“Follow your dreams. Find a good mentor, and never stop learning.” Daniel Quesnel

21 for 2021 Reel Film Series: Daniel Quesnel

My film career started with joining the Camera Trainee Program, upgrading to 2nd assistant camera and growing my skill set to where I am now. I am currently a Digital image technician and First Assistant Camera person in the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE 669. Amazon, Netflix, HULU, Hallmark, FX, Universal and CBC are a few of the companies I have worked for in creating feature film and episodic television content during my career in film and television production, that has spanned over twenty years.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?

My path to working in film and television production began in 1998 when I attended the Basic Film Workshop at the Winnipeg Film Group. Through my membership in the WFG I was made aware of a recruitment meeting for IATSE 669. After attending the recruitment session, and with the help of Film Training Manitoba’s professional development fund I was off to Calgary to attend a week long intensive training session learning about all of the current film camera technology. In those days camera people were expected to have a strong working knowledge of all the current camera platforms such as Arriflex, Panaflex, and Moviecam to name a few. By spring of 1999 I was placed by IA669 on my first project as a camera trainee. I spent 2 years as a camera trainee working in Winnipeg and Vancouver before returning to Winnipeg for my first project as a full fledged union member on the set of 2030 CE produced by Mind’s Eye Entertainment for YTV.

If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?

If I could give my past self advice it would be to start having a financial strategy early on in one’s career. It is important to plan for your future, be it saving money for an equipment purchase to take your career to the next level, having funds to travel for a course or workshop, saving for your retirement or preparing for one of the industries inevitable down turns. It’s easy when you are young and making money in the film industry to think that things will just keep on rolling. In my career I have seen the industry shocked by the events of 9-11, grind to an almost complete halt by the U.S. Financial crisis of 2008, temporary shutdowns from various strikes or lockouts, and recently the new challenges presented to our industry by COVID 19. Events such as these not only affect the film industry but many others. Being able to weather the crisis and upheavals in any industry, is key to having a long and successful career.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?

The biggest change in my work has been the transition from motion picture film to digital video. When I started I was expected to know how to load film for all models of movie cameras in use at the time. It came as quite a shock to me that after 2 years of training with film cameras that my first major project would be shot on digital video. I had much to learn in a short time. Thankfully, the camera operator owned the equipment and was keen to share his vast wealth of knowledge about high definition video which was an entirely new platform at the time. Throughout my career motion picture cameras have evolved at an astounding rate; it has been a constant learning curve. The initial transition was from film to high definition video tape and it has snow-balled from there. As resolution increased, the need for higher capacity storage led to tape being replaced by hard drives and the need for on-set data management and quality control. This new digital workflow provided a wealth of new opportunities and so much more to learn. Working as a 1st Assistant Camera and DIT has made it necessary for me to keep up with cutting edge camera and computer technology as  the industry has almost completely changed to digital acquisition.

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?

Follow your dreams. Find a good mentor and never stop learning. I have been fortunate to work with so many talented cinematographers and industry professionals. Many of whom have mentored me and taken the time to share their vast knowledge and skills. Without the help of colleagues and friends who have so graciously shared their time and know how, and without the training opportunities provided by the likes of FTM I would not be where I am today. Being able to pay it forward and share my knowledge, teaching up and coming film makers and technicians is something I am extremely grateful for.  

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?

So many filmmakers have been inspired to work in the film industry by the movies that impacted them during childhood. Like many others of my generation movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Goonies, and so many other iconic films from the late seventies and eighties compelled me to pursue a career in film. Most of the entertainment that I gravitate to now is strongly rooted in the nostalgia of my past such as Netflix’s, Cobra Kai and Marvel’s vast library of super hero films. As a comic book collector and lover of sci-fi and fantasy since childhood, being able to see what was once impossible to convey visually being brought to life in such a stunning and realistic way, never ceases to excite me. It’s amazing to see how all the elements come together with the help of VFX to create modern fantasy masterpieces.

What changes have you noticed about the technology in film today?

The film industry is always evolving as new technologies emerge and become adopted. The motion picture industry is at the forefront of developing new technologies in video imaging, audio recording, digital and practical effects. Learning and training is paramount in the film industry to keep up with the advancements in technology. Working in film is exciting and challenging and continued education is really important. Organizations like Film training Manitoba provide access to training resources that aren’t available from conventional learning institutions to help grow your career in the film industry.