How CFC Helped Launch Set Shuter’s Career as a Film Technician

By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● January 26, 2016 09:00

Do you ever think about all of the various elements that go into creating a film? We’re not just talking about the high-profile roles like the actors, directors, producers, writers and editors. We’re not even referring to elements like cinematography, costume design, music or production design. We’re talking about the nitty-gritty parts of filmmaking.

Enter colourists, data imaging technicians (DIT) and data management technicians (DMT). Admittedly, not the most glamorous-sounding roles, but these specialists ensure a consistent look, feel and vision, often taking a film to the next level.

We recently spoke to a former CFC volunteer, Set Shuter. She has worked as a DMT/DIT and now works as a Systems Workflow Administrator at Technicolor. We wanted to know what DMTs and DITs do on and off set, how volunteering with the CFC helped launch her career, and how we can encourage more women to get involved in the tech side of the film industry. Read the full interview below.

How did you first hear about volunteer opportunities on CFC productions?

When I first started working on set, I would make a point to talk to as many people as I could. The one thing I consistently heard from people is that, if given the opportunity, I should work with the CFC. A few months later I was called by a friend whom I met on my first film as a Data Management Technician, and she asked me if I was available to volunteer on a CFC short dramatic film.

Did you have any experience or training as a DMT/DIT prior to volunteering on CFC productions?

I had very little training in this position before I started working with the CFC – I had volunteered on one BravoFact funded short film as a Data Management Technician.

How did your volunteer experience with the CFC help you on your current career path and enable you to secure a job at Technicolor?

When I first began volunteering, the CFC sent me to Technicolor for basic training on the kits that they provide through their On-location Services. Technicolor is a long-time supporter of the CFC and has been providing post-production services to the CFC’s Short Dramatic Film Program for more than 20 years. Technicolor also provides training for DMT/DITs who are not familiar with their kits. During my training, I learned how to operate the kit and was introduced to DaVinci Resolve software and a Tangent Wave panel. I was also given a lesson in basic colour correction and how to work effectively on-set to help create a look with the Director of Photography.

What else did you get out of your volunteer experience with the CFC?

I got to meet so many talented and creative people, some of whom I still work with! I also learned fairly quickly about the organization and management of the different departments that exist during production and how important it is that they work well together and get on the same page.

What is your role at Technicolor?

I work in the Engineering Department as a Systems Workflow Administrator. My job on the team is part learning (new technologies, software, plugins, bugs, incompatibilities, codecs) part support and problem-solving for the Video and Engineering department. I get assigned tasks to help organize and enact new workflows for operators, and support software and hardware faults for many of those workflows.

What is the difference between a DMT and a DIT?

The role of a DMT is to transfer, backup, and verify the footage to two or more locations – sometimes checksums are created to ensure there are no corruptions in the transfer while on set. The role of a DIT is more in depth – not only do they do everything that the DMT does, but also with direction from the Director of Photography, they do a quick colour pass of the footage to set a “look” for the Dailies. Often a general look for the footage is established with the DIT and DOP prior to shooting or on the first day of production. Generally the DOP requests a “Live Grade” or a feed with the “look” to Video Village so that the Producers / Director also can see the colour direction that the DOP is going with the footage.

What do you enjoy the most about digital imaging technician work?

I really enjoy working on set as a DIT – meeting new people and seeing how a creative vision can be expressed is very exciting and a big part of why I decided to pursue a career in film. I also really love the “look-generation” aspect of it. There are so many things you can do with the various types of footage you encounter and it can be a both challenging and fun attaining a “look” that the DOP is happy to work with. There are a variety of tools, programs, and plugins available now for on-set look-generation – no two projects are the same.

What kind of skill set would you recommend to people who are interested in this kind of work?

I don’t believe that you absolutely must have graduated from film school or have an engineering degree to do this job and do it well. Working with the CFC is great because regardless of where you are in your career when coming to them, they will give you the opportunity to learn and grow in a friendly and realistic environment. Being able to make the best of any opportunity that comes your way is very important. Similarly, knowing that you will need to make sacrifices is key – I did not get paid for the first year that I worked and I did not have much of a social life, but I kept getting out there, making great contacts, and learning more and more every day. The one thing I never stopped doing was learning, whether on my own or on location – reading online forums, testing software and updates, reading about new technology and how it will affect the future of your job, learning and testing workflows.

What's one simple tip you can give to people looking to get hired as a DIT?

I would say be patient, keep practicing your craft, and understand that there may not be a direct path to either of these careers. I never expected to be working for Technicolor as a Systems Workflow Administrator when I first walked onto a film set or even when I became a DMT/DIT, but I am so glad that I have taken this wonderful step because I am learning and doing so much.

What can we do (within and/or outside of the industry) to encourage more women to get into the tech side of the film industry?

I would say first that generally, teaching young women that technology does not have to be a “boy’s job” early on is the first step. In terms of the film industry specifically, I would say that training, mentoring, and hiring women who are interested in these more technically oriented jobs should be encouraged. Seeking new talent that are coming out of film school or sponsoring a woman who is interested in a more technical position on set or in post-production would be very helpful.

Interested in volunteering on CFC productions? CLICK HERE to learn more and apply.

Thanks to Set for all of her hard work volunteering on CFC productions, and to Technicolor for their continued support of the CFC!

Cory Angeletti-Szasz

Manager, Communications (Mat Leave)