With a little diligence and resourcefulness, would-be students can access a world-class academic education right on their computers.

However, when it comes to more specialized subjects such as cinematography, sifting through the chaff of amateur tutorials to find the kind of hard-learned, real-world knowledge that true professionals possess can be difficult—especially since many said professionals don’t have the time or resources to spend on education. Enter Shane Hurlbut, ASC, and founder of Shane’s Inner Circle.

Shane’s Inner Circle (shanesinnercircle.com), an online learning resource by Hurlbut and his wife Lydia Hurlbut, gives subscribers unique access to the expertise of a renowned Hollywood cinematographer. Hurlbut already runs the popular cinematography blog Hurlblog (hurlbutvisuals.com/blog), but this new platform offers his fans a new level of interaction and instruction. For $17.95 per month or $185 for a year, the service provides a virtual mentorship that delves into each step of the process of shooting films. Beyond the “how,” Hurlbut makes a point to share the “why” behind the decisions he makes—an expert perspective earned over 20 years of lensing Hollywood features, from Terminator: Salvation to the upcoming Fathers and Daughters starring Russell Crowe and Jane Fonda.


Shane Hurlbut goes through the process of shooting films and why certain perspectives are chosen.

Shane’s Inner Circle provides five different categories for its mix of video, in-depth articles, and podcast content. The first, “Cinematic Solutions,” teaches film theory, and the foundational understanding of gear or techniques to realize a vision. It also details a wealth of information on lighting fundamentals, diving into Hurlbut’s personal “lighting playbook” to offer up innovative, low-budget DIY lighting solutions. The second category, “On Set with Shane,” offers an unprecedented look at Hurlbut in action on actual sets for a variety of projects. In this chapter, he shares everything from his lighting schematics to the unexpected problems (and solutions, of course) he encounters in real jobs. A third category on the site offers an in-depth look at the camera and lens tests that Hurlbut performs on the latest equipment.

The final two content categories—a monthly podcast and private Facebook forum—offer perhaps the best value of the entire experience. In the podcast, Hurlbut answers members’ questions on everything from technique to career advice. Similarly, the Facebook forum allows members to interact with Hurlbut and get their questions answered in a more real-time environment.

Each piece of content—whether article, video clip or podcast—is also sold on an à la carte basis for $4.99, so those on the fence about the monthly or yearly investment can get a taste of the service without entering the Circle entirely. MM

*Special offer: From now until August 31, 2015, MovieMaker readers get two months of free access to Shane’s Inner Circle, as well as the prior two months of content as a free bonus (no cash back). Offer can be redeemed here.