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Can someone earn a living as a DP in DC?


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#1 Samuel Berger

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 12:46 AM

I'm sorta curious about a career as DP. I'm going back home to DC in a few months and I really don't have anything on my resume as far as jobs are concerned. Never needed to have one, but now I do. :rolleyes:

I have a couple Eclair NPR packages which are in fine working condition. Was thinking I could probably become a freelance DP up there but I'm not too sure if the area has enough going on to keep a roof over my head. I'd rather not live out of my car. :lol:

I wouldn't want to go to LA or such a place because I might end up being a drop in the ocean.

So anyway, I'm pretty open to suggestions. I'd like to shoot my own movies but I don't have a steady income so that won't be happening any time soon. It's kind of an odd situation, I never had to work before in my life and I'm past 30, to put it nicely. I never been without anything that I needed, but ultimately it has finally got to the point that either I leave the house or I'll end up doing something crazy. I can't stand my parents. My father spends the entire day complaining about every single thing and my mother spends her day trying to control every single aspect of my life, and telling me she wishes she was dead because God doesn't listen to her and we "live in poverty" when we actually have quite a large house with a swimming pool. Yesterday was particularly nasty so I gotta get the hell out of here. There isn't much I know how to do that will earn me income. I mean, I do speak 6 languages and know a lot about computers and filmmaking, but those don't seem to be skills which will suffice to get me started.
Sorry for the rant...I'm coming from a bit of a crazy life, here. I considered suicide but even though most people I know online are atheists, I can't seem to shake the fear of going to hell if I kill myself. :D :D
LOL
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 01:00 AM

Assuming this post isn't a joke (it's hard to believe a 30-year-old who has never worked and still lives off of his parents), I'd say that a career in film right now is not your priority.

Getting a job that pays the rent and buys food is. When you've solved that problem THEN you can start figuring out how to start building a career as a cameraman.
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#3 Samuel Berger

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 03:16 AM

Assuming this post isn't a joke (it's hard to believe a 30-year-old who has never worked and still lives off of his parents), I'd say that a career in film right now is not your priority.

Getting a job that pays the rent and buys food is. When you've solved that problem THEN you can start figuring out how to start building a career as a cameraman.



It's true, I'm just a bit depressed now. I'm not 30, I'll be 34 soon. You just have no idea how my family is.

I don't understand the whole "getting a job that pays the rent" thing, I don't want to work at McDonald's. I don't really like the idea of working but if I'm going to do that....I might as well do something I enjoy. Cinematography is one of those few things.

My parents have always been extremely self-centered, and liked to solve problems by throwing money at them. I've been kept in the basement since I was a child, without any real idea that I could get out. My mother always told me I'd die out there without her to take care of me. My father never did much more than complain about everything I did and tell me I was useless. I guess I am useless, but I don't really feel useless...Maybe I'm just useless to him. My cousin got thrown out of the house at age 18 and told to fend for himself. His situation was different than mine, but he ended up a coke addict till his death. This made my dad a bit afraid of throwing me out...and my mom wouldn't hear of it anyway.

A while back I found out about a girl whose life story was somewhat similar to mine. The difference was that she had been raped by her father since age 8 and was unable to pick up and leave till 36. So I guess I'm lucky in comparison. The only physical abuse I encountered was getting beat up and clawed at every day by my mom, but rape would have been worse.

Anyway...I doubt my parents will die any time soon, even though they are always saying they "have no reason to go on living". My grandparents said that for about 30 years before they finally did die.

But if my parents did die...I suppose it would be liberating for me. Except, I would not know what to do, like pay bills and taxes. I've never filed any taxes in my life. I think learning that is easy though, I know a lot of things and I can learn more.
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#4 Tim J Durham

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 08:19 AM

To answer your first question: Can you make a living as a film DP in Washington, DC? The answer is no. You can be a DP and LIVE here, but you won't be getting enough (if any) work to support yourself IN DC. There is precious little film production going on here and most of what IS done here is either Hollywood (features) or NY (commercials) produced.

There IS a budding homegrown film community but there is no money in it. If you want to work at Starbucks and do films in your spare time, you can do that here and still keep a roof over your head.

I wouldn't mention your home situation in the interviews, though. Save that for your first screenplay.
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#5 Greg Gross

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 08:41 AM

No!
Definitely not! You must live in LA!
Preferably you should live and die in LA!

Greg Gross
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#6 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 09:54 AM

There is a film scence in DC/Baltimore, but it would be very hard to come in as a DP. The DPs who are natives here have been doing it for, in some cases, 30 years, and are the same DPs that were here at the beginning of the film scene here. While different ACs and operators have come up here, the DPs stay the same, and it would be very hard, if not impossible, to enter as a DP here. That's not to say you couldn't do video production/ENG stuff, which would also be difficult, but as for the film work, there are not really any new DPs around here- same ones that have been doing it for a long time, and not much in the way of climbing the ranks to DP around here either (most work their way up to operator, but never make the full DP transition).
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#7 Richard Vialet

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 10:22 AM

I live in Silver Spring like Mr. Durham and go to school in DC...and I can tell you...NO WORK...maybe in Baltimore but not in the District area...you might be able to find some freelance videography work as well as maybe some graphic/web design work. I suggest to get yourself a 3CCD Mini-DV camera and an editing system (but u might not have the money for that yet i don't know)...because you might be able to get some event-shooting jobs (like weddings) and also try to use your computer skills because people are always looking to design webpages and all. But your most marketable skill right now seems to be the whole six languages thing...that's great--People are always looking for translators right?

And with your 16mm package...u might wanna look into museum work...i once met this guy that said he was working on documenting the museums and monuments for the government...but i don't know any specific info on that
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#8 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 10:55 AM

You guys are forgetting that the confidence that this guys has is next to nothing.

A DP is built on confidence, especially if he/she is trying to edge into a community that's already pretty tight.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 11:40 AM

The hard cold reality is that you can't step out onto the streets with no money and no resume and support yourself as a cinematographer immediately, and obviously you do need money for rent and food immediately. Not to make someone depressed more depressed, but being comforted by lies isn't going to be helpful either.

I mean, no one expects to just step out of their door and declare they are a lawyer or doctor, let alone say "I'm going to set up a plumbing business and be successful immediately"? We're talking about a CAREER here and those don't come overnight. Jobs at McDonalds and Starbucks or an office typing -- THOSE happen overnight.

You have to get set-up and independent, being able to take care of yourself immediately -- or you've got to get subsidized by your parents, but the one thing that won't happen is supporting yourself through cinematography work, not for a few years of building a career, maybe not for several years even.

Perhaps you need the shelter of college and a film program for the next three or four years to get focused.

As far as your relationship problems, just as we here are not qualified to hand out legal advice, we're hardly trained to be counselors and psychiatrists either.
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 12:03 PM

"But if my parents did die...I suppose it would be liberating for me. Except, I would not know what to do, like pay bills and taxes. I've never filed any taxes in my life. I think learning that is easy though, I know a lot of things and I can learn more. "

Ok I'm willing to make you a substantial offer for the rights to your life story, this could be a great comedy for the film festival circuit. Besides there are tons of adults living with their parents these days, it's some thing many can relate to.

I call this scenario, "Peter Panism," people that just never want to grow up. It will be hilarious!!

To save money you'll play your self in the lead.

R,

PS: We could just move you back IN with your parents and shoot this cinema verite style on Mini DV. That will be good enough for film fests, especially if you're family will be as fall down hilarious as I think they'll be. I think we should sign David Mullen to DP this project. Hmmmm, maybe giving your dad a gun to waive around......
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#11 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 12:03 PM

Might I propose that you talk about your family situation with a therapist, and not with a cinematography forum on the internet?

Also, just out of curiosity, why do you have several NPR packages if you've never shot anything? Maybe you could sell those if you need some money?
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#12 Samuel Berger

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 03:01 PM

Wow, I actually did talk too much. LOL! I'm on Zoloft and Wellbutrin and if I skip a couple days I end posting like that.

You know, my life story WOULD make an interesting comedy. Normally because it would make such a drama but ultimately it's a comedy because who the hell would believe it? :lol: Unfortunately it's all quite true.

So to get back on topic, forgetting all that personal junk typed in the middle of the night, I see the points made around here and there is no career happening there. That's not good. I really don't know any filmmakers doing anything in the area, only John Waters occasionally and that's no help.
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#13 Tim J Durham

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 05:55 PM

So to get back on topic, forgetting all that personal junk typed in the middle of the night, I see the points made around here and there is no career happening there. That's not good. I really don't know any filmmakers doing anything in the area, only John Waters occasionally and that's no help.

Here's a local bunch trying to make something happen:

http://movies.groups...p/DCFILMMAKERS/

There's the kid who started it named Russell. He just put up a list of all his gear. Had nearly everything EXCEPT MP cameras. Could be where you fit in? Send him an e-mail.
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#14 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 06:38 PM

I work in Baltimore and DC, and I'm telling you, it is possible. Not as fruitful as other places , but if you can drive for the hour it takes to get to Baltimore and work both places, it can be possible to work. I would not recommend it right now for you, Arislan, because you need to worry about your home situation first, and if you focus your attention on getting into the scene here, which will take some time, you will be out of rent money and a house. What I would reccommend you do, though, is give Chesapeake Camera a call: www.chescam.com and see if you can work there. They are the only rental house in the area for 200 miles. So, in your case, I'd give them a call and see if you can work there, or work at tv news and then try to branch out into film (which is difficult, but not impossible to do. Use it just to tide yourself over monetarily.)

But, for anyone else reading this topic, I do want to addres the common misconception that it is impossible to do film work in DC/MD/VA. There is a pretty healthy community here with The Wire shooting for most of the year. We have movies come in often enough- just had a new Barry Levinson movie shoot here. The New World shot in Virginia. Nike shot a very high budget spot by Antoine Fuqua here a little while ago. Hairspray is coming in a few months. There are a decent number of low budget union features that shoot here. Baltimore is starting to become pretty happening, and, like I said, if you can drive from Baltimore to DC or vice versa, it is not impossible to work. I will say that it takes time to get in the community, and it is more tight-knit than others, but it is not impossible. What IS impossible is to come in and immediately try to work as a DP or skip the ranks. But there is AC work, with the possibility of advancement.
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#15 Greg Gross

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 12:58 PM

Of course my friend if you think you have what it takes. Why don't you just try it? I mean
actually "just do it." If you fall down,pick yourself up and quit or carry on. You're never going
to be a DP unless you start doing some kind of filmmaking on a professional basis. Or go the
independent route,make you own films and market them. At 58 years old I'm trying to be kind
to you! But you must understand if this is what you want(really want) then just go do it! Sooner
or later if you keep it up,you will be at the right place at the right time,at least once! Look at it
this way,even if you don't make it big time,you'll get a lot of satisfaction doing what you like to
do;I presume? Here's a tip from a long time stills photographer and ex-army ranger-"Look For
What You Don't See." Don't be afraid to open up an f-stop,throw the f---king lightmeter away!
My friend when you start doing this you will really start living.

Greg Gross
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FJS International, LLC

Glidecam

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