Shane Hurlbut, ASC, on location
What's the best way to film actors in the unflattering light of the noonday sun? How do you shoot a horror show? How does a camera operator work differently on reality versus scripted television?
Tips on these and other aspects of production, prep and post abound at the Filmmakers Academy, an online enterprise that offers members more than 800 hours of training and advice from industry professionals via recorded videos, plus one-on-one pro mentorship and social-media interactions with other members.
The brainchild of cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, ASC, and wife Lydia, the Academy began in 2009 as an informative blog, Shane's way of giving back for a career that has included AMC's Into the Badlands, Syfy's Resident Alien pilot, the Disney+ sports biopic Safety and such features as We Are Marshall. The blog eventually morphed into the online Hurlbut Academy in 2018, with video courses emphasizing elements of cinematography and lighting. This past November saw the launch of the expanded Filmmakers Academy, where courses now include directing, editing and producing; it reaches members in more than ninety countries.
"Shane and I created this because it's the resource that he always wanted as he was coming up the ladder in cinematography," explains Lydia, the Academy's CEO. "But it's not us, telling our members what they should be learning. We create all of the content based on their questions and on what they say they want to learn about."
The courses are divided into series, usually numbering five to eight lessons that run ten to fifteen minutes each. Besides the Hurlbuts, mentors run the gamut from directors, camera operators and colorists to key grips and gaffers.
"Mentors are so important in your journey as an artist," Lydia says. "It's critical to have a variety of voices that you trust, that help you shape your artistic stamp that you put on the world."
Hurlbut Academy alums have gone on to real-world success: current cinematographer mentor Sherri Kauk won a Daytime Emmy for lighting direction for CBS's The Inspectors.
The Hurlbuts see the expanded Academy as an additional resource, not a replacement for film school. "There's so much that you don't know from a practical standpoint that you just learn from being in the field," Lydia says. "We fill in the gap. We're committed to paying it forward for the next generation of filmmakers."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #6, 2022, under the title, "Hire Learning."