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advice, please....


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#1 moviejoel

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 11:22 PM

Alright, I've had a few, but that's ok, right?

I've always liked indie film. But, who doesn't?

So, I started hangin' out with the indie group here in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and I heard the same thing over and over again: we'd love to shoot film, but we can't afford the rental, and don't know any 'film' DP's.

OK, fine. Back when I made decent $ in the tech sector, I went and bought a camera package, an NPR, with all the trimmings. Sticks, filters, lots of mags, lenses, changing bags, the works.

I've said the same thing for several years: you buy the film, I'll shoot the movie.

Nothing.

I've heard everything: we're shooting HD. Film is dead. MiniDV is the future (*ahem* BULLSHIT!!).

So, here I am, almost $20k worth of gear in my closet, and 90% of mandy or other adds unanswered, and all the rest: 'we need someone with more experience'.

Wait a second, I was a still photog for a long time before I ever considered cinematography, and (I know I'm going to get flamed for this) but I've always just considered a motion picture camera a still camera with a really really good auto advance.

I've offered to travel, with gear mind you, even at my own expense. I've even bought sound recording gear to sweeten the deal, and still, no bites on me as DP. I've worked as a gaffer and LD, and a long time ago I worked as a live and studio recording/sound engineer, but still, the rejection letters are more than common.

So, to all you pros, what did I do wrong? Mr. Mullen?
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#2 Tim J Durham

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 11:44 PM

Alright, I've had a few, but that's ok, right?

I've always liked indie film. But, who doesn't?

So, I started hangin' out with the indie group here in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and I heard the same thing over and over again: we'd love to shoot film, but we can't afford the rental, and don't know any 'film' DP's.

OK, fine. Back when I made decent $ in the tech sector, I went and bought a camera package, an NPR, with all the trimmings. Sticks, filters, lots of mags, lenses, changing bags, the works.

I've said the same thing for several years: you buy the film, I'll shoot the movie.

Nothing.

I've heard everything: we're shooting HD. Film is dead. MiniDV is the future (*ahem* BULLSHIT!!).

So, here I am, almost $20k worth of gear in my closet, and 90% of mandy or other adds unanswered, and all the rest: 'we need someone with more experience'.

Wait a second, I was a still photog for a long time before I ever considered cinematography, and (I know I'm going to get flamed for this) but I've always just considered a motion picture camera a still camera with a really really good auto advance.

I've offered to travel, with gear mind you, even at my own expense. I've even bought sound recording gear to sweeten the deal, and still, no bites on me as DP. I've worked as a gaffer and LD, and a long time ago I worked as a live and studio recording/sound engineer, but still, the rejection letters are more than common.

So, to all you pros, what did I do wrong? Mr. Mullen?

Write a script and shoot it. Then you have something to show people. Anybody can spend a bunch of money on gear (if they have a bunch of money). But really, why should someone put their script in the hands of someone who's never shot anything?
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 12:00 AM

what did I do wrong?



What you did wrong was to make a huge investment before you knew it was worth it. I hate to put it like this, but that's just stupid.

People don't hire someone to shoot their film because they have equipment. Any willing dolt with more money than sense can fill that role, as you are right now. People hire someone to shoot their film because that person has experience. Producers want to know that their investment (and to them, hiring you IS an investment, nothing more) is in good hands and that you've done it before. You have not done that before, so you aren't being hired.

Another thing, a film camera is not just "a still camera with a really really good auto advance." Shooting a film is quite a bit more than just shooting pictures. Those pictures have to fit many criteria: continuity, creating the subtext of the film, making the film's images fit the script, coverage, et cetera. Perhaps this opinion is one BIG reason why you're not getting work.
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#4 Brian Wells

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 12:08 AM

I've worked as a gaffer and LD

Where did you find your gigs?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 12:57 AM

Well, it could just be that you're in a market that is too small with too many DP's with more experience willing to work on small projects.

But I agree that starting first by investing in a package and THEN building a career is a little backwards, although it shouldn't hurt, it just doesn't necessarily help either, because people mainly hire based on a resume and a reel more than an equipment package.

But the plan of offering to work on anything was a fine one. But from my few months working in Austin a year ago, my impression was that there were a lot of people with 16mm camera packages willing to hire themselves out -- my gaffer had one, my B-cam operator had one, a couple of other crew people had one, etc. So you may just be the victim of being surrounded by too much competition for too few jobs.

You should do whatever you can to get some good material for your reel, even if it means shooting your own stuff for now.
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#6 moviejoel

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 01:56 AM

All,

Thanks for replying.

Mr. Keth: Ya know, I wish I could be upset at your response, but I've had those same thoughts. The purchase was more to make me feel better than it was for career advancement. The guitar collection is the same way. I'm not an Eddie van Halen or a Al Dimeola by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they're neat and I like having them around. The other thing was there was I didn't know of really any rental companies where I live to go try stuff out, so like my sitar, I figured if I really wanted to learn it and use it, I would need to buy it and tinker. Same with my NPR. Do I need it? No. And, back when the IT/telco market was kickin', the camera package was mad money, so, it was a not a purchase to transition to another career, but a toy, just more unique than a boat or a sports car. However, I disagree with the 'shooting film is more than...'. Every frame a Rembrandt. Right? so the concepts of still photography should carry over to cinematography. Just 24 times a second.

And truthfully, some of the equipment thing came out of doing session work for studios, a long time ago. One month it was Trace Elliot, so you went and bought Trace gear, the next month, trace was out, and you had to have Eden gear, Ugh. So, that may have impressed to have the 'right' gear first, and admittedly, I wasn't thinking I was going to get the ASC credentials with just a reciept. As far as not getting work, work? Hell, I was just looking for a shot! Work? I've got that, you use my work every day on the internet. (Telecom engineering is how I pay rent).

Mr. Tim: As a former electrician (that's why I USED to get Gaff gigs, Brian) I could still be pretty popular as a gaffer, but a couple of times I was called a hard case because I refused to violate code or run a circuit that was unsafe. Which leads me to:

Mr. Mullen: Dallas is a small crappy market, and the arts scene of any kind, not just indie film, sucks, period. I know, I have to live here. Everybody wants everything on the super cheap. Right now, it's kinda crappy for everything that I can tell.

I'll admit this as well, buying the package was a little on the vanity side. I'm no pro DP, and I know it. I'm not even sure I want to be, and I'm sure I wasn't expecting to make a living with it, but I didn't think it would be this dry. I mean, I have some of my own stuff, and try to do at least camera tests twice a year. I still love my NPR, I think its cool and I'm very proud of it and take exceptional care of it, and I don't regret its purchase. I've just been a little curious as to why no one has seemed interested, even for free.

Either way, thanks for letting me vent. I enjoy reading and learning from you guys during the day, and appreciate the feedback.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 08:23 AM

However, I disagree with the 'shooting film is more than...'. Every frame a Rembrandt. Right? so the concepts of still photography should carry over to cinematography. Just 24 times a second.



Oh, the principles apply, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that there's quite a lot more to shooting a film than making it look pretty.
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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 08:45 AM

You're also up against the intricacies of the human brain and how it works.

The human brain doesn't want something for free. The human brain is a flock animal - it will seek out and try to hang with the most popular of humans - very Nietzschean and Darwinist. It's like a pop star once remarked - 'when you finally have reached the position where you can afford to buy all your own drinks, that's when they're all for free'. All these moviestars in crisp suits that cost a fortune - they don't pay a dime for that, of course - Armani and Gucci are tripping over themselves to give them years of supply of suits and dresses. Ballhaus got all his Arri 535's for free by doing a couple of endorsements for Arri, and so on. It's a human paradox - success breeds success and only when you have too much work to handle will you get more.

Morality? Get successful, unfortunately. It's the only way to get hired.

:P
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#9 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 09:15 AM

You should better understand what the "Indy" market is about. It is about the hobby-fication of an industry.

It is about every college graduate with a degree who can't find a job in film or video attempting to pimp skilled pros and or wannabe's into working for the " love of the art" so they can make a film for nothing and get it shown at a festival--so they can get a job in the biness -instead of flippin burgers.

It is about the camera maufactuers pimping the young and stupid; that they need only scrap $3000 for a "PHD" camera to be a feature film maker. (PHD =Press Here Dummy)

It is about older film/video folks starting film festivals, award competitions with fancy trophies and web sites so they can pimp the younger film/video people.

Sort of a trickle down effect. pimps pimping pimps pimping pimps

It is not about conducting a business where people are paid properly for their contribution and treated respectfully or at least that is the exception not the rule

Edited by asparaco, 10 December 2005 - 09:25 AM.

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#10 Martin Hawkes

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 09:29 AM

Coming from your music background you should tap into the local band scene and do some cheap music videos. They will at least cover film, dev and tk and you may end up with some cool stuff for a real.

Word.

Martin
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#11 Michael Collier

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 07:50 PM

The problem is that equipment is included in budgeting for most pay films. They know they have to spend a few hundred or a thousand a day for a good camera, so its budgeted. It doesnt matter if they pay you or they pay a rental house for it. So instantly they look past the camera package and go to your reel.

You are an artistic commodity as a DP. Every DP has a different way of working, a different way of looking at things which yeild his or her style. Thats what they are hiring for. If they like what you have done in the past they are 'buying' that look for the film. Its like, I like the dust brothers, I like what they did with fightclub, I want them to score a movie for me. Not, I like the sound of the bass lesClaypool uses. Lets hire him to get that bass. That bass is availible anywere.

A strong demo reel is way more powerful than a good equipment list. (My philosophy is build the portfolio first, then use that money to buy gear you know you will always want to use. then rent that to your next job, since you will probably use it anyway. that way you can make more money without buying every nut and bolt you need)

Also keep in mind that no, no, no its not still photography with frame advance. If you take 40 stills in a day, you may exibit 3. with motion picture if you shoot 10 setups in a day, one may be cut. maybe some cutaways could be cut. Whats worse, bad shooting may make a scene IMPOSSIBLE to cut. even though it looks good on set. Good example I worked with a 'DP' who thought he knew it all (he had done a few months as a sports photographer for a local news organization) in one scene he shot every shot more or less eye level (everyone was sitting down) but on the close up for just one charecter, he did a horrible POV shot from way to high (literally couldnt see his lower lip if he wasnt talking) On set im sure it looked good to him, but not knowing how the shots intercut killed him. DP is not a job to be taken lightly, consider it almost like acting. Your camera has a charecter. Your skill and experience base will help you shape the charecter to be played. Its not an easy job and its not redily obvious which desicions need to be made, or even how to attack those desicions.

Experience will be your guide. The more experience you have the more you will be able to predict the outcome of any given choice. If you know what colors will read like given a certain film stock, a certain filter and a given light temp, your halfway there. if you know you want to save all saturated red colors for the first frame the love interest enters the movie, then your getting closer.

Its an art. people will pay you for the art not the gear. The advantage is you have all the tools to get REAL experience. Buy some film stock, get some friends together and shoot several short (short, like 3-5minute) shorts. Even if the topic is bland you will develope a sense. Short movies in my opinion by nature have to be more visual and are much easier to wrap your head around the experience your audience should have. After you make 20-30 of these shorts (you can pump out 2 a month) then you will be ready to DP for someone, and you will avoid the mistakes many young DPs make, and maybe there wont be anyone out there cursing your name for ruining their film and wasting thousands of dollars.

PS-dont give up. getting a firm base in the basics makes DP a wonderful job. Its an art that takes time to develop and master and once you start to get good at it, work will come. just focus on your art first.
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#12 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 07:43 AM

THERE ARE MILLIONS OF FILM MAKERS.

What is a film maker.

Is it about being a part of a crowd.

Is it about having the latest cam.

What is a film maker.

Is it about the cash.

Is it about being adored.

What is a film maker.

THERE ARE MILLIONS OF CAMS.

What is a cam.

Is it a means to being a part of a crowd.

Is it about having the latest one.

What is a cam.

Is it about the cash.

Is it a means to being adored.

What is a cam.
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#13 David Sweetman

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 11:25 PM

What is a cam.


Freakin' britts.

Hey, if you decide to give up, I'll take that camera off of you. I'll even pay shipping!
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#14 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:45 AM

Not to beat a dead horse, but as others have said, having the gear is icing on the cake. Your reel gets you the job, the gear could help seal the deal.

That said, if you have/ had the money and its just stuff you enjoy owning, then hey you got yourself a "toy" that makes you happy.

But, the biggest advantage is the ability to shoot stuff for your reel. You don't really need insurance, no camera rental, some lighting gear which sometimes can be rented without insurance and your good to shoot, just get some film and get to work.

Either way, good luck, it?s tough out there.


Kevin Zanit
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#15 WLphoto

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 04:29 PM

Joel

I too am in a small market and have struggled to find gigs worthy of my training and gear. I take a lot of small "charity" cases just to keep my hand in the trade. There are lots of churches, local theater groups, starving artists, small businessmen, and struggling bands which could never afford to pay for a professional production. At the risk of being corny and philosophical, "The best way to achieve your dream is by helping someone else achieve theirs."

Don't get discouraged, Joel. Your ship will come in. You have a stable income and your gear is all payed for and in good working condition. A lot of people would love to be in your shoes. You have enormous freedom to create anything you want.

One more thought. Do you get out and meet people? If you are a techie and talk more to your computer than to people, you might have to push yourself to meet more folks. Almost every job I get is through networking. I suck at introducing myself, but it really is the way to find gigs. Tell everybody you know that you are a film maker (not a computer guy.) Read some marketing books for more insight on networking and selling yourself.

I like the suggestions others have made: make your own short film or music video. Film somebody's wedding or your kid's school. Stretch yourself into a director/producer and make a sample you can show future customers. You've invested in the gear. Now invest in your reel.

By the way, back to my story. Does shooting small local bands for next to no money really lead to better things? In my case, after shooting local bands for the last three years, one of them is taking off. They were just signed by an investor and are now planning a two month tour. And I will be shooting some of their concerts....



W.C.
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#16 J. Lamar King

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 03:21 PM

Joel,

Supprised we haven't met yet. Or have we? Have you tried crewing on anything yet? You really should, it's a way to meet people who are inevitably shooting there own projects. DFW is a small market, the only chance you have is to shoot commercials but that work is locked down by a certain group of people so you have to wait for it. It will go much faster for you if you get out and meet people, a reel doesn't go that far with strangers, they usually hire the guy they know.

Indieclub and indie scene should really be called amateurclub and amateur scene.
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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 04:23 PM

I've always believed you have to manufacture your own opportunities in this business.

I would say that 99% of the BIG people in Hollywood got that way because they follow this philosophy. (The other 1% are the nephew of the studio head.)

George Lucas is an excellent example, he created his own ideas and sold them. He didn't wait around for some one to drop a script into his lap, he made it happen and he was an outsider too!

I spent a lot of wasted time trying to get positions on other people's shoots, I realized what a complete waste of time this is. No matter how good you are the competition is always better. Now I shoot and sell direct to the end user, gate keepers be damned!

Screw trying to work with these indie flakes in Austin. Shoot your own project like the guy who made "Pimer" did, or the BYU grads that made "Napoleon Dynamite."

Elect your self DOP on a project and then see who tells you "no" then.

R,
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