We had the good fortune of connecting with Max Margolin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Max, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk-taking is a large and important part when navigating the freelance world. Some see it as in the job decision making, but I see deciding between jobs as taking a risk. Some of the hardest decisions I’ve made throughout my career have been deciding between two jobs or deciding if I should take the one job at all. Is it worth my time? If another job came up, what are the odds it would be better than this one? Would I be upset if I took this job and a better one came along? I could go on and on about the questions I’ve asked myself. One job can make or break my career, more make than break. If you navigate to a good shoot and meet one person, that one connection could lead to 30 other shoots. You just don’t know, but you can try to put yourself in the best position to play the best odds. At least that’s what I try to do, it’s challenging and often feels like I’m taking big risks. I think more so than not, the risks have panned out for the better. Taking a lower paying job that may be more challenging has often led to better connections, or at least the ones I want to make. More risk, more reward.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been lucky enough to shoot on such a variety of projects. So the stories and messages vary greatly. Many have a lot of value, thankfully. Some films have their own message and some projects contain less of a storytelling aspect but may have direct beneficial results for the people involved. Such as shooting for non-profits can be very rewarding when it can help someone get their voice heard. Or shows that bring attention to a certain issue. Being a cameraman on these types of projects and being so close to the actors or the non-fiction individuals, can really move you. One TV show I did was with kidnap survivors. It was so different being feet away from them and hearing their stories directly and was very rewarding knowing that I had a small part in getting these important stories out there that may help others. This is just one example. Films are different. As a cameraman, it’s my job to visually bring the story to life. Through what lens would best tell the story or what the characters are going through, what lighting to setup, etc. It’s fun to create and collaborate. Collaborating with others to create a unique vision is intoxicating. Every little job and piece must fit together.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I do have favorite hidden gems and I like to take fans to locations used in their favorite movies or shows. Beyond that, I feel it’s the usual. Santa Monica pier, the studios, etc. I’ve also found nice little spots in Griffith park and there are some abandoned places that are fun to explore.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Being a freelancer, I owe more thanks than I can fit in here. It’s a word of mouth life and no matter how hard I work and network, it’s up to people to remember me and put my name in for a gig. For that, I could thank 50 people. Beyond that, I have had some people help me directly in making decisions and teaching my how to light. Charles Minsky, ASC is a great cinematographer and friend who greatly helped me along and got me going in the very early stages. From directly giving me lighting ideas as well as confidence, he encouraged me along the way and helped me see choices clearly. A recent mentor, David Sammons, SOC has been a huge help and inspiration. We’ve done numerous Zooms during the shutdowns. He’s a pro at the top of his game and his knowledge and chats have been priceless. There are many more pros that have helped me and I hope that one day I can pay it forward in offering my help to younger cinematographers.