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Owning Super 16 Camera for a beginning DP


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#1 Tim Carroll

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 10:06 AM

For someone at the beginning of his career as a DP, how important is it to have a Super 16 camera?

In the last three years I have written, directed and DP'd three short films, the most recent made it into film festivals. I told the three stories that I really wanted to tell and now I am interested in focusing my energies on cinematography.

I acquired an Arriflex 16SR and Zeiss 10-100 T2 a few years ago when I was making the shorts. It is regular 16mm.

I have the opportunity to have the camera and the lens converted to Super 16 at a cost of about $10,000. I am wondering if this is money well spent?

Besides my own films, I have DP'd on two other short films, the most recent being last month. Neither film was shot with my camera.

Would the money be better spent on more light kit, (I have a small kit right now).

Just wondering if having a Super 16 camera in a small market like it is here in Portland, Oregon, is going to be a way to get a foot in the door? And after a few years of experience and when I move up to a bigger market, is having a Super 16 camera going to make any difference?

Thanks and Happy Holidays,
Tim Carroll
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 10:16 AM

For someone at the beginning of his career as a DP, how important is it to have a Super 16 camera?

In the last three years I have written, directed and DP'd three short films, the most recent made it into film festivals. I told the three stories that I really wanted to tell and now I am interested in focusing my energies on cinematography.

I acquired an Arriflex 16SR and Zeiss 10-100 T2 a few years ago when I was making the shorts. It is regular 16mm.

I have the opportunity to have the camera and the lens converted to Super 16 at a cost of about $10,000. I am wondering if this is money well spent?

Besides my own films, I have DP'd on two other short films, the most recent being last month. Neither film was shot with my camera.

Would the money be better spent on more light kit, (I have a small kit right now).

Just wondering if having a Super 16 camera in a small market like it is here in Portland, Oregon, is going to be a way to get a foot in the door? And after a few years of experience and when I move up to a bigger market, is having a Super 16 camera going to make any difference?

Thanks and Happy Holidays,
Tim Carroll



Hi,

As the owner of 3 camera rigs, I would say don't spend your money unless you have a shoot where your camera rental will be at least $4000. Then its POSSIBLY worth it.
You wont get any paying gigs as a result of owning the camera, you may get asked for some free bees through. The experience may be worth something but not $10,000!

Stephen
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#3 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 10:35 AM

i completely agree with stephen. i mean since youre starting off its better to spend less money unless you feel confident enough that you will be payed enough on future productions to recover the money you spent on the camera. there are lots of cheaper options than that. you may want to check other prices and better deals

good luck

freddy
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#4 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 03:17 PM

I have posted about this in the past, and I have to reiterate my mantra advice: DO NOT OWN A CAMERA UNLESS YOU WISH TO BE IN THE BUSINESS OF OWNING A CAMERA. You will be competing with others (even in your "small market" both private owners and rental facilities, and you will be forced to make creative and professional decisions based on the equipment you own as opposed to the specifiics of the job. You will find yourself pushing Super-16 where HD may be more appropriate, or even worse pushing Super-16 when the job really should be 35mm because you'll make more money from the rental. You will field call after call from people wanting to hire your camera and you'll "come along with it," which means that the value is seen in the gear, not you. You will be stuck with maintenance costs and concerns, and will always want to buy that next little item (videotap, primes, filters) that ups and ups your costs while not significantly raising your rental rates.

More than a decade ago I bought my Aaton camera package, or at least the bare bones of it. It was roughly similar to what you have -- body with 2 mags, zoom, batteries, charger, mattebox, a couple of filters, speed control and tripods. Over the following three years I probably tripled my investment, buying additional mags, a better zoom, primes, videotap, a better mattebox, a jib, dozens of filters, wireless video, followfocus, monitors, magliner, long eyepiece, and on & on. With every job I would invest half the money right back into the package, and I slowly raised the rental rate on the package until I hit a point that no one in the indie film world would pay above.

And a funny thing happened. Almost all the clients I got from owning the gear were the no budget student type. They were always looking for a deal, and it was always a pain working those types of shoots. It was great when I was just starting out and the camera somehow legitimized me to these types of filmmakers. But soon I wanted to graduate into more professional work and the camera didn't really help there.

So I started promoting just myself and not mentioning that I owned the camera. And my class of client changed. People hired me for ME, based on my reputation or my reel or my sweet talkin', but they wanted me not my gear. A good number of them wanted to shoot 16 so I would then make them a deal to shoot on my package, but that wasn't the starting point any longer.

I considered selling the package a few times. But I don't think I could get enough for it relative to how much I still make off of it per year, even though it really doesn't get that much use. And beyond all the sentimental and career stuff mentioned above, here's the brass tacks of the business you should consider. My formula for equipment investment is a two-year cycle. That means that if something costs me $10K to buy it needs to directly earn me $5K per year in order to be a worthwhile investment. After that point I apply the same formula to resale. If I could sell that item used for $5K, it needs to earn $2.5K per year or I should unload it.

This formula has served me well and it is the only way to do business. You might wish to adjust the schedule for your purposes, but you really need to consider equipment in this way before you make the financial leap.

Another issue is sentimentality for equipment. We all are a bunch of gear heads here and have a certain affinity for these lovely bits of optics and clockwork mechanisms. But I long ago decided that if someone were to hand me a camera package identical to mine then I would willingly toss my Aaton in the Hudson river. If one gets overly sentimental about gear then one becomes reticent to use it as it is intended--which is as a tool to serve your purposes. My camera has hung out the side of helicopters, swung on cranes over building ledges, run handheld through mosh pits and been generally well-used. I take her home and clean her up and send her in for regular checkups, but she earns her keep.

Owning a camera because you think it's neat or you like the mechanism only really makes sense to me if you plan to stick it in a display cabinet in your living room.

So would I buy a Super-16 camera package today? I bought mine when MiniDV, HDCam, DVCPro, HDV, etc. did not exist and I lived in one of the busiest Super-16 markets in the world, New York City. I doubt I would get the same return on value today in Portland.

And you may live in a "small market," but it's big enough to have facilities live Oppenheimer Camera around and a few places up in Seattle. Why compete with them? They've already amortized their initial investment costs and now have to make much less to justify a rental rate. Know how I got one of my first 35mm features? The indie producer was looking for someone with his own 35 package, so I called up a rental house and asked if I could make an arrangement with them. In one phone call I could present myself as someone who could provide a 35mm camera package and it cost me nothing, plus endered me to both the client and the rental house. These relationships are everywhere in what is our very small industry.

Lastly, I don't know if I would invest $10K in upgrading an SR1 and Zeiss 10-1 after you already dropped nearly that much buying them in the first place. I would rather sell what you have and instead buy an Aaton LTR package that was already in Super-16. I think Axel does excellent work, but in the end I think you'd get a better value for your money going this way. But I'm an Aaton man and there are others who swear by the SR, so who am I to say.
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#5 N DeWood

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 08:42 PM

Hello Mitch,

I agree with you from the financial point of view. However, I was wondering if owning the camera enabled you to gain experience much more rapidly than not owning one. For example, would owning a camera enable you to take short or smaller projects quicker and more efficiently, without having to wonder with the camera package is available at the local rental shop?

And what about availability? What if you are called upon to do a job within a day or two, and the camera shop doesn't have the camera package because it's either in the shop or out? How do you handle those issues as a professional DP?

Thanks.

Nick

[quote name='Mitch Gross' date='Dec 22 2005, 03:17 PM' post='80777']
I have posted about this in the past, and I have to reiterate my mantra advice: DO NOT OWN A CAMERA UNLESS YOU WISH TO BE IN THE BUSINESS OF OWNING A CAMERA. You will be competing with others (even in your "small market" both private owners and rental facilities, and you will be forced to make creative and professional decisions based on the equipment you own as opposed to the specifiics of the job. You will find yourself pushing Super-16 where HD may be more appropriate, or even worse pushing Super-16 when the job really should be 35mm because you'll make more money from the rental. You will field call after call from people wanting to hire your camera and you'll "come along with it," which means that the value is seen in the gear, not you. You will be stuck with maintenance costs and concerns, and will always want to buy that next little item (videotap, primes, filters) that ups and ups your costs while not significantly raising your rental rates.

More than a decade ago I bought my Aaton camera package, or at least the bare bones of it. It was roughly similar to what you have -- body with 2 mags, zoom, batteries, charger, mattebox, a couple of filters, speed control and tripods. Over the following three years I probably tripled my investment, buying additional mags, a better zoom, primes, videotap, a better mattebox, a jib, dozens of filters, wireless video, followfocus, monitors, magliner, long eyepiece, and on & on. With every job I would invest half the money right back into the package, and I slowly raised the rental rate on the package until I hit a point that no one in the indie film world would pay above.

And a funny thing happened. Almost all the clients I got from owning the gear were the no budget student type. They were always looking for a deal, and it was always a pain working those types of shoots. It was great when I was just starting out and the camera somehow legitimized me to these types of filmmakers. But soon I wanted to graduate into more professional work and the camera didn't really help there.

So I started promoting just myself and not mentioning that I owned the camera. And my class of client changed. People hired me for ME, based on my reputation or my reel or my sweet talkin', but they wanted me not my gear. A good number of them wanted to shoot 16 so I would then make them a deal to shoot on my package, but that wasn't the starting point any longer.

I considered selling the package a few times. But I don't think I could get enough for it relative to how much I still make off of it per year, even though it really doesn't get that much use. And beyond all the sentimental and career stuff mentioned above, here's the brass tacks of the business you should consider. My formula for equipment investment is a two-year cycle. That means that if something costs me $10K to buy it needs to directly earn me $5K per year in order to be a worthwhile investment. After that point I apply the same formula to resale. If I could sell that item used for $5K, it needs to earn $2.5K per year or I should unload it.
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#6 Brian Wells

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 10:01 PM

I find this thread very interesting. The DP who mentored me told me the only way to earn a living in this business was to own gear. He's loaded (35-3, SRII, SRIII, A-Minima, Freightliner, 5 Ton, HMI's, Fisher10 Lease, Diesel Excursion, etc. etc.) so I took his advice. There's something to be said about being prepared to shoot immediately -- particularly in the area of advertising.

How many photographers do you know that rent Hassleblad's every time they shoot?
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#7 Mitch Gross

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 10:18 PM

I agree with you from the financial point of view. However, I was wondering if owning the camera enabled you to gain experience much more rapidly than not owning one. For example, would owning a camera enable you to take short or smaller projects quicker and more efficiently, without having to wonder with the camera package is available at the local rental shop?

It could make a very minor difference, but frankly it would be cheaper to rent for those experiences and cameras are always available. And most of these "little projects to gain experience" are student shoots that have access to their own gear (how I got started) or should deal with paying their own way.


And what about availability? What if you are called upon to do a job within a day or two, and the camera shop doesn't have the camera package because it's either in the shop or out? How do you handle those issues as a professional DP?

It has rarely been an issue, although I did do a job for Beyonce once on absolute last minute notice because I had the camera. But it is certainly not enough to warrant owning the gear and hey, I live in NYC where camera rentals are very easy to come by. It would be cheaper for me to float my own insurance annually so that I could occassionally rent if that's all it meant.

I still say that the gear has to work enough to become a viable money-making enterprise otherwise you're fooling yourself and you should rent when necessary.
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#8 Mitch Gross

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 10:32 PM

How many photographers do you know that rent Hassleblad's every time they shoot?


How many Hasselblad packages cost upwards of $100,000.00?


A more interesting corrollary is soundpeople. In the industry they generally do own their own packages almost exclusively. That can be expected in a somewhat specialized field such as Steadicam, but a soundperson with package comes on pretty much every shoot. A good sound package can top $40k with all the bells & whistles.

Of course there are plenty of sound guys who don't own gear. Many owners such as myself have some sound gear along with their video packages, and any production renting short term camera packages (think spot shooting or talking head interviews) fully expect to have to rent some wireless mikes and other sound gear as part of their video rental. Let's face it, that's the vast majority of production out there.

Edited by Mitch Gross, 30 December 2005 - 10:39 PM.

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#9 Robert Edge

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 11:32 PM

I think that a young person starting out as a photographer making motion pictures should probably be thinking digital rather than film.

That said, I am not a young photographer, and I don't make my primary living from photography, so I do what I want. This means that I own an SLR 35mm Nikon, an SLR digital Nikon, a 6x7 Mamiya rangefinder, a 4x5 Arca-Swiss and an Aaton super 16 A-Minima.

There are two reasons why I own this stuff instead of rent it. The first is that I like to be able to use a camera, whether in my local area or when travelling, whenever I feel like it. The second, which is quite specific to the Aaton and other motion picture cameras, is that the rental houses work within a system that is archaic.

I have rented specialized still cameras and lenses on occasion from a number of highly reputable still camera shops. They all want security for the rental before they get to know you, which is easy enough if you have a Visa Card, but not one of them has had the nerve to tell me that I have to maintain rental insurance, at the cost of about $1500 per year minimum, if I want to rent a lens for a couple of days.

It is quite different if you want to rent a motion picture lens. The concept of self-insurance, such as replacement value against a credit card, is apparently beyond them. Let me give a specific example. There is a company in London called ICE Films. Last week, while I was in England, I learned that this company will not take credit cards, for anything, including purchase of film. One can buy from them only with a cheque drawn on a British bank or with cash in sterling. If you are from North America, this means that you can't rent a lens that costs $75 a day unless you spend $1500 on rental insurance, nor can you buy an Aaton time code device, for Which ICE is the sole Aaton agent in the UK, unless you have a UK bank account or are prepared to pay in cash. I ended up in a situation where I would love to have bought something from ICE, principally because a fellow named Andrew House did a great job of explaining the product, but didn't because buying from them was going to be a hassle.

During the whole of my Christmas holidays in the UK, the only other places that I saw function like this were the local pubs where I was staying on the Isle of Wight.

Yes, if you can afford it, there is a good reason to own your own gear, which is that you can do what you want when you want, and move your stuff to whatever country you want, without dealing with a bunch of bureaucrats in some rental company and getting bled by some insurance company.
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#10 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 12:35 AM

Mitch makes a coherent and logical arguement for not owning a couple of points in the flipside:

Having the camera allows you to keep up by shooting self assigned projects. With Kodaks complete update with Vision 2 film stocks having a camera allows you to shoot and stay on top of the changes in film and also transfer technology- I dare say a lot of folks who present themselves as shooting "35mm, Super16mm, HD and DV" may hardly have enough practical recent experience shooting film to make the claim.
"If you don't use it you loose it" You have to keep up and having a camera available allows you to do that when convenient in terms of time and money.

Also once you have spent the money a S16 package does not loose value-the cost of equipment has started to appreciate again -as it has become scarce-try buying a Super Speed set for anything but $$ large

In comparison to a Video package which is worth less then half its intial cost in 18 months

Having your own camera package:

1)Allows you to set up the cases in the manner that is convenient to the way you shoot- you know where everything is and you know exactly what you have and learn to work worth it. A shooter rarely gets everything they would like to have in a rental.

2) Allows you to make pickups after principal Photography is done with the same lens package. This is a selling point to a producer

3) Saves you the cost of pick-up and returns also means a few extra hours of sleep here and there. "Gosh it's getting late better go out in the garage and prep the camera package" or to the AC "come on over and prep the camera package"

4) Allows you to give away apparently valuable "gimmes" which no longer cost you out of pocket. "OK I'll throw the 30 4X5.6 filters in at no charge"

5) In smaller markets its hard to find a decent S16 pacakage- if you decline to rent you can take away jobs from folks without equipment- a very common experience. I charge a full day rate and if necessary discount the rental. If you have a strong reel producers will make the logical choice

You have to face facts there are lots of "cinematographers" any edge gives you an advantage over all the other folks you are competing against.

How much competition is out there?

To find out, in September I posted a bogus ad on Mandy.com. 5 week feature/S-16 half interior/ half exterior/
half dialogue/half action. Asked for resume, demo link, equipment list and rates- the location was in LA

Placed the ad on a Sunday night. On Monday at 4am the responses stated coming in from the europe, east coast around 6am by 12 noon the west coast. Day one got 45 responses Day two at 5pm I cut the add and ended with 95 responses.

Five where from crew folks
50 where unqualified folks from as far as the phillipines and charmingly naive.
20 Where from folks who had some film experience, some video not strong contenders

But 20 where from very qualified experienced folks with extensive feature film credits, references and very nice camera packages. Two were ASC members


Was I wrong. I don't think so, a key principal in sales and marketing to check out the marketplace and as a producer/director with commercial production in LA soon I would certainly consider these folks as a hire and have bookmarked them all.

Unless you have a personal connection or a reference by word of mouth;the average producer or "entertainment company" will total up the plus and minuses, if you have a strong reel, resume and ....a camera package it can give you a little extra that makes the difference.

Edited by asparaco, 31 December 2005 - 12:49 AM.

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#11 Robert Edge

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 01:46 AM

asparaco wrote in part:

"To find out, in September I placed a bogus ad..."

Then, if I understand it, you played omnipotent observer while 140 people, including "charmingly naïve" Phillipinos and two ASC members, were stupid enough to spend their time writing honest answers to your fraudulent question.
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#12 N DeWood

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 01:53 AM

[quote name='R. Edge' date='Dec 30 2005, 11:32 PM' post='81876']
I think that a young person starting out as a photographer making motion pictures should probably be thinking digital rather than film.

That said, I am not a young photographer, and I don't make my primary living from photography, so I do what I want. This means that I own an SLR 35mm Nikon, an SLR digital Nikon, a 6x7 Mamiya rangefinder, a 4x5 Arca-Swiss and an Aaton super 16 A-Minima.

There are two reasons why I own this stuff instead of rent it. The first is that I like to be able to use a camera, whether in my local area or when travelling, whenever I feel like it. The second, which is quite specific to the Aaton and other motion picture cameras, is that the rental houses work within a system that is archaic.

I have rented specialized still cameras and lenses on occasion from a number of highly reputable still camera shops. They all want security for the rental before they get to know you, which is easy enough if you have a Visa Card, but not one of them has had the nerve to tell me that I have to maintain rental insurance, at the cost of about $1500 per year minimum, if I want to rent a lens for a couple of days.

It is quite different if you want to rent a motion picture lens. The concept of self-insurance, such as replacement value against a credit card, is apparently beyond them. Let me give a specific example. There is a company in London called ICE Films. Last week, while I was in England, I learned that this company will not take credit cards, for anything, including purchase of film. One can buy from them only with a cheque drawn on a British bank or with cash in sterling. If you are from North America, this means that you can't rent a lens that costs $75 a day unless you spend $1500 on rental insurance, nor can you buy an Aaton time code device, for Which ICE is the sole Aaton agent in the UK, unless you have a UK bank account or are prepared to pay in cash. I ended up in a situation where I would love to have bought something from ICE, principally because a fellow named Andrew House did a great job of explaining the product, but didn't because buying from them was going to be a hassle.

During the whole of my Christmas holidays in the UK, the only other places that I saw function like this were the local pubs where I was staying on the Isle of Wight.

Yes, if you can afford it, there is a good reason to own your own gear, which is that you can do what you want when you want, and move your stuff to whatever country you want, [quote]without dealing with a bunch of bureaucrats in some rental company and getting bled by some insurance company.

I have to disagree with you on the Insurance part. INSURANCE is a must! Remeber that the $1,500 annual insurance you're concerned about not only insures the camera(s) you rent which can have a replacement cost of easily over $50K-$75K for a decent S16 Aaton or Arri package, but you can use it to rent just about any other type of equipment, from HMIs to Vans, to support equipment like dollies, etc. Also, most insurance packages give you LIABILITY coverage of more than $2M for locations, and WORKMAN'S COMP insurance for the temp hires you may need. Just wait until someone trips over your gear, wires, or boxes. That annual $1,500 payment becomes peanuts. I pay nearly $1,300 a year for my insurance, and it insures just about everything I have, and I assure you I would not step into a location without this insurance being in full force.

Nick
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#13 Robert Edge

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:20 AM

Nick,

Please do me a favour and not misrepresent what I am saying. I am not talking about a production that requires third party liability insurance or that needs worker's compensation coverage because there are employees on a set.

I am speaking as an owner of a super 16 camera that weighs 5 pounds that is used by a crew of 2, most recently on a location on an island in the English Channel where there wasn't a person, apart from the subject, in sight.

The fact of the matter is that I can go to Fotocare in New York, which is as good an outfit as one is going to find, and rent a very expensive lens or other gear against a credit card. There isn't a word about rental insurance.

However, if I want to rent a Zeiss high speed MK II lens, which goes for about $75 a day in New York, I am told that I need to spend $1500 on rental insurance. This is daft. To understand just how daft, it is possible to buy one of these lenses, in very good shape, for under $3000.

Let me take this one step further. You go to the UK and get told by a rental company, after you persist, that they will take a deposit on the rental of a MKII 25mm lens, but a certified cheque in US funds isn't good enough. It has to be a cheque drawn on a British bank in Sterling. Why can't it be done by credit card? Because they don't accept credit cards. How big a cheque do they want? Try £5500, or about US$10,000. What do they want, as advertised on their website, for a used MKII 25mm lens? They want £1600.

Then you tell these people that you want to buy an Aaton time code generator. After all, they are the only company that you can buy this product from in the whole of the UK. Guess what. Because they don't take credit cards, you have to either write a cheque on a UK bank, North American banks not being good enough, or you pay in cash, in which case you get to pay a bunch of VAT in cash as well and figure out how you are going to recover it, as you are entitled to do, when you leave the country a week later.

Alternatively, you can just own your own gear and not deal with all this nonsense. As an added bonus, you get to spend your time on your project, at your own pace, instead of spending the better part of a day travelling to and from London, where you don't even want to be, in an effort to give money to a company that does business as if we are living in the 19th century. As it happens, I had access to another lens, not what I planned to use, but sometimes necessity is as good a way as any to establish how a subject is shot.

What I find amazing is that a lot of people seem to think that the way these companies do business is acceptable. Indeed, about a week ago there was a thread in which a student making a short film was educated about how this works as if getting getting buried in paper and complications, while making a simple student film, is a badge of honour.

Well, I'll tell you what I think. If I have the cash to self-insure the renting of a lens, and can give the rental company full security via credit card or certified cheque or whatever, it is my decision whether to self-insure or buy insurance, not theirs, and if cinema rental companies, unlike still camera rental companies, can't get their head around this, there is something the matter with the industry culture. Also, as an owner of an Aaton camera, I think that it is outrageous that Aaton lets its dealers refuse to accept credit cards. Unfortunately, that just seems to be symptomatic of how the business works, as is the fact that nobody complains.
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#14 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 08:47 AM

asparaco wrote in part:

"To find out, in September I placed a bogus ad..."

Then, if I understand it, you played omnipotent observer while 140 people, including "charmingly naïve" Phillipinos and two ASC members, were stupid enough to spend their time writing honest answers to your fraudulent question.



Actually the "omnipotent" producer director with three spots to shoot in five days in LA this Feb.

Facts are every successful company "mystery shops" their competition

I don't think the cost of an email is much to ask

IF you don't understand the market you work in how can you effectively invest money in your "biness" cause that's what it is. Biness first art/craft/science second

IF you dont have a camera package don't start

If you have a 16mm package either sell it or upgrade it as R16 is dead

If you don't have an Aaton or Arri-SR camera then sell what you have

If you do have an S16 package find ways to put it to work

That is my view point as a producer doing local hires around the US/Canada/Europe

We all live under the 95/5 rule. 5% of the people working as cinematographers make 95% of the money

Same goes for Actors

How do you become one of the 5% and can owning the tools of your trade give you an edge?

I would say yes it does depending on where you are on the "career curve"

Edited by asparaco, 31 December 2005 - 09:33 AM.

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#15 N DeWood

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 10:41 AM

I see your point R.,

I was trying to make the point that at $1,500 a year, the rental insurance is usually included with all of the other insurance coverages that any DP or small production may need. My point was not that you did not understand the importance of insurance (so I hope I wasn't misrepresenting your statement), but simply that since rental insurance is included in one' overall insurance coverage, rental coverage would not be an issue to begin with.

Nick


Nick,

Please do me a favour and not misrepresent what I am saying. I am not talking about a production that requires third party liability insurance or that needs worker's compensation coverage because there are employees on a set.

I am speaking as an owner of a super 16 camera that weighs 5 pounds that is used by a crew of 2, most recently on a location on an island in the English Channel where there wasn't a person, apart from the subject, in sight.

The fact of the matter is that I can go to Fotocare in New York, which is as good an outfit as one is going to find, and rent a very expensive lens or other gear against a credit card. There isn't a word about rental insurance.

However, if I want to rent a Zeiss high speed MK II lens, which goes for about $75 a day in New York, I am told that I need to spend $1500 on rental insurance. This is daft. To understand just how daft, it is possible to buy one of these lenses, in very good shape, for under $3000.

Let me take this one step further. You go to the UK and get told by a rental company, after you persist, that they will take a deposit on the rental of a MKII 25mm lens, but a certified cheque in US funds isn't good enough. It has to be a cheque drawn on a British bank in Sterling. Why can't it be done by credit card? Because they don't accept credit cards. How big a cheque do they want? Try £5500, or about US$10,000. What do they want, as advertised on their website, for a used MKII 25mm lens? They want £1600.

Then you tell these people that you want to buy an Aaton time code generator. After all, they are the only company that you can buy this product from in the whole of the UK. Guess what. Because they don't take credit cards, you have to either write a cheque on a UK bank, North American banks not being good enough, or you pay in cash, in which case you get to pay a bunch of VAT in cash as well and figure out how you are going to recover it, as you are entitled to do, when you leave the country a week later.

Alternatively, you can just own your own gear and not deal with all this nonsense. As an added bonus, you get to spend your time on your project, at your own pace, instead of spending the better part of a day travelling to and from London, where you don't even want to be, in an effort to give money to a company that does business as if we are living in the 19th century. As it happens, I had access to another lens, not what I planned to use, but sometimes necessity is as good a way as any to establish how a subject is shot.

What I find amazing is that a lot of people seem to think that the way these companies do business is acceptable. Indeed, about a week ago there was a thread in which a student making a short film was educated about how this works as if getting getting buried in paper and complications, while making a simple student film, is a badge of honour.

Well, I'll tell you what I think. If I have the cash to self-insure the renting of a lens, and can give the rental company full security via credit card or certified cheque or whatever, it is my decision whether to self-insure or buy insurance, not theirs, and if cinema rental companies, unlike still camera rental companies, can't get their head around this, there is something the matter with the industry culture. Also, as an owner of an Aaton camera, I think that it is outrageous that Aaton lets its dealers refuse to accept credit cards. Unfortunately, that just seems to be symptomatic of how the business works, as is the fact that nobody complains.


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#16 Robert Edge

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 09:54 PM

Nick,

We're just coming from different perspectives on this.

Two days ago, I made an offer of £250,000 on a house on the Isle of Wight. It was considerably easier to make this offer than it was to rent a lens worth about £1600 or, for that matter, to buy an Aaton product worth about £570, both of which turned out to be transactions that were more trouble than they were worth.

It's unfortunate, because the Aaton rep at ICE who briefed me on the product did a good job. The sale didn't take place for the sole reason that ICE simply won't take a credit card, and for reasons that I have a little trouble understanding, Aaton thinks that its clients are supposed to put up with this.

I gather that you come at the issues of ownership/rental and insurance as a guy who is in the film business as a business. I respect that, but the premise doesn't apply to me.

From my perspective, what's becoming clear is that dealing with rental companies is a nuisance, to be avoided if one can afford it. At some point in the next 12 months I think that I'll be shooting some footage in the Middle East in a country that is unstable. I don't even want to be bothered trying to get a rental company and insurance company onside with this. It's frankly just easier to buy what I need and be done with it.

All of that said, if I were running a production company, and made my living producing commercial films, I would wholeheartedly agree with much of what you and Mitch Gross have written.

Have a happy 2006.
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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 10:07 PM

Hi,

> I made an offer of £250,000 on a house on the Isle of Wight

Crikey, that was a bit silly, wasn't it?

Phil
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#18 Robert Edge

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 11:00 PM

Crikey, that was a bit silly, wasn't it?

Phil


Definitely.

My partner and I have spent time in Cowes about every 18 months for the last ten years. Every time I get on the Red Jet, it's like a weight off my shoulderss.

The first time, we had a boat that we were sailing around the Channel in December, which has a lot to do with why we declined this year to participate in the annual Boxing Day race :)

We finally made a decision to buy a place while in a pub in Ventnor on Boxing Day, the motto of which is "Well-behaved dogs and muddy boots welcome". This probably sounds ordinary to you, but in North America the sentiment is radical.

Besides, the winter light on the Island is truly amaazing.

If the deal goes through, all you DFLs (aka Down From Londoners) will have to come by for a house-warming party.

PS: As you may know, Southbank did a programme last week on Little Britain. I saw the Southbank production, but I haven't seen Lucas/Williams on their own. Curious to know what you and other Brits who participate in the site think of it.

PPS: My apologies to Tim for the fact that his thread is going all over the map, largely my fault.
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#19 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 07:42 AM

Hi,

> Every time I get on the Red Jet, it's like a weight off my shoulderss.

Don't worry, it'll pass.

> "Well-behaved dogs and muddy boots welcome".

You do realise it'll be full of insufferable farmer-joe types most of the year, right?

> Besides, the winter light on the Island is truly amaazing.

Are you taking medication for that or what?

Phil
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#20 Stephen Williams

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 12:10 PM

Two days ago, I made an offer of £250,000 on a house on the Isle of Wight. It was considerably easier to make this offer than it was to rent a lens worth about £1600



Hi,

Yes its very easy to make offer, subject to contract. It will be far easier and quicker to rent the lens than to complete the house purchase!

Good luck

Stephen
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