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Getting that first Traineeship in UK?


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#1 Jacqueline Donaldson

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 05:29 AM

HI there,

I've been butting my head against the wall, trying to figure out how I go about getting a job as a camera trainee on a feature film in the UK. I know there must be loads out there - the last film I saw had about 4 of them on different units in different locations listed in the credits.

I applied to FT2 and was rejected, they place trainees on major features, but apart from that I've looked everywhere from the BBC to C4 and although they provide areas to pitch ideas for programmes and Doco's, none of them seem to have any camera traineeship connections. I've applied for BBC work experience on TV studio cameras, but I want my hands on film & HD camera as I want to operate one day.

I'm thinking I should contact the production companies directly, but don't really know where to start with that one.

I already have some experience using a 35mm cam, loading, focus pulling, changing lenses etc...and I'm thinking of upgrading my skills such as taking a 35mm assistant and Op course as well as a 5 day steadicam course, but these all cost alot of money, and I'm afraid I'll still be stuck in the same position - skills, talent, passion, but no outlet.

Any advice?? Anyone out there from the UK know where to get started down this path?? What's the deal with foreigners coming to the US to do paid training, I'm guessing not good - ie. talented US citizens lose out to foreigner.
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#2 Jon Kukla

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 09:40 AM

Call up the camera rental houses and ask if you can do some work experience and train up. They might tell you to call back in a month or two as they may have a waiting list, but if that happens, remember to call back and keep on reminding them; this is often a test to see how serious you are.

Once you get there, just come in as early as you can and hang out all day on the floor. Watch what they're checking in or out, and feel free to ask the prep techs questions. Getting to know the prep team is also valuable, as you'll run into them later when you're on a checkout and need some extra bits and bobs. Never hurts to have a good prior relationship!

There will also be crews doing checkouts, usually in other rooms. Make certain to ask the hire house before you just drop in there; some may be fine with you doing that, but it's always good to ask first. Plus, they might just introduce you themselves, which always comes on better anyway.

See how many days you can/are willing to stay repeating this process. Ask any ACs you end up helping if you can have their contact info, and give them yours. Call them a few weeks later and chat them up. If they felt you were even the slightest help on the day you worked with them, most will feel grateful enough to try to bring you on for a freebie day at the least - although this may take them some time, so stay in contact every now and then. Usually they'll bring you on for a free day on a short or something similar, to try you out. Be honest about your skill level; if they think you're an asset, chances are they'll call you back on a proper paid job.

In the down time, see about doing this at other rental houses as well, and continue to expand your contacts. Always get phone or email info and stay in periodic contact.

That's my advice. Good luck!
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#3 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 12:46 PM

Get yourself a copy of the knowledge and the kays book. Call every single focus puller and clapper loader in the book and introduce your self to them - they are the people who usually hire trainees.
If they already have a trainee then offer to come down and say hello at whatever camera rental company they are working at next. Putting a face to a name helps. Talk to your union - Bectu might provide a chaser list of productions that you could send a CV to. Talk to a diary service - i think the Arri Crew service have a listing for Trainees.
And as the previous poster mentioned the more time you can spend in a rental house the better. Knowing teh gear is a great way to stand out if/when you do get to dayplay with a new crew. Persevere:)
Hope this helps,
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 07:16 PM

Hi,

> I'll still be stuck in the same position - skills, talent, passion, but no outlet.

Welcome to the rest of your life!

Phil
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#5 Jon Kukla

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 04:58 AM

Hi,

> I'll still be stuck in the same position - skills, talent, passion, but no outlet.

Welcome to the rest of your life!

Phil


Oh, and I really badly wanted to add this, but decided not to be pre-emptively mean:

Don't listen to a word Phil says.

The proof's in the pudding - I'm not even British and knew nothing about cameras when I came to London a few years back, and I'm doing fine.
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#6 Tasha Back

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 05:26 AM

Diary Services are a good way to go - once you've joined you can call 1st and 2nd ACs on their books and at least you have a link to them "I'm with the same diary service as you..." That way if they don't remember your full name when they come to book a trainee, they will at least remember you're with their diary service. Remember you have to pay a monthly fee though - not that affordable on a trainee wage.

Best list is the Guild of British Camera Technicians based at Panavision (UK). You can join their trainee list for free although you may have to ask a few times!

Once you get your first job make a good impression on the Focus Puller and Loader as this'll lead to recommendations for more work. Your best source of work is recommendations from Loaders / Focus Pullers and other Trainees who aren't available at the time - so make friends!

Good Luck :)
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 03:46 PM

Hi,

Listening to me is obviously optional.

What's not optional, or at least won't be in a few years' time, is a mortgage and a pension, none of which the film industry in this country will ever be able to help you with. Mr. Kukla's claim that he's making a living after "a few years" in London is laughable - most people never will achieve this.

Phil
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#8 Jacqueline Donaldson

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 01:13 AM

Hi there everyone,

thanks so much for the great advice! I've heard about the Diary service, sounds like good advice.

I have been in and out of this business mainly in production (yawn) for several years, so I don't believe I have unrealistic expectations about what it's like, plus I have spent the last 5 years of my life traveling and working all around the world, i'm used to workin freelance and balancing my life and finances, I have done more during my travels than most do in their entire lives.

I'm strong willed, have enough energy for about 10 people and I'm extremely adaptible as well as being talented, I DP & direct short films, film & produce live theatre productions and I'm involved with several experimental film projects, i want to start working in features and I have no doubts that I will have a successful career in this biz Phil and I hope you find what your looking for and go and get it!

So thanks to everyone for advice on how to start in this area.

Jacqueline
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#9 Tim Terner

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:42 AM

Seems like some great advice on this thread and then the usual 'Au contraire' from the eternal pessimist. Follow the positive advice and best of British luck to you Jacqueline
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#10 Jon Kukla

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 06:36 PM

Hi,

Listening to me is obviously optional.

What's not optional, or at least won't be in a few years' time, is a mortgage and a pension, none of which the film industry in this country will ever be able to help you with. Mr. Kukla's claim that he's making a living after "a few years" in London is laughable - most people never will achieve this.

Phil


Well, you can believe that I'm really special (which is fine by me), or you can believe that I put in the effort. Honestly, I didn't do anything usual or make some elite connection into an old boys network. Most people I know who actually do the legwork do fine. And vice versa.

By the way, how's that job at Shepperton going, Phil?
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#11 Adam White

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 11:49 AM

once youve got that first job, make sure everyone remembers you in a positive way. If nothing comes of it then attack the next job with the same focus, and the next, and the next.

As a note, Jon's rental house info really is one of the best ways to get into the UK industry. I am always amazed how many people just finds reasons for never doing it. THATS WHERE THE KIT IS!!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!!

rant over, sit down, cup of tea, relax. . .
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#12 Matt Workman

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 05:50 PM

I don't know about the UK but I found my first camera trainee gig on mandy.com

I interviewed with the DP and was at the rental house for checkout two weeks later.
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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 12:03 PM

If you want to work at a rental place, you'll have to join a very long queue - it's the most frequently given advice, and most places are inundated. Be prepared to be very harshly told this, as most of them are completely beseiged by wannabes and the phone rings every ten minutes. Unless you are female, in which case your chances rise from none to slim, forget about it.

Phil
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#14 Jon Kukla

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 04:37 PM

If you want to work at a rental place, you'll have to join a very long queue - it's the most frequently given advice, and most places are inundated. Be prepared to be very harshly told this, as most of them are completely beseiged by wannabes and the phone rings every ten minutes. Unless you are female, in which case your chances rise from none to slim, forget about it.

Phil


I don't think anyone said to work at one - though it's certainly a good opportunity. I said to go there and train up. Many rental houses are more than happy to do this and consider it one of their secondary functions. I was told there was a long queue even to do this; they told me to ring again in two months. I did - try again next week - I did - can you come in the following week? - no, already booked up - called again the week after - no space... this went on for about six weeks. Finally I managed to find some dates that jived on both sides. After that, I hung out for two weeks, met lots of ACs I still work with, and got invited on my first pro job.

Barriers do not imply failure, and you will meet them throughout your life no matter what field you go into. Ambition alone is usually not enough, but with preparation, all you then need is opportunity. Which you can make much more likely if you put in the effort and do a little homework. As with all things, the first steps are always the most difficult - persistence is ultimately what matters, not your success percentage. I prefer John Barth's metaphor he told aspiring writers: "Do not despair; one was saved. Do not presume; one was damned."

Ultimately someone has to fill these jobs, and contrary to some people's implications, the vast majority of working camera assistants did not have nepotism or hidden connections in their favor. They worked their asses off, met a lot of people, and slowly started to get better work. Oftentimes the money or job frequency was minimal, but they figured out ways to survive in the beginning despite that. No one said it was gonna be easy, but there are many ways to approach this challenge and make it.

Phil is right, however, that most people "won't achieve this" - most aspiring trainees don't try very hard to find the jobs or give up very early on. Others do it and find out they don't actually like the work. Or would rather go straight to DP'ing. That's "natural selection" if you will. Nothing wrong with that, either. But don't give up just because statistics say most don't make it - this isn't roulette - it's not like you're given a lottery number that either will or won't get the job based on random statistics. But it is your responsibility to do whatever it is you have to do to get the work - don't just sit and wait for calls.

Or maybe I'm just a "laughable" exception who somehow blindly defied slim chances. So obviously I have nothing interesting to impart about how that came about.
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