Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire Lebigot.
Claire, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated high school very young, 16 years old, I was valedictorian and was ready to start my life on my own in college. A year before, I explored all kinds of art schools, Portland for animation and even Chicago, but it was evident in the end that L.A. was the place to be for film making. I wanted to work with my hands. I’m originally from Minnesota, I grew up and lived most of my life in Arizona, my family and I visited California a few times growing up, and I fell in love with the coast, so I was comfortable knowing I’d be in a city I was familiar with and far away yet close enough to get together with my family on special occasions.
I met so many great people and life-long friends while attending Columbia College Hollywood. I thought when I first arrived I’d follow in the Director/writer’s path in film when it was soon after I took my first Cinematography class that this was what I always had running through my thoughts when thinking of different movie scene ideas; the colors, the lights, the composition, the cinematic look.
Right before graduating, at the age of 21, I got my first real-world job at non-other than Panavision, one of the most popular rental houses and iconic logos in the industry. I knew I wanted a consistent startup job before going complete freelance in the industry. Little did I know how much opportunity was going to come out from this job. I met so many industry professionals, learned so many new types of equipment, how to handle them, and got to apply this new found knowledge to gigs I got hired on. I met my mentor, Alex Chinnici, a well-known Cinematographer in the industry. I was following him on Instagram and soon recognized his name when he visited Panavision one day, I missed the opportunity to officially meet in person, so I messaged him and said how I loved his work and if he is at Panavision again one day I’d love to meet. We did and it’s been a great friendship and mentorship ever since. I know I can reach out and rely on his great advice and knowledge to help me through any challenges. How I grew my network of industry professionals was by utilizing Instagram to follow artists that I found interesting and loved their work. Soon this grew to a giant web of people who followed others and knew each other, so I continued to follow in the connections. You have to be brave enough to reach out and put yourself out there to be seen. Since then, I have met many great and kind people who are willing to share their knowledge of what they learned over the years and help the growing next generation of filmmakers.
Today, I am graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinematography in TV and Cinema. I still work on short film outside of working at Panavision and more actively worked at my photography business. I love doing photoshoots and have been focusing more on that the last three years. I’ve done photoshoots for a wide range of people and love every minute of it.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I soon recognized the struggle of being a woman in the industry in film school, it would be a less common encounter on set for a woman to be the DP or 1st AC’s, the guys had their clique and that’s who they stuck with. So, the few women I gotten to know in my cinematography/gaffer group had to stick together and hold each other up on crews for short films. We would work with other guy directors and gaffers of course because we had to gain our recognition. Whenever I got asked to be DP for a project, I would make sure to remember my women, to help them gain experience so we can improve the confidence of others to pick us next time for projects. I think we made an impact and film school is much more forgiving than the real world, but it’s possible, it’s just larger scaled. Being a smaller-sized woman (4′ 11″) it was definitely more of a challenge to prove to others, I’m still capable to do a great job. Even though I love operating my own camera, I do that only when it sensible. I love to incorporate people who practice the art of camera operating/Steadicam operating, so when I’m not capable, I utilized these incredibly talented individuals.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
When I’m not working as a prep tech at Panavision, I mostly get hired for my cinematography work, it’s a slow journey to grow your name in the industry, especially as a young, petite female. When I’m not doing either of those roles, I’ve been growing my photography business. I take all kinds of portraits. Whether that maybe fashion, Instagram-worthy inspired photos, family portraits, models/head-shots, maternity, and 1st year baby photos and just starting to tap into the wild world of Wedding photography/videography. I love photography and growing it as a side business has been a sparked passion of mine for the past three years. I know the struggle of how uncomfortable it can be in front of the camera, so I try to make the experience the most fun and comfortable it can be. We are both figuring out the best we can make this shoot, so it’s a team effort. Every shoot, I learned a new technique, gotten a new piece of equipment, and met so many amazing people.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My family are some of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. My sister is always on board for a photoshoot to experiment new ways to make interesting portraits and even suggests things she’s thought of or saw online. My mom with her large network has helped gain my client list, as well as my roommate, Sherley. Nicole Holmes, who recommended me for this article, has been a loving supporter as well. My good friend and fellow photographer, Melissa Salmeron, has been an inspiration and mentor, we’re always looking for locations for photo adventures and she’s taught me from her photography and editing skills ways I can improve my own. As well as my Cinematography mentor, Alex Chinnici. Most of my accessory equipment has been gifted to me from people I’ve either met briefly or have a long lasted friendship with, I’m lucky to know so many friends and supporters in my photography career.
- Basic Headshots/Family portraits – $150
- Premium Photoshoot – $210
- Engagement – $300
- Maternity / 1st birthday- $200
- Website: ClaireLebigot.com
- Phone: 623-203-4350
- Email: Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/clairelebigot/
Melissa Salmeron (photos of me), Claire Lebigot (photo shoots of clients)