Reprinted by permission from the Boston 48 Hour Film Project and Scott Lebeda. Scott is a WIFVNE member. And WIFVNE is a proud supporter of the 48Hour Film Project in cities such as Boston, New Haven, and Providence.
The 48 Hour Film Project recently spoke with Scott Lebeda, Camera Operator on the Academy Award Best Film “CODA”. Scott is a filmmaker from the Boston area. Since 2011, he has taken part in twenty 48 Hour Film Projects—mostly in Boston, but also in Providence and New Haven. (Below: cast and crew of CODA, photo by Seacia Pavao)
48: How did you get started with the 48 and what roles have you taken on?
Scott: The first one I did was in 2011 when I answered a Facebook post looking for crew. I have mostly been Director of Photography, Directing and sound mixing on the 48hrs that I have been a part of. I tend to lean heavily towards DP on most although I have directed 3 and mixed one. I’ve also contributed as a writer on quite a few.
48: What was your favorite 48 you made?
Scott: My favorite 48 was the one that we did in New Haven, “Past Poets Now”, back in 2014. We won New Haven that year and got to screen in Hollywood at Filmapalooza. I was Director of Photography on that one and like a lot of the 48s that we did over the years really had a fun time making that movie.
48: What was the worst thing that happened during a 48?
Scott: We had a director on one of the 48s we did in Rhode Island pass out from heat exhaustion. Outside of that nothing too terrible happened on the 48s we did. The most stressful part is always exporting to thumb drive while someone drove you into the city to submit the film.
48: You’ve been in the industry for a while, what is your primary job?
Scott: I’ve been working in camera departments on films and television for the last 15 years. I started as an AC on reality TV and quickly changed over to 2nd AC for features. I bumped up to a Focus Puller for many years. I now work primarily as a Camera Operator on feature films, but still do some commercial work here and there. I also do some consulting and teaching from time to time.
48: Tell us about being on the crew that made CODA.
Scott: Being a part of the Coda crew has been such an amazing experience. The filming of Coda was one of the best on set experiences of my career and everything since then has been awesome! I mean we won Best Picture at the Oscars! What’s better than that?
I was one of 2 camera operators on the film Coda. Most movies that we do we have two cameras on the entire job, A and B camera, and on Coda I was the B Camera Operator. Our A Camera Operator was a very talented Steadicam Op named Alec Jarnagin.
48: Did you have any idea the movie would be so popular?
Scott: We always knew that Coda was something special while we were filming it. There were just so many aspects of this film that stood out. The cast was so incredible, they had this chemistry together that you don’t see that often. They really did feel like a family on set. Emilia Jones who played Ruby in the movie was amazing to watch work. She learned to sign for Coda, did all her own singing and is British so had to maintain the American teenager accent the whole time. There were times during filming that we all felt that we were getting to see the beginning of a legendary career! When I first read the script, I was really impressed with how beautiful the story was. Sian Heder really did an amazing job adapting the French movie that Coda was based on. Then on top of the cast and the amazing story there was all the crew that we got to make this movie with. People who I have been making movies with for the last 15 years here in New England and have been a part of building the amazing film community. My 2nd AC on Coda was a fellow 48hr Film Project Alum, Felix Giuffrida.
48: What advice do you have for people looking to get into the film/video industry?
Scott: Get out there and make something. Take part in the 48hr Film Projects, make your own shorts, make your own music videos, commercials, etc. Just get out there and make something. Also, get on to features and work. Start as a Production Assistant and learn how to be on a set. Learn what each department does and then decide what department you want to end up in. Make sure to let those working in that department know you’re interested in working in their department. Try to get into specific departments as a PA and move your way up from there. If you spend a long time being an undecided PA then you’ll end up PA’ing for longer then you want to.
48: What were some of the things you found valuable in doing the 48 Hour Film Project?
Scott: Getting to know others who work in the film industry already is a very valuable part of the 48 Hour Film Project. I made a lot of strong connections and friends on the 48hr Film Projects that I did. I met Felix Giuffrida on a 48hr Film Project 10 years ago and now he and I work on features all the time together. He was my 2nd AC on Coda. Along with Felix there are several other crew that I met on 48hr Film Projects that I still work with professionally today. Those connections that I made during the 48hr Film Projects have been invaluable.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to film school and obtain a degree in Film and Television, but I know plenty of people that were not able to. A lot of them learned film by working on 48hrs and making connections with crews that had already established in the business. I cannot stress enough how valuable the 48hr Film Project is to up and coming filmmakers.