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#1 Andrew Alward

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 07:40 PM

I'm a film student. A film equipment supervisor at my school says that, no matter what, If I were to go out to LA to do camera work, that I would be a camera loader for atleast 2 years before I got anything better, regardless of my film school experience. Not that that is bad, but I was wondering if he's accurate? Becuase, he himself has never been out to LA, and has not been in film all that long.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 08:45 PM

I'm a film student. A film equipment supervisor at my school says that, no matter what, If I were to go out to LA to do camera work, that I would be a camera loader for atleast 2 years before I got anything better, regardless of my film school experience. Not that that is bad, but I was wondering if he's accurate? Becuase, he himself has never been out to LA, and has not been in film all that long.


Well, I've only been a DP since film school, but I wasn't working too often nor was I paid well for the first few years (or was it several years?) But you have to do something to pay the bills. For two years, I did part-time data entry at a sound efx company. After that, I did some video EPK work on the side. But I was always shooting low-budget features.

If you think of film loading as a career step, what it leads to is 2nd AC work, and then 1st AC work, etc. But it certainly is one path to eventual DP'ing that pays the bills. Or you can think of it as something that just pays the bills while you offer to work as a DP on non-paying and low-paying projects.
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#3 Andrew Alward

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 09:14 PM

Well, I've only been a DP since film school, but I wasn't working too often nor was I paid well for the first few years (or was it several years?) But you have to do something to pay the bills. For two years, I did part-time data entry at a sound efx company. After that, I did some video EPK work on the side. But I was always shooting low-budget features.

If you think of film loading as a career step, what it leads to is 2nd AC work, and then 1st AC work, etc. But it certainly is one path to eventual DP'ing that pays the bills. Or you can think of it as something that just pays the bills while you offer to work as a DP on non-paying and low-paying projects.


Hey David. Thanks for replying.

You may have had to answer this several times, so I will keep it short. In the beginning, how did you advertise yourself? Did you get work through contacts from film school? Or, did you use your reel that you acquired through film school?

Thanks,
Andrew.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 10:26 PM

Well, you always need a reel. But most of my work was thru film school contacts, and then connections formed by the early jobs.
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#5 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 10:34 PM

Hi David,

At what point in your career things started happening for you?
Was it after one particular film? For some dp's that's all it takes.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 10:56 PM

Hi David,

At what point in your career things started happening for you?
Was it after one particular film? For some dp's that's all it takes.


There was never a point where things started "happening" -- it's been a slow process of trying to climb up in budgets.

The smaller turning points have been: (1) my second feature, "Lipstick Camera", which lead to several straight-to-video 35mm genre features, giving me more experience; (2) "Twin Falls Idaho", my 13th feature, which is when I started to deliberately move away from the cable TV stuff to more film festival / art house cinema films. I got a Spirit Award nomination for this, and an agent; (3) "Jackpot", my second feature with the Polish Brothers and one of the first in 24P HD ever made, leading to several more features in that format; (4) "Northfork", my third film with the Polish Brothers, one of the first made for more than a million dollars, my first in 35mm anamorphic, and another Spirit Award nomination, I think this was my 23rd or 25th feature; (5) joining the union, which was easy partly because of the days I put in on "Northfork", this coincided with getting better-paying higher-budgeted features; (6) being invited to join the ASC, partly because of the quality of my work on the Polish Brothers films.

Tomorrow I go off to shoot one of my first real commercials, after shooting 30 features, a job that I got because the director of the film I was just working on -- the one that got cancelled after two weeks of prep -- is a major commercial director. So I'm kinda nervous. But it's great to make on one day what I normally get paid for one week on a feature!

On the other hand, I'm sort of in limbo regarding what my next feature project might be.

So that has been my life since graduating film school nearly 15 years ago.
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 11:36 PM

"But it's great to make on one day what I normally get paid for one week on a feature!"

You might decide it's the better way to go and skip features all together.

R,
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 12:16 AM

"But it's great to make on one day what I normally get paid for one week on a feature!"

You might decide it's the better way to go and skip features all together.

R,


I doubt it. I got interested in filmmaking because of movies I saw as a kid, and it's still my hope to someday shoot movies that interest some young person in making movies. My favorite aspects of the job are dealing with storytelling and emotions.
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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 03:47 AM

I'm a film student. A film equipment supervisor at my school says that, no matter what, If I were to go out to LA to do camera work, that I would be a camera loader for atleast 2 years before I got anything better, regardless of my film school experience. Not that that is bad, but I was wondering if he's accurate?

If you start as a loader, which is the way a lot of people get started, it's up to you to decide when to move up. No one is going to tell you, "Today is the day you move up to 2nd". If you're a good loader people will actually want to keep you loading for them. Same goes as a 2nd or first. If you're good at your job your boss will want to keep you. It's a compliment, but it can be tough if you want to move up and feel you're ready. Everyone is different though. Some people might move up in 6 months, or 6 years. What's important is that you have the skills needed for the job you're doing, or moving up to, and that you enjoy it. You have to go your own way in this business or you'll never get where you want to go.
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#10 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 01:46 PM

I never went to to film school and have always been a DP. All depends on you...your drive, your skills, and your ability to network.
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#11 Morgan Peline

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 04:00 PM

Some people love being ACs and don't want to move up just yet because they have found something that they love and are really, really good at. One of the best focus pullers I ever worked for when I was a loader is Carlos De Carvalho. He absolutely loves it and he does all the biggest films that are shot by UK crews; like Tomb Raider, Sahara, James Bond and Star Wars III - he works permanently all year round. He is absolutely amazing, he does this amazing zen focus-pulling, like he's using the force, I don't think I've ever seen him do a soft shot no matter how long the lens. He makes it look so easy...and he's a very, very nice man.

Though I'm probably guilty of it myself as I eventually got to hate being a loader (though I am a bit older as I am in the middle of a career change so therefore have less time to go through the ranks!), it seems quite sad that being a simple loader is so looked down upon these days by young film makers. All my best teachers who are BSCs now were loaders or 'clapper boys' as they called them in those days and they absolutely loved it. Nowadays every film student thinks it's this crappy job that you have to go through before you can get to the fun stuff of being a DP. However, all the best loaders and 2nd ACs I ever met absolutely loved their job and made it look really really easy even though it was quite a tough job! When you are young enough to do it I think it's a great job - once you learn your infallible system you can have so much fun on set.
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#12 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 09:17 AM

People in the camera department can roughly be divided into two categories - those who are on their way to becoming DP's or those who are career AC's or clapper/loaders. I prefer to work with career AC's rather than the other type. Not because I'm fearful of competition or divulging secrets, but because I remember how I was as an AC when all I wanted was to light - not very good. It's a hard job that needs your full attention and it's always more rewarding working with people who take pride in their work - something one tends not to do if your sights are set elsewhere.
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#13 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 10:17 AM

It's a hard job that needs your full attention and it's always more rewarding working with people who take pride in their work - something one tends not to do if your sights are set elsewhere.


A DP I used to work with said to me once, 'remember, an AC is not a trainee DP. The only thing a clapper loader should be doing is getting his/her job right, and slowly learning to be a focus puller."

I agree with Adam. I was a pretty good assistant, but I was nowhere near as good as the 'Career ACs', because my mind was always partially elsewhere.

I know two commercials DPs, both roughly the same age (mid thirties). One has never assisted in his life, the other came up through the ranks, and did a lot of big features as an AC. Different routes, different people, but now in the same place and at the same time. One route is not necessarily quicker or better than the other.
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 12:04 PM

Hi,

Bear in mind that it's not realistically possible to do the working up through the ranks thing anymore; there are no "big features" to work on anymore.

Doing it the other way is basically pot luck; comfortably over 90% of people will fail.

But that's here.

Phil
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#15 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 01:07 PM

Bear in mind that it's not realistically possible to do the working up through the ranks thing anymore; there are no "big features" to work on anymore.

Doing it the other way is basically pot luck; comfortably over 90% of people will fail.


Sigh... Phil, could we just once have a conversation about career paths where you don't join in with your patented "don't even bother, you'll fail" line?

You may be bitter and twisted, but most of the people asking for advice here are not. They want objective, informed advice, and frankly, when you start on about 'the industry', your advice is neither.

We all know it's hard to find work in this industry (as in many others). No-one here is pretending otherwise, but it is NOT impossible to work up through the ranks, I know of people doing it as we speak. Likewise, the failure rate is high, but not 90%, not unless you're ill-prepared and unwilling to keep trying.
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 02:16 PM

Unpreparedness would be to go into this without having been warned of the near certainty of failure. Your position seems to be that it's possible for everyone who wants to do this sort of work to do it; this is patently not the case. Advice which assumes that everyone will enjoy your success is irresponsibly dangerous.

Do you think I'm pulling numbers out of mid-air here? Every time I see a post go up on Shooting People for crew to work for £50 a day I know, from experience, that dozens of people will respond to it. I don't think it's too great a leap to assume that they're all reasonably serious about working in film. Of those dozens, one will get that particular job. One in dozens of those people will then go on to work professionally. Work it out. I thought I'd spare your blushes, but you're right, the failure rate isn't 90%, it's 99% plus, and you know that damn well.

You are costing people tens of thousands of pounds of lost income and wasted time with your dogmatic insistence that it's a worthwhile career path. You might want to think about that before assuring people that with nothing more than "a little hard work" success will come flooding in. Most of the people I know who've given up on this non-industry in disgust worked their arses off and gave up financial security, relationships, housing, and have irreperably destroyed any hope they had of a comfortable retirement. I don't care whether you believe that or not, but I do care whether you publicise it here for impressionable college leavers to read.

All this drivel about hard work is fine until you realise it's very difficult to work hard at your career while you're watching daytime TV. Which is what you will be doing if you decide on a career in the film non-industry here. It's very difficult to work hard when there fundamentally is no work. I don't care what your situation is, a sample of one is statistically irrelevant. The fact is that you do not have a right to spout this drivel unopposed.

Phil
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#17 timHealy

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 02:21 PM

Actually, moving to LA could be the single greatest step one without contacts or some sort of film industry in their respective city can do to succeed in whatever craft they are working on.

There is simply so much more work in LA that as long as you learn, become good, make contacts, and you are not a moron or social misfit, there will be opportunities for you.

But if you do work as an AC to pay the bills, keep taking those shooting opportunities.

Best

Tim
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 03:09 PM

Ahah! See what I mean?

In LA people work as an AC "To pay the bills!"

Phil
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#19 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 03:46 PM

Unpreparedness would be to go into this without having been warned of the near certainty of failure. Your position seems to be that it's possible for everyone who wants to do this sort of work to do it; this is patently not the case. Advice which assumes that everyone will enjoy your success is irresponsibly dangerous.


I have never advised anyone that this career path is easy. I know from hard experience that it is not. You have no idea as to my success or lack thereof. As usual, the chip on your shoulder leads you to make assumptions about other people which have no basis in fact.

You are costing people tens of thousands of pounds of lost income and wasted time with your dogmatic insistence that it's a worthwhile career path. You might want to think about that before assuring people that with nothing more than "a little hard work" success will come flooding in.


I am personally costing people this money? Wake up and smell what you're shovelling! I don't believe that I have ever said success would come flooding. My position has always been that it IS possible to succeed in this industry, and that it takes skill & hard work to stand a chance.

All this drivel about hard work is fine until you realise it's very difficult to work hard at your career while you're watching daytime TV. The fact is that you do not have a right to spout this drivel unopposed.


You may be sitting around watching daytime TV when you're not working. I certainly don't. I go out taking photographs. I catch up on new technology. I send out showreels, and follow up on them. In short, I do all the things that you have to do if you want to have a chance of success as a DP.

You should make a decision. If you hate this business as much as you claim to, then find something else to do. If not, stop moaning and make the best of what you've got.
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#20 timHealy

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 06:02 PM

Ahah! See what I mean?

In LA people work as an AC "To pay the bills!"

Phil


Phil,

While I respect your technical knowledge of video and post I do believe that you're an idiot and your negativity is exactly why you failed in film. I'm not even sure why you would take part in this board if you despise it so much.

While I don't think everyone has to be in LA to succeed, there is so much work that I know many people who have done well by moving there. So let me ask you: Have you ever lived in LA and worked in the business and taken part in the opportunities working there presents? I have a feeling your answer will be no.

Best

Tim
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