m ecstatic a statement like that is included in the curriculum. Hooray!

 OH YEAH: Over the next 3 weeks, each person in the class will meet with his/her assigned team in order to shoot 15 moving image shots each (45 shots total per team). Shots should be 5-10 seconds each, and most importantly, they will be footage we can look at at the end of the semester in order to measure how much we have grown as cinematographers (yes, we will also have final reels to use for comparison!). Who’s hella stoked? This girl right here.

Thanks for reading, y’all. Check out a couple more EXCLUSIVE pictures from last week’s class below! And stay tuned for the next write-up, which will be all about cameras!

xoxo Sheila

As you know, filmmaking is a very very serious process, and we also like to take ourselves very seriously.

As you know, filmmaking is a very very serious process, and we also like to take ourselves very seriously. The sun in this picture is a metaphor for how bright our futures are! Or for how warm it can get in this room.

Were you too lazy earlier in the article to click on the link to Toby's Mind Map? Don't worry, I gotchu.

Were you too lazy earlier in the article to click on the link to Toby’s Mind Map? Don’t worry, I gotchu.



1013653_10201813152149744_1698392694_n[2]Sheila Wagner is a third year film major at the University of California, Berkeley, hailing from a small town just outside of Seattle. She has a wide range of interests, from hiking to fixing computers to trying to stay visually creative. If she’s not at a concert, you can catch her skateboarding around campus, working with Berkeley’s entertainment organization SUPERB, dreaming of becoming a music video director, or failing to finish her senten

Learn more or say hello! Email her at