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Breaking Boundaries: Cortlin Barrow's Journey from High School Graduate to Professional DP

Updated: Apr 2

Cortlin Barrow with a camera

In the hustle and bustle of modern-day Los Angeles, where breaking into the film industry seems like an insurmountable task, Cortlin Barrow, a young, Black, filmmaker emerges as a shining example of resilience and determination. Barrow's remarkable journey from a high school graduate to a professional director of photography speaks volumes about the transformative power of hard work and passion in an industry that is not primed for diversity.

Barrow, an alumnus of Diamond Ranch High School in Pasadena, California, embarked on his filmmaking odyssey at the age of 15. Surrounded by others who also shared his interests, he found inspiration and guidance that set the stage for his future endeavors. Initially drawn to special effects and commercials, Barrow's journey took an unexpected turn when he got behind the camera, sparking a newfound love for cinematography.

Cortlin Barrow

After high school, Barrow dove headfirst into the industry as a production assistant on a feature film. Admitting his initial lack of knowledge about the role, he resorted to YouTube research to grasp the intricacies of being a production assistant “ “I didn’t even know what a P.A. was,” he said, “I had to research on YouTube what a P.A. does.”.

Undeterred, his dedication paid off as he swiftly climbed the industry ladder—from a production assistant to a grip, and eventually, to a gaffer. However, Barrow's evolving journey didn't stop there; captivated by cinematography, he felt compelled to explore its limitless possibilities.

Navigating the challenging terrain of the film industry in Los Angeles is no easy feat, as attested by Barrow and his filmmaking peers. Trey Dickerson, a senior student at Azusa Pacific University who worked on set with Barrow in 2019, shared the pervasive feeling of being targeted in an industry rife with corruption, “It just feels like everyone is out to get you,” said Dickerson.  Despite the challenges, Dickerson acknowledged the intrinsic value of filmmaking, especially when films have a positive impact on people's lives.

Cortlin Barrow Cinematography

Barrow, with an unwavering commitment to mentorship and ethical conduct on set, is actively standing up against the industry's corrupt nature. He avoids getting entangled in on-set drama, focusing instead on meaningful connections.

When I asked Barrow what his best piece of advice is, he said, "My philosophy is simple... Stay focused, stay true to your craft, and never compromise quality".

Barrow's impact extends beyond his craft, emphasizing the dynamics of working with an all-female team, he humorously acknowledges the occasional challenge of relating to certain conversations, “Sometimes the conversations… like I’m gonna leave cuz I am not gonna go to the spa and get my nails done,”.

Nevertheless, his commitment to creating a diverse and respectful space within the industry remains unwavering.

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