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Finding that first job


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#1 Yaron Dahan

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 09:43 PM

Hello all,
I have just moved back to NY from Paris, after a long stint of teaching English in Paris, basically because I am impassioned by the art of cinematography. I'm sure as you all know, it is not an easy one, especially since my experience is limited to a couple of short films and many years of still photography. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, as you will) this is the only thing I can see myself doing; it is my passion, my fascination, yet not something easy to 'break into'. Basically I am looking for some advice or some personal stories. How can I go about finding that first job that might lead me down the right path? Are there any associations or organizations that might have information for me?

I have been conducting a 'classical' job search for the past three months with little response (and as many people on the forum have mentioned many of the 'advertised jobs' are non-payed or abusively paid, which for someone of my age, and who is financially independent is not really a viable solution). I am willing to go get coffee and just to watch the process for a minumum of pay, to pursue my dream. Any kind words or advice??
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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 11:32 PM

You have entered a world of pain, my friend. But if you can do nothing else, then what's the alternative?

It's easy to lose sight of your own endeavours as time passes by. I feel I've struggled for so many years that I can't even remember how it all started or how I got my first things shot. But when I actually sit back an look at what I've done and rummage through my old CV's, I sometimes realize that I HAVE made some progress. Not as fast, as good, or as much as I've wanted, but still.

It's important to stop sometimes and re-evaluate or look at it from this perspective. I still feel I've never done anything I'm proud of - my best work is yet to come. This is what keeps me going and keeps my appetite whetted. It's the journey, not necessarily the goal.

There's as many stories on how to break in as there are cinematographers. But one thing they all had in common - they didn't give up. Think it was Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, who said that in film school in Hungary there were many cinematographers who were much more talented than him, the only difference was that they gave up. Persistence and resilience is key.

My best advice is to get in as a trainee technician. Either gaffer or in the camera department and move from there. If you can afford - shoot stuff on your own to build your reel. Get in cahoots with people who are at the same level as you are, but aiming to do bigger stuff and then grow together.

That's why I still do a couple of shorts a year - not because I love standing in the rain eating cold pizza, getting zero pay, having first time producers muck up logistics, or running around the directors brothers cousins apartment with one red head and only white walls, but because maybe someday that film will hopefully get noticed somewhere or that director goes on to bigger stuff. The more people you work with, the bigger the chance they'll come back someday.

Shoot as much as you can in the beginning - you can be discerning and picky later when you've made it.
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#3 Seth Mondragon

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 04:40 AM

Good words, Adam. I'm kind of in a similar situation as Yaron. I love to shoot and I would love to be the cinematographer for some real movies. Right now, however, my video business is keeping me too busy (weddings, blah) to focus on achieving that goal. I was just on the set of a feature this past weekend (first time on a movie set) and I've got to say I learned more in those 12 hours by observing the process than I learned while taking a few film courses. It was awesome. Then the 2nd AC told me "if you can spend a month on a set, that's just as good as going to film school". Maybe I've give that a try. :D
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#4 Yaron Dahan

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 07:50 PM

I may have entered a world of pain, but at the very least I am open to infinite pain. Its so delicious. Well, thanks for the advice. I will take it into heavy and serious consideration. Sometimes, its just hard to work for no money, you know. And not just mentally.

I am doing my best to get work on a set. for the moment, this has not yet worked out. Although I was an extra on some horrible Bollywood flick, and just being on a set that was shot in 35 mm you learn an enormous amount (even if most of what I learned was what NOT to do....)

peace be with you
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#5 hilde

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 05:20 AM

I'm on the same road, Yaron (yet more with an eye on the sound department). I am willing to work for the benifit of learning and am keeping up my search. The big problem for me is to get those contacts. It isn't the difficulty of find out which production are in preparation it is getting the contact details of where to apply to if something seems to be down your road. Most of the time you have to search through half of the internet and if you're very lucky you'll find what you're looking for, yet I've had to give up several options as I just couldn't find the approriate details (unless you want to pay subscription fees for access to the big databases - and as I'm freshly from university I'm not swimming in money).

Does anyone have ideas how to find the important contacts?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 11:56 AM

Does anyone have ideas how to find the important contacts?


You tell me...

90% of my work comes from contacts made on previous jobs, so it's been a slow snowball effect from 15 years of working and creating new contacts, and all the first contacts were from people I met in film school.
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#7 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 10:48 AM

You could always just call up some smaller production companies and see if you can plan a visit or a tour. If you've got enough of a film background already, I guarantee you that you'll be talking shop with them after about 15 minutes of smalltalk. My experience has been that many people in the film and TV industry love to talk about what they do especially to someone who knows their stuff already; I guess it's almost like finding someone who speaks the same language as you in a crowded room? I mean, this might sound like a weird tactic to some people but I have done it a few times and I already have a few new contacts because all I said was, "Hey I liked your website and your reel. I live in the area. I would love to stop by and check out your studio."

Granted this is after 3 weeks of job-hunting, not 3 years, so maybe my perspective is not the best right now. I would basically sum it up by saying what my soccer coach always said to me in 8th grade: "Come on, you can't let the ball come to you! Get out there!" :)
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#8 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 03:06 PM

You need to go to the "Omnipotent store" and buy a very large jar of persistence

Edited by asparaco, 26 December 2005 - 03:43 PM.

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