Mentor: Shaun Lawless

Shaun Lawless is an old time friend and cinematographer extraordinaire.
Shaun has shot hundreds of TV commercials, music videos, an several full feature films over his 25+ year career.

We met back in 2006 when I was asked to join him and former Miss Canada 2003, Nazanin Afshin-Jam to shoot her first music video for her song “I Dance for you”. We were sent my his manager Peter Karroll (also Biff Naked‘s manager) on and 8 day shoot to Oaxaca, Mexico.

The three of us had a blast in this beautiful Spanish colonial city. We stayed on a beautiful hotel and had a chance to visit and shoot on dozens of gorgeous locations in the area.
Here is the video which I ended up editing myself:

The main reason I was asked to go there was because I speak Spanish and they needed a camera assistant with a technical background.

Nazanin looking for her hidden love? - Oaxaca - May 2006

Here is picture with Shaun, Nazanin, myself, and our local tour guide and chauffeur (forgot his name!)

The Oaxaca gang on the last day of shooting Nazanin's music video

The other day Shaun and I had a great conversation about creativity, dealing with clients and ad agencies over coffee at Kits Coffee.

Shaun told me that after a few years he learned to stop arguing over who had the best idea with clients or ad agencies.
No matter what project you are given you will always think you that can do things better, that your ideas are more original and if that the client would follow your vision the final product would be so much better.

We all believe our ideas are the best so it becomes very hard to submit to someone else’s creative vision.
The problem, as Shaun explained to me, is DOPs are hired for their ability to execute some one else’s vision, not their own.
In other words, you are hired to do a job, so it is your obligation to so it the best you can even if you would totally shoot things a different way.

In other words, DOPs and many other skilled craftsmen are not hired for their creativity but for their technical ability to execute someone else’s vision. This means that in many occasions you will have to swallow your pride and simply do what you are told.

Shaun said “how do you really know if your idea is so much better than your clients?” you may think so because it is yours but the whole world may differ. The point is not to become too attached to your ideas however great your think they may be and be ready and willing to discard of them at your client’s will.

Shaun and I agreed that even if you believe what you are told to shoot/direct/write is elephant dung you still have a lot of room to be creative. After all, you may not have been hired to come up with original ideas but you have been hired for your ability to perform your craft, and at that, you can still be very creative. What lens to use? how to best light a scene? which filter is best? where do you put that dolly track? and many more questions for which the client will should trust your knowledge.
There is where you can be as creative as you want as long as your client’s vision is not compromised.

To see Shaun Lawless work visit his personal webpage at

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