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Learn to Shoot Comedy (and More) with SNL‘s DP

Alex Buono, who has worked as a contract cinematographer since 1999 for Saturday Night Live, is taking an improvisational workshop version of his weekly gig on the road. A regular speaker at user groups and conferences, Buono has no qualms discussing what he does behind the camera in front of an audience. With an incredibly busy season behind him, Buono, three assistants and a ton of gear have just left Minneapolis, the first stop on a 31-city tour he has put together with an independent tour producer and technology vendors. "We're going around the country in an RV, and we'll spend one intense day actually doing what I'd do on a regular shoot," he says. "I've been to a lot of other workshops and the last thing I want to do is some watered-down version of what I do at the show. I thought, if we can get the same vendors I already work with, then I can essentially reshoot stuff I've already shot. Check it out. Here's how I work. All those vendors are now sponsoring the tour so I'm just literally recreating things I already shot and showing the attendees the exact workflow that we used and what it looks like. I definitely don't want to stage a generic scene that looks like yet another camera test — for example, 'woman holding a gray card and a Macbeth chart'."

Buono's Visual Storytelling Tour, by contrast, aims to give attendees real-world, experiential filmmaking in a nutshell. "We'll come up with some content that feels like SNL, I'll recreate some scenes from movies and documentaries that I've shot, I'll create some scripts, and I'll show them how I break down a script," he says. "The idea is that the first 30 people to show up in every city become my crew. I'm pulling people out of the audience and saying you're my gaffer, you're the key grip, you're the camera operator and you're talent, get in there." Buono will cap off each city stop with a seminar about visual structure on film, focusing, for example, on Stanley Kubrick's use of one-point perspective, or Paul Thomas Anderson's obsession with linear motifs and what that means. So far, he's playing to a very receptive crowd. "The first stop was totally sold out," he says.

Sign up in your city at visualstorytellingtour.com.

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