Cinematography Basics: Understanding Filmmaking Style

Zak Mulligan, Cinematographer

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7 Videos (29m)
    • Introduction

    • Today's Scene

    • Inspiration

    • Cinema's "Visual Language" Toolkit

    • Making a Shot List

    • The Scene: Breakdown with Shot List

    • The Scene: Commentary


About This Class

Join cinematographer Zak Mulligan for a 30-minute exploration into the basic cinematic tools and choices that make a film magical and compelling. This is the foundation for understanding filmmaking style.

In the middle of creating your own short film? Eager to level up your production value? Or even just curious what goes on "behind the curtain" to give a feature film that artistic look and feel? The answer is in cinematography: the style of your film.

Zak shares:

  • key considerations for cinematography — tactics for manipulating mood, tone, and feel
  • tactical tips for creating a shot list  — the key to organizing your cinematic details
  • exclusive "commentary" narration of a real scene from the feature film Obselidia

All of these things will help you demystify the "visual language" behind film so that you can communicate your vision through your own film and photography. You'll leave empowered to experiment with effects and techniques on your next project, bringing together artistry, story, and style.


Note: This class is intended to provide inspiration and core concepts for late beginner filmmakers and those curious about filmmaking. It is not a comprehensive tutorial in making short films; supplementary Skillshare classes are provided in the resources to provide additional background knowledge.

125 of 130 students recommendSee All

great concepts for creating a mood and feel for a film
I was able to take down some really great notes from this lesson. Thank you for the great class!
Katie Robbins

I do all things creative.

It was exactly what i was looking for. It really helps me prepare for a small project coming soon. Thank you!





Zak Mulligan


Cinematographer Zak Mulligan started his career in New York after studying art and photography at Arizona State University.

Mulligan’s narrative feature Obselidia premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in the Dramatic Film Competition where he was honored with the Excellence in Cinematography award for his work. Obselidia also took home the Alfred B. Sloan award and was honored with two Independent Spirit Awards nominations. Mulligan’s TV work includes Ava DuVernay’s CBS TV pilot, For Justice and 2nd unit work on the 2nd season of Netflix’s House of Cards.