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landed job as camera intern - any advice before I start?


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#1 John32685

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:41 PM

I recently got a job as an intern in the camera dept on huge production that's shooting in my city. I am still in film school (undergrad), so my knowledge is limited, but they understand that (at least I hope they do). I am not ACing or loading...I'm just an intern, so I expect to be given a lot of odd jobs. Any advice before I start?

-John
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:00 AM

I recently got a job as an intern in the camera dept on huge production that's shooting in my city. I am still in film school (undergrad), so my knowledge is limited, but they understand that (at least I hope they do). I am not ACing or loading...I'm just an intern, so I expect to be given a lot of odd jobs. Any advice before I start?

-John

Keep a smile on your face and only have one response to requests: "no problem, I'll get right on it". The working professionals on the Forum will advise you to be respectful of traditional film crew etiquette and working methods.

I've had the unique experience of working on a big stage production as the assistant to an IATSE stagehand here who normally works for me (the local was real short of hands and asked me to step in on a standby call). My response whenever Calvin or the Stage Manager he was working for asked me do to something? "No problem, I'll get right on it". He and I are still laughing about the week "What goes around" did indeed come around - and I had a great time working for him.
Break a leg! I envy you your chance to play with the "big boys". :)
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 11:21 AM

Just keep an eye open. If you see the battery light is on and the second isn't already getting it, grab a battery. Little things like that, along with being upbeat for all of those long days gets you hired again.
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#4 grantsmith

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 06:03 PM

The main thing to remember, whatever happens is that you are going to learn SO much and will be a great opportunity.

If they know you are a student they will know the score as they will probably have been themselves so don't worry about that.

Being liked is half the battle. Getting on well with the crew can make all the difference between being picked for the next shoot. Its not always technical ability (though obviously that is very important).

Try and work out how the set works: when to be quiet, when people are busy, when you can have a chat and when to ask questions.

Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can. Don't ask all your questions in one go though - space them out throughout the shoot. Most people will be more than happy to help you though not if its a continous 30 minutes of interregation. Again, be aware of when you are asking the questions - i.e. don't ask the loader questions when he is loading a mag. Even though its very tempting try and keep the questions to ask about what you will be doing in your role . Its more important for you to know how to charge a battery than something about exposure latitude of a particular stock. Though at quiet times feel free to ask questions/advice to the DOP about School projects etc. They will probably know more than any of your teachers!

Keep the crew happy. Make them coffees. Some crews can be quite particular about how they like theirs - write this in a book along with their names and try and keep it right. When taking the coffees out give it to the head of the department first (DP) then work your way down. Also try and give the out at an appropriate time.

If they are comming from out of town then they will probably be staying locally. Give suggestions of good places to eat, drink or where they can visit at the weekend.

When on set try and listen to whats going on and pre-empt. If you hear the first telling the 2nd that he needs a battery you can probably assume that the 2nd will be about to ask you.

LATERAL THINKING! PROBLEM SOLVING! BE ALERT! INITIATIVE!

Depending on how big the crew is there may be only one loader/2nd so you may have to stand in for the 2nd if he is loading a mag. You may have to slate each shot (there is a very good link as to how to do this in the first time film maker forum) and keep a record of the footage (the 2nd will tell you how to do this).

The 2nd will be your new best friend. You will mainly be helping him so look after him.

Get the 2nd to teach you how to do the camera report sheets. This will take a big burden off him and is great for you to know. Even if you make a tiny, tiny mistake on them always start again. Never use tip-pex or score something out. The 2nd will see that you take pride in your work (and also the production office - another source for future employment)

Tell everyone where you are at all times (even if it's to go to the toilet). Dont wonder off. Try not to chat to other crew members when the camera crew are working.

Dont sit down while the camera crew are working.

The most important thing which you must always remember is timekeeping. If need be set two alarm clocks in the morning.

Always help clear up at the end (not a nice task but all equipment most be cleaned).

Try not to grumble (unless everyone else is grumbling).

Remeber the camera crew cousins -lighting and grip department. If you are not needed (and always ask the camera crew first) the grip department may need help. Or they may ask you for a left-handed screwdriver

Enjoy yourself - even if you are standing in the rain for 12 hours.

If there are any short ends left over at the end, if it seems appropriate then see if they will give them to you.
Definately try and get someone to show you how to load a mag (you may even get to load a live short end).

You will probably learn more from this shoot than most of your time at school so make the most of it.
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#5 timHealy

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 09:00 PM

Be prepared. Bring a bag with a change of clothing, a pair of shorts for hot days, and jeans for cooler nights, underwear, sneakers, shirt, sweatshirt, and raingear and leave it on the truck. Good durable raingear, (personally I think Gore Tex stinks. Rubber works the best, but you may start to sweat and be just as wet on the inside. Works better in a cooler environment or temperature) rain hat, and the best boots for foul weather, Neos. They slip over your shoes when it starts to rain. They will keep your feet dry even when standing in 6 inches of water. Also may need a baseball hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and bug repellant. Better yet, put sunscreen on when you get out of the shower in the morning.

Adjust the list to your environment.

Also get yourself a multi plier tool like a leatherman or gerber, and a small flashlight like maglight or surefire and wear them on your belt. You'll need them sooner or later. I also don't go to work without sticking a pen and a sharpie in my pocket.

Good luck and have fun.

Best

Tim
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#6 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 11:25 AM

Get a good pair of shoes. On the job i prefer GoreTex lined, watertight hikingboots. Like heel_e wrote, get a multitool, a flashlight (if you can afford it get the best available, everything low quality won't survive the first week of shooting and cause more trouble than it helps) and always carry some pens and magic markers.
Ask the 1st AC if you could take part in the camera prep. It's usually a good way to get accustomed to each other and you'll get an idea what's in the camera package and how it's handeled. Ask for a copy of the gearlist and find out on the net what all that stuff is.
Keep your spirits up if you get the feeling you are ignored. It can happen every now and then when the heat is on. If you're not sure what you're doing, ask first. If no one's there to ask, find something to do you're sure about.

Good luck!!
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 03:18 PM

You've gotten some really good advice so far. If you take that advice and use common sense you'll learn a lot. I would add that at the beginning of the show the A.C.'s are going to be feeling you out and trying to decide whether you're an asset to them or not, so stay on your toes at the beginning of the shoot so that you put your best foot forward. First impressions are important of course.
Small mistakes are OK, they happen to everyone, but be sure to let someone know you've made a mistake when you do or you won't be trusted in the future.
Be careful about handling or touching too much equipment right off the bat, even if it's something you've used before, because the A.C.'s don't know what you know yet and they will be a bit nervous if you are picking up their gear a lot. They will undoubtably hand you equipment here and there, and when you show that you handle equipment properly they will be more trusting with letting you handle more equipment in the future.
Keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut is generally a good way to be when learning. Questions are fine, but be aware of who and when you're asking the question.
If you can save the camera crew some time everyday by taking care of a lot of the little things you will quickly be considered an important part of the team. If you show that you can stay on top of the small things they give you to do, they will eventually give you more responsibility.
Be ready and willing to help, but not over-eager. Don't hover over the crew waiting for them to give you something to do. Take a step back and watch and learn.
One last thing....be careful. There are dangerous aspects of working on a set, so be very mindful of everything going on around you. If the grips or electrics are rigging something close to you, step away if you don't need to be right there. Staying out of the way of other departments is important.
Good luck and have fun!

Remeber the camera crew cousins -lighting and grip department. If you are not needed (and always ask the camera crew first) the grip department may need help. Or they may ask you for a left-handed screwdriver

I don't really agree with this. If you're a camera intern then you should stick with camera. If you're off helping the grips (even with the permission of the camera dept.) then you're not available if there is something in camera that you need to help with. Being available at all times is part of the job.
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#8 John32685

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 02:38 AM

This is great advice guys, thanks a lot. Like I said, this is a big show (I'm working 2nd unit). I'll be around some of the best in the business, so I'm hoping I make a really good impression. Gotta be on location in 3 hours...wish me luck.

-John
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#9 Max Jacoby

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 08:29 AM

The only thing I'd add is that don't wait for people to ask you to get them coffee (or tea), ask them by yourself. And don't sit on the camera boxes, especialy not the lens boxes.
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 02:02 PM

The only thing I'd add is that don't wait for people to ask you to get them coffee (or tea), ask them by yourself. And don't sit on the camera boxes, especialy not the lens boxes.

Good tips. Actually, try not to sit at all, unless all the other A.C.'s are sitting as well. And don't use the steadicam operator's stand as an arm rest, and especially not a cupholder! :o
What show is it you're working on?
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#11 Leslie Frid

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 05:31 PM

I am just starting my first job in a few weeks as a camera intern on a feature film and this advice that you all put up is sooooo helpful. Thank you so much for giving your time to tell us newbies what we should be doing. I really appreciate it. Thanks Guys!!
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#12 Larry Nielsen

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 12:58 AM

All this is great advice, some that I hope I can lend are these few things, as an intern don't expect to be able to touch the gear right away. I don't think any AC in their right mind is going to let you touch any equipment with out you first showing you are trust worthy, be patient they will let you know when you can touch something. Write down your questions on a piece of paper, sometimes you'll find you'll get the answer to your question within five minutes by watching whats happening around you. I also recomend a book, that I called the bible when I started out its called "The Proffesional Cameramans Handbook" by Carlson and Carlson. Alot of great info.

PS, I'm a 1st AC, not a DP. I'll have to figure out how to change that
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#13 Alex Haspel

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 07:14 AM

This is great advice guys, thanks a lot. Like I said, this is a big show (I'm working 2nd unit). I'll be around some of the best in the business, so I'm hoping I make a really good impression. Gotta be on location in 3 hours...wish me luck.

-John



let us know how it went.
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#14 Doug Hart

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 10:18 PM

The replies I have read to your question have hit most of the right points.
Here's a few more:

Pay attention to what is going on. Keep your eyes on the DP and the 1AC. Learn to pick their voices out of a crowd.

Don't be late. In my opinion, most firings in this business relate to chronic lateness. Better to be 1/2 hour early than 1/2 minute late. And nobody cares about your excuses.

Learn to anticipate. Solve problems before they become problems. Keep batteries on charge whenever possible. Keep a fresh battery close to the camera. Keep an eye out for expendables (tape, camera reports, pens, markers, chalk, etc.) that are running out. Buy more BEFORE they run out. Keep a running shopping list of things to acquire.

Keep all the camera equipment together - don't let things get scattered around the set or location.

Put things back where they belong, to make it easier to find the next time. Learn which cases contain which equipment. Label the cases to help with this. Label the shelves on the camera truck so the gear gets back to the same place each time. It also helps remind you if something is missing at wrap time.

Always have a pen and notebook handy, to write things down so you don't forget, to make lists of equipment or expendables to order, to jot down phone numbers, etc.

Always carry a flashlight, and tie a roll of white tape to your belt.

Remember how the DP and Camera Operator like their coffee/tea.

But most important - be there when they need you.

Best Wishes.

Doug Hart
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#15 June Zandona

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 03:50 PM

I'd like to echo Leslie and John and say thanks for all the great advice! I start as a camera intern tomorrow and this thread is great for making a good mental checklist.
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#16 Patrick Lavalley

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 10:17 AM

Another thing is to do your homework before you show up on set. Have a good idea of what the DP has shot, what the Operator, 1st, 2nd etc etc has worked on. It will help you get a better idea of the crew, and they might also quiz you. All the other advice is great, especially about being motivated to work, and having a good attitude. When you have time, take care of little things like sweeping the out the camera truck, hanging up peoples coats to dry, emptying the dark room trash, and generally just straightening up. However, don't move cases to different lcoations because they have everything organized in a very specific way. Also, they should provide you with a walkie, if they don't you should try your best to get one. Keep a few things in your pockets like extra batteries, diaper cloth etc etc so if you're standing near and someone asks for a new battery you can have it right there. Be willing to do whatever they ask (coffees, building boxes for packing film, making rain covers, whatever). They will appreciate you even though they might not show it.

I recently learned all of this (and more) while being an intern on a show that was here for two weeks. I couldn't go in every day, but they offered to put me up out of town for a couple days while they were shooting at the coast- of course I took them up on the offer! I was only with them for a total of about 6 days, but I learned a TON.
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#17 David Regan

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 11:39 AM

Some things I found useful:
1. Write things down. I kept a little notebook in my back pocket, and wrote everything especially people's names, I think it looks better if you can call people by name. Also the things others mentioned, how people like their coffee etc. Plus since it was a great learning experience I just wrote down whenever I had a spare moment things I noticed about how things were done.

2. No excuses. I certainly messed up several times, but really they don't care why something went wrong. Simply accept the fault, say 'sorry, my fault, it won't happen again.' (And of course be really sure it doesn't happen again ;)

3. Just have a really good attitude. I think thats a huge part of it, no matter how smart/talented people are, if they aren't pleasent to work with I think that has a huge impact.

So yeah, seems like a lot given all the other good advice, but just keep on your toes, work hard, have a good attitude and you'll be fine.

Good Luck
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#18 Diana Matos

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 10:18 PM

I kept a journal when I first interned in the Camera Dept. and I jotted these pointers as a reminder for myself:

1. Never admit that you can?t do it. If you don?t know how, sneak your way over to someone who does and have them give you a brief set of instructions. If you don?t have that person around, make a careful, educated guess. If you?re afraid of looking silly, remember that this was an opportunity to learn something new and tomorrow is another day to gain those brownie points you lost.
2. Your way up the ladder relies both on luck and talent.
3. Don?t stress about the ones that are on set for the adrenaline rush. If they?re not truly serious, they will eventually be weeded out by the system.
4. Don?t sweat the small stuff. If you messed up one day, tomorrow you can make it right.
5. Less is more. The simpler your decision, the more room you?ll have to focus on important details.
6. Don?t be cheeky. If you?re good at the job, shut your trap and do it with the same amount of effort everyday. Over time, they will appreciate you for it and rely on you more. No one likes a know-it-all.
7. Gossiping is a No-No! Do not engage in this dirt-spreading activity. Off set, have as many friends as you like, but on set, don?t treat it like it?s college. Tens of thousands of dollars are invested into making this film work daily and it should be handled professionally. Besides, it?s rude.
8. Go ahead, party. On the night before your day off. Just make sure there?s no evidence the Production Assistants could blackmail you with on Monday.
9. Last, but not least, Confidence is your best friend. If you are sure of yourself and make prudent choices, you?ll manage to make it through the months of production. If you?re not confident, it will show though and make the people you work with less confident in you.

Hope you're well,
D.M.
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#19 David Auner aac

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 03:11 AM

1. Never admit that you can?t do it. If you don?t know how, sneak your way over to someone who does and have them give you a brief set of instructions. If you don?t have that person around, make a careful, educated guess. If you?re afraid of looking silly, remember that this was an opportunity to learn something new and tomorrow is another day to gain those brownie points you lost.


I really wouldn't do that. EVER! I think it is best to go to your boss and tell him/her you never did this or that and ask them to show you how to.
An educated guess isn't enough when safetying a 5k on a 6th story balcony or handling a type of crane you are not familiar with. That's a good way to get yourself and/or others hurt or killed!
This kind of stuff should be talked about prior to shooting, i.e. at the rental place or whatever.

Regards, Dave
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#20 emily

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Posted 17 March 2008 - 06:09 PM

so here's my question: how do you go about getting a job as a camera intern?

I live in NYC and work as a 2nd AC on indie jobs. but I'd really love the intern on a big, union production and work with some really talented ACs. plus, I want to make those union contacts. but I'm not sure how to get a job. I've looked on the mayor's film website, but the productions never list a phone number or email for their production office, just an address. I've tried sending resumes to the offices, but haven't heard anything back so far. What's the trick?
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