From commercials to feature films, like Fantastic Beasts, Everest, and Star Wars, Jason Ewart is a talented yet modest artist who captures and creates iconic moments in moving art forms. As a successful professional artist, Jason gives us a glimpse through his lens to see what it’s like to be a Hollywood cameraman.
“Becoming a good camera and Steadicam operator requires three things: practice, determination, and patience. It takes years to become good at it and you never stop learning. But the only way to get better is to do as much of it as you can.”
Raising Nerd: What does a Camera & Steadicam Operator do?
Jason Ewart: In movies, a camera operator works with the Director and Cinematographer to help tell a story. This is done through operating a camera on a wide variety of technical equipment to help capture the scene. A Steadicam is one of these tools that allow the operator to capture smooth and stable shots while walking or running with the camera. Operating the camera is only one side of the job though. To get the shots, you have to be able to communicate with a wide variety of the crew, such as grips, art department, make-up and costume, all of whom are there to work together to get the best shot.
RN: How did you become a Camera & Steadicam Operator?
Jason Ewart: I was interested in cameras from an early age. My Dad is a photographer and there was always a camera at home. As I grew up, I liked to experiment and play with it. This eventually led me into getting work experience at a TV station and working my way up through the ranks from an assistant to eventually filming major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games. I then discovered Steadicam and loved to operate it. This, in turn, opened the door to being able to work on TV dramas, which then led to working on big movies.
RN: What you do is super interesting to us at Raising Nerd because it seems like engineering, math, and technology have major influences on your work. Can you tell us how these disciplines impact the art of film making.
Jason Ewart: Technology plays a big part in movie making. Digital cameras improve and are changing all the time, and it’s very important to understand how to use them to get the best out of them.
RN: As a kid, what did you aspire to do for a career?
Jason Ewart: I was interested in becoming an actor for a while but soon realized I was more suited to being behind a camera rather than in front. It is incredibly difficult to have a successful career in front of the camera. But, behind it, you can do some amazing jobs, travel to some exciting places, and meet really interesting people.
RN: What advice would you give to kids interested in filming? Are there certain school subjects or projects they should try at home?
Jason Ewart: I would say the best thing to do is to try and get access to a camera – any sort of camera – and experiment to go with it. These days, everyone has a camera on them at all times on their phones, and the best way to learn is to shoot as much as possible to see what works and what doesn’t. There are also lots of courses that teach the technical side of movie making, which can be helpful. But, for me, the best way to learn was on the job and to practice as much as possible.
RN: What kind of qualities does a person need to be successful as a Steadicam Operator?
Jason Ewart: Becoming a good camera and Steadicam operator requires three things: practice, determination, and patience. It takes years to become good at it and you never stop learning. But the only way to get better is to do as much of it as you can. I’ve been operating cameras for 20 years and I still learn things most weeks at work.
RN: At Raising Nerd, we believe that failure is an important part of finding success. Talk to us about a time you had to handle failure or frustration in you life or career and how you managed through it.
Jason Ewart: The film industry is a very hard industry to get into as so many people want to do it. So much of it comes down to contacts and experience. Most times, the only way to get the experience you need is through contacts and who you know. So, this can be frustrating waiting for it to happen. When I first moved to the UK from Australia, I didn’t have any contacts, so it was quite frustrating to have to wait for the opportunity to show what I could do. My advice is: don’t ever give up. Because if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.
RN: What’s your favorite piece of work that you created and why?
Jason Ewart: That’s a hard one, as I’ve been lucky enough to do some amazing jobs in my career so far. My favorite job I’ve worked on is a film called Everest. It was my first big movie and it was an incredibly hard job to do due to the conditions we were shooting in. We were working in -25˚ C temperatures and at 5000-meter altitudes some days, and just walking was hard enough, let alone having to work lifting heavy cameras. But some of the locations we were working in were stunning. And some days, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a very satisfying job to do, followed very closely by working on a Star Wars film, as I was such a big fan of the original films as a kid.
Enjoy our focus on Men in the Arts as we share the diverse stories and perspectives of some incredibly talented artists, designers, photographers/videographers, and musicians whose creative careers all have been influenced in some way(s) by the STEM disciplines. We hope you and your Nerds will find inspiration and encouragement through the eyes of these artists.
This is our Nerd series on Men in the Arts!