Gary Elmer

Director of Photography / Cinematographer


The Cinematographer is the directors right hand,  riding the light, surfing the angles and shaping the technology to deliver the Directors vision to the screen.   This must not be a laborious process, the location shooting must be a creative effort.  As in a band, all parts must be in sync.  A fun professional shooting environment will almost always deliver a higher quality output than a heavy location.   This is created in large part by how effortless the cinematographer can make the process seem. 

There are dozens of factors in play on every shoot.   It is the cinematographers job to cut through the cumbersome infrastructure and deliver high quality consistant excellence.  Creativity and and experience can offer thousands of shortcuts that can save time, money, hassle so that the creative effort can be put into things that really make the production shine.  All productions of any size are exercises in time management, putting as much effort as possible into things that show up on screen and effeciently and quickly dispatching the rest.

It's all about the story.  What the viewer sees and feels, and how they percieve it is based on what they see and what they hear.  Although viewers may not be conciously aware of exactly why they like or don't like something, every single person can spot quality. 



Ancient History

Gary has had a life long love of cinematography.   Starting at age 12 making monster movies with a Super8 film camera through a high school and then college television courses. 

His first job after college was at a small television station in Red Deer Alberta where he learned many things including a dislike of polyester pants and ties which was the station dress code at the time.

Gary joined ITV in Edmonton (Now Global TV) in 1980 and spent the first year in training for shooting news apprenticing under four excellent cameramen.   The following year he was given his own camera.    News is a fantastic way to learn how to shoot fast.   Reacting to events live as they occur, choosing the most important element among many.  As every reality shooter knows, you can't shoot everything because you will get nothing.   Whatever is shot must move the story forward.  Pick the most important thing and capture it well.  Provide easy to edit sequences for the editor.  Be efficient and quick.   He spent 4 years at ITV shooting daily news.

Joining the CBC in Calgary in 1985 opened up many new opportunities.  Shooting news, Current affairs, working on studio shows, and most importantly he learned how to edit.  Editing your own material is extremely enlightening.  

In 1986 an oportunity to shoot in the far north came up with CBC Northern Service based out of Yellowknife NWT.   The weekly current affairs show was called Focus North.  It covered Northern stories from Alaska to Greenland and the Northern tips of all the provinces.  It used the world class cameras and equipment and typically had a field crew of four.   Gary was the senior cameraman.  Through his four year assignment in the North he honed his documentary skills.   He also worked as Director of Photography on many specials,  Comedy, Musical, investigative.   Documentary shooting teaches the art of advanced visual planning.  If I wanted to tell this story,  what would I want to shoot?   How can I get these shots within the budget?  How can I creatively sidestep the impossible and still deliver the story.

In 1990 Gary went freelance and moved to the Ottawa region.  In phase three Gary further honed his lighting and presentation skills. He developed a national and international base of regular directors and broadcasters.

1995 brought a move to the London Ontario area where he is based today.  He shoots routinely thoughout Canada and worldwide.



Recent history.

Since starting his career as a freelancer in 1990 Gary has worked on a wide range of productions.

Gemini nominated for best photography in a documentary and recipient of many national and international awards for quality work. 

Gary is known for his abiltiy to move fast and yet still keep the quality of the finished product extremely high.   Directors appreciate his versitility.  He likes to laugh and can take any of the expected and unexpected production bumps in stride.

He has an extensive lighting package, small jib arm, steadicam and generous grip package.  He has the tools and the experience to solve problems on location and deliver polished professional results.

Of course if you are looking for footage with some  grit, grime and attitude he's all for that as well. 

It's all about the story.   For corporate communication video it is crucial that the people and places shown look professional, accessible and beyond competent.   For music/creative the camera must capture the inner mood of the performers.   For documentary the camera must through it's selective use of camera angles build a cohesive story.  For advertising... it must do it all in a handfull of seconds.

Every project is different. 

Hundreds of hours of National television broadcast exposure

Hundreds of high end Corporate video productions

Theatrical, Music Videos, Dramatic, Art, Scientific, Historical, Biography etc.

Experience is not required on shoots... but it helps.




Choosing the equipment

Never before in the history of production have there been such a wide range of camera technologies available to shoot with.

A number of years ago you could count the medium and top end shooting formats on one hand.  Now there are dozens of options and a limitless array of opinions as to which one is the best.   There are still cameras that do video, high end digital in a half dozen main flavours and a couple of dozen camcorder varieties to choose from.

The bottom line is that most solutions in 2010 are actually pretty good.   Very good actually.  So how does one decide what to shoot on?  

It all boils down to a couple of questions.

What is the budget?   This more than anything sets the parameters of the range of options.  Every production must creatively tread the line between having the ultimate set of equipment and people and having lower end equipment but more shooting days. 

What is the story about?   If the story is about a man who doesn't believe that his house is haunted and sets up home video cameras to capture it requires a much cheaper pallette of equipment than a high energy story of an international SWAT team that uses helicopters.

How does the director want the story to look?  Will this look like a viral impromtu web video with the associated grain, camera shake reality look, or is it going to be more cinematic.

How long will the shelf life be?  In general the longer you wish to keep and re-use the material the higher technical quality of the camera is required.

There are lots of options.  Your Cinematographer will work with you to choose the best equipment to do the job.






Choosing your crew.

Choosing a crew is a very individual process.   Each project will call for a different set of skills and equipment.  

Gary allows that he is very fortunate to work with the best directors, producers and crew in the business.   So no matter what the project Gary can put together the best crew for the job at hand.   Large, medium or small productions always benifit from a quality crew.