Last weekend kicked off the first annual Cam-Con, a convention and series of workshops dedicated to teaching local film students everything there is to know about cinematography.

The weekend was chock full of sponsored events and workshops by companies such as Fotokem (image control) and Fuji Film (emulsions/metering). UCSB alumni, the American Society of Cinematographers and the Society of Camera Operators also hosted a few events, including seminars on grip vs. electric, aspect ratios and composition and more.

I attended the ASC conference on Saturday. The event’s moderator, George Spiro Dibie ( cinematographer of TV hits like “Sister, Sister” and “Growing Pains”), a ridiculously funny man, kept things moving along, giving prizes and introducing each cinematographer as they talked shop.

Haskell Wexler (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Bound for Glory”), the most well known of the bunch, gave some great advice when he said, “Education shouldn’t be vocational,” even though it kind of defeated the purpose of the weekend’s events.

I felt like that was the most spirited advice of the whole occasion: learning everything you can and making mistakes while in school before being sent off into the industry, where learning is more cruel and less forgiving.

Shelly Johnson (“Jurassic Park III”) and Isidore Mankosfy (“Ewoks: The Battle of Endor”) were the most humble of the bunch, showing the passion it takes to make it in the business.

While it’s exciting that these guys took the time to come up to speak at the convention, I kept wondering how relevant their advice really was to us.

There was a moment when, after a good amount of talk on emulsions, lighting and traditional film techniques, Dibie asked how many people were interested in shooting on film and not digital – only two people raised their hands. Then when Dibie revealed to us that none of these cinematographers operate their own cameras anymore (in the most condescending manner possible), I really felt distanced from the whole affair. As entertaining as these guys and their stories were, they just seemed like grumpy old men out of touch with today’s world.

I know that’s a bit harsh, but when the only advice they consistently gave was “to be passionate and work hard,” the whole conference felt undercooked and a bit of a wasted opportunity.

The rest of the convention went off really well; the smaller, more specialized workshops and exercises benefited from the intimacy required. It was the convention’s first year, and I believe it is something that the film majors at UCSB need (with the department’s emphasis being theory over production), but I think that Cam Con needs to reassess a few aspects before next year to address the ever-evolving film world we live in today.