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Meet Lydia and Shane Hurlbut of Hurlbut Academy in Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lydia and Shane Hurlbut

Lydia, Shane, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hurlbut Academy is an online educational platform and mentoring community dedicated to helping filmmakers become better artists. We know that being a filmmaker isn’t easy. It’s not a career, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not something you are interested in, it’s something you are obsessed with. That passion and that drive exist in everything we do. Through this medium, we want to boost both confidence and competence through immersive video techniques and professional networking. At its core, our company operates as a loving film family sharing creative ideas, resources, and job referrals to improve the lives of our members. I conceptualized the idea for Hurlbut Academy when I was visiting Shane on the set of his feature film “Act of Valor” in Puerto Rico.

Seeing Shane’s unique talents as a Director of Photography, specifically with lighting and ingenuity on set and how charismatic he was when explaining things to his team was the proverbial “lightning bolt moment” for this business. The techniques that Shane uses have been passed on for generations. He has learned them over 30 years on the set of some of the biggest movies, commercials and music videos. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to pass on this knowledge of the craft and to do so at the peak of Shane’s career. As a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Shane was already at the forefront of innovation, as he proved that it was possible to project a still camera onto the big screen for the feature film Act of Valor. 

This experience ignited his passion to mentor and connect with filmmakers around the world. Further realizing the lack of professional mentorships, Shane started a filmmaking blog as an accessible source to those in and around the industry. As the followers of the blog grew, so did their thirst for knowledge. The Hurlbut Academy expanded its educational outreach to include productions and launching its membership platform. Benefits of the Academy include the opportunity to not only connect with Shane Hurlbut, ASC, but thousands of other filmmakers from around the world to share ideas, understand the latest technological advances, work together and rent your personal kit. Our team has spent the past five years creating an engaging online curriculum that spans everything from the basics of filmmaking to essential industry knowledge, working professionally with light, grip, and electric. We also provide courses on directing and cinematography–pre-production planning through post-production workflow, color correction, lifestyle and critical leadership skills for longevity.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This industry is one of the toughest industries in the world not only to get into but to exist and thrive in. Nothing is easy or straightforward. Yet, the rejections, the failures, the mistakes, the obstacles, challenges, problems and their subsequent solutions are why this industry is so popular. There is no set way of doing things. It is an artist’s playground and that’s what filmmaking is all about – learning to do things your way and believing in yourself enough to forge your own path. With the constant changing industry, both in terms of vision and technological innovations, we have to be on the forefront to make sure that we not only learn the techniques but are able to master them and impart that knowledge to our audience.

Onset, Shane is constantly trying out new innovations and techniques to challenge himself and find the best way to convey a story. It’s also about changing the traditional mindset. Traditionally, filmmaking techniques are taught in person, so how could we convey the information in an interesting, immersive style online and get people to subscribe? Well, this was simple – the Film Schools teach in a classroom or a lecture hall. We take members to a place where they will learn more and see filmmaking from a top cinematographer in his element – on set! Members around the world love our active hands-on style that makes you feel as if you are right there.

In conjunction, we do offer in-person intensive workshops for those that want to put their skills to the test or tackle a new role on set. Our greatest obstacle was articulating our value and how vastly different we were in this very overcrowded and noisy marketplace. Nothing worth doing is easy. Shane loves this quote from Theodore Roosevelt and I think it sums up how we view life and our business, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Hurlbut Academy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We help filmmakers to positively transform their lives by giving them the necessary skills to improve and get higher-paying jobs. We teach everything from directing to the art and science of cinematography, advanced lighting techniques, rules for powerful storytelling, and production, while also sprinkling in 30 years of onset wisdom from narrative projects. This added wisdom and ‘nuggets’ of practical information that is generally untaught in traditional film schools applies to filmmakers of all levels — from working industry professionals to entry-level beginners to enhance their professional knowledge. At Hurlbut Academy, we share our years of experience in the film industry by giving back to the community.

We donate our time, knowledge, and resources to assist filmmakers as they pursue their careers. We reflect our personal values of family, community, creativity, collaboration, giving, and mentoring throughout Hurlbut Academy mission. The personal ideology of giving back is central to our every decision. We create content for filmmakers because as filmmakers, we understand them. Everyone at Hurlbut Academy loves film and stays actively involved in the filmmaking process. If we can show 10% of our passion for this industry in our products to inspire others to be part of it then that means the world to us.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
The film industry is going through a seismic shift at present and we are delighted to be part of that shift. First and foremost with encouraging women in entertainment. We have mentored many female cinematographers over the years, giving scholarships and actually inviting mentees to set to work with Shane as a mentor. This is something that we are continuing and dedicating even more resources to in the coming months as we endeavor to champion a world of filmmaking where the industry is inclusive and equal.

Until we came along, filmmaking as a career was limited, with certain positions being unobtainable if you hadn’t attended film school and been taken through the necessary channels to reach the upper echelons of the industry. Because we offer our film education at a fraction of the cost of film schools we are much more inclusive to our industry and can welcome people who have dreamed of working in it but have been unable due to the prohibitive costs of learning. The shift is happening in that regard too. At a recent open day at the ASC clubhouse in Hollywood, over 1/3 of attendees were members of Hurlbut Academy! Clearly, our courses are doing exactly what they were intended to do, to inspire, to educate and to get passionate filmmakers on set and paid what they are worth!

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Image Credit:
Vince Taroc Ben Richardson Brendan Sweeney

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