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Moving from local TV to larger projects


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#1 Rick Pearson

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 04:48 PM

I would like to hear the advice of others here on this forum. I am a Producer/Director working in the commercial services department for a local television station in Ohio. I produce ads for service providers, and mom & pop retail stores.

On the level I'm currently at Producer/Director really translates into writer, producer, director, dp, and editor. What I'd like to know is how does my experience translate into moving into working on productions in the camera department. Even though my current responsibilities are a myriad of services; my true focus is on my camera work, some of which is available at www.pearsonmedia.net.

I may work in tv, but I'm not looking to automatically be an indie DP. I'm just really hungry to work in a camera department where my services can be utilized and the people I'd be around or working under would be people I could further my learning from.

Ohio is by no means a production hot spot, but there are a few productions around and on the few I've worked on there the crew seems to run the gammut from experienced crew members to people that work in gas stations and just happened to get into being a 1st A.C. one day. Should I just consider myself as any regular joe and say "Hey cool, I'd like to work on your crew." or does any of my experience translate into anything of worth?

Like many on this forum I am working to become a full time DP, like many others here I have shot a lot of tape and film, all of the clients in this geographical area request my services through the stations I work for after they have their first experience with me and see my work but these projects are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to budget, crew, and time alotted for production. I'm hungry for projects on a higher level even if it means my position/title is lesser than what I possess now. Any tips from the experienced people who have done this or made a similar move?
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 10:27 PM

I used to work full time as a producer for CTV in Toronto, a network like your ABC, CBS, NBC. I did a lot of what you do. And it sucked day in and day out :)

But that is another story.

Now I work full time shooting 35mm, although not for any clients, specifically my own projects.

Of course your current experience will be useful on other productions, you won't just be some guy with zero experience. That will be of benefit to you.

My only suggestions would be:

a) Do your own projects, ie make an indie film in your spare time, weekends and, holidays. Since 90% of indie filmmakers self finance their projects, having a full time day job to pay for it all is a real advantage. Then hit the festival circuit, possibly make some sales, and go from there.

B) Try and get hired on in the camera dept of any local productions you can find. You may find though that these will be for zero pay and shot on DV. On the film I just finished I had over 500 people apply for 10 crew positions! The number of people that want to work in film is just mind boggling.

c) Quit your TV job and pursue your goals full time in a major film centre like NY or LA. If you're single and have some cash in the bank, this is quite doable if you can afford to not work for say two years while you get established. Don't dismiss this option too readily, I didn't really move forward until I got out of CTV, my job there held me back from what I really wanted to do. Lot's of people for example get laid off from jobs and decide to finally pursue their real goals in life. Then they look back five years later and realize that getting laid off was the best thing that could of ever happened to them.

There are a thousand roads up the mountain, I'm sure many others here have good routes that one can follow.

R,
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#3 Michael Collier

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 11:15 PM

I am in the same boat. News photographer in market 155. I am a part time DP, that is to say, I DP all kinds of projects (and yes, its a real DP position since we usually have a director on whatever project it is, otherwise it would be ENG) But I think the real key is to find your niche. Where do you fit in? Are there production jobs around your area? Get to know everyone, be honest, reliable and a hard worker, and always self-promote when you can slip it in tastefully (sleepthemovie.blogspot.com) and see if theres enough work to make the switch.

In my market there is no good oppourtunities to move ahead from TV to film. I am working in about the biggest film projects there are (save every other year a union film might come up, haven't gotten on one of those yet, due to my day job) so I got to move. I set a date, vowed I would not take a job I couldn't leave in a day for a film gig and will be saving up about 10K before I go. I leave Oct. 15th (just after our permanent fund checks go out) and when I get down there, I will have the boosted demo reel from this past year cutting my rates to near nothing (or nothing at all if they want to shoot film)

Build your reel, work hard, do your homework, but at a certain point you just gotta jump off the cliff. You can't keep a steady day job and be open to new films to work on. Its one or the other sort of thing. What you should do is figure out when you can do that move (ei, when do you have enough money to stick it out for several months) and untill then, do whatever it takes to build your demo reel and experience. Theres no set formula that I can see (most tell me its hard as hell and part luck) so I think a lot of it is the mental prep. to be ready for tough times. If you really want to advance you gotta be ready to work hard. My opinion, thats how I see it. Good luck.
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#4 Brian Wells

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 03:33 AM

I'm hungry for projects on a higher level even if it means my position/title is lesser than what I possess now. Any tips from the experienced people who have done this or made a similar move?

Networking with production companies and/or advertising agencies is what it takes to get to the next category of work. And, you have to be a great person. Smile, shake hands, have unusual talents, be funny, etc. At least that's what I've heard.. I'm not there, yet!
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#5 Rick_Pearson

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 09:58 AM

Great advice Richard, and everyone else too.

I guess I'll just have to save up for a long while and make the move to elsewhere. There are agencies in town, occasionally they handle larger accounts, but a lot of their work is still the same low quality stuff I do through television stations. (Why is this? It's a bit confusing.) I have a freelance agency edit this afternoon actually and it's nothing big at all, in fact it's a completely graphical spot.

The problem I see with starting my own projects is that I don't want to be a writer, or a director, or a producer. I have no desire to make my own films because that's not even a goal for me later in life, I only want to operate camera and eventually move up to director of photography. I know there are hundreds of thousands of aspiring film makers that want to direct, act, produce, and shoot; but I don't share these aspirations in the slightest because the camera department is where I want to be for better or worse. One day I hope to be considered a master of my trade rather than a jack in all of them.

One thing is for sure, I have valued my experiences up to this point in my life and career. I've learned, I've succeeded, I've failed, and I've come along way. But I need to move on now, and it just seems like a hard thing to do, but then again I am in Ohio... the production hub for nothing :-) Well I take that back there are a few DP's that are doing quite well with national ad shoots, there are larger production companies around the state too but they are primarily corporate video only facilities.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 11:09 AM

The problem I see with starting my own projects is that I don't want to be a writer, or a director, or a producer. I have no desire to make my own films because that's not even a goal for me later in life, I only want to operate camera and eventually move up to director of photography. I know there are hundreds of thousands of aspiring film makers that want to direct, act, produce, and shoot; but I don't share these aspirations in the slightest because the camera department is where I want to be for better or worse. One day I hope to be considered a master of my trade rather than a jack in all of them.


Yes, but......the fastest way to the DP position is to assign it to your self. Other wise you are at the mercy of other people telling you if and when you can have that job. And you'll be competing with thousands of others.

You assign this job to your self by making your own production, then no one can say no to you :)

There are tons of directors out there who had to write, produce, shoot, and edit, their own projects to start with even though they only wanted to be a director.

If you really want to avoid the other positions, take your cash and hire a writer and director, then you work only as DP. You can easily get a good short film script by advertising on Mandy.com. If you can find a good director you may actually learn a thing or two from him on set.

Letting other people be your gate keeper is often a path to no where.

R,
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#7 Stephen Edwards

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 12:24 PM

Yes, but......the fastest way to the DP position is to assign it to your self. Other wise you are at the mercy of other people telling you if and when you can have that job. And you'll be competing with thousands of others.

You assign this job to your self by making your own production, then no one can say no to you :)

There are tons of directors out there who had to write, produce, shoot, and edit, their own projects to start with even though they only wanted to be a director.

If you really want to avoid the other positions, take your cash and hire a writer and director, then you work only as DP. You can easily get a good short film script by advertising on Mandy.com. If you can find a good director you may actually learn a thing or two from him on set.

Letting other people be your gate keeper is often a path to no where.

R,

WOW!
You hit the nail on the head with that one!
For I am presently putting my OWN project together in which I will do everything except "pushing the actual buttons" in post. I have been shooting ENG and EFP since 1983 and it has served me well and will continue to finance future projects. The 4min. piece will serve two functions; be a killer demo showing off all of my shooting skills as well as a promo for either a stand alone TV piece or possible series.
Do it ! if nothing else you will learn alot and have fun!
"I did it my way" Frank Sinatra

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http://www.provideoprod.com
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#8 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 11:52 PM

WOW!
You hit the nail on the head with that one!
For I am presently putting my OWN project together in which I will do everything except "pushing the actual buttons" in post. I have been shooting ENG and EFP since 1983 and it has served me well and will continue to finance future projects. The 4min. piece will serve two functions; be a killer demo showing off all of my shooting skills as well as a promo for either a stand alone TV piece or possible series.
Do it ! if nothing else you will learn alot and have fun!
"I did it my way" Frank Sinatra

Stephen Edwards DP
http://www.provideoprod.com


The images on your website look great! I would love to see some video. Do you use lots of silks in your setups?
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 12:29 AM

I would like to hear the advice of others here on this forum. I am a Producer/Director working in the commercial services department for a local television station in Ohio. I produce ads for service providers, and mom & pop retail stores.

On the level I'm currently at Producer/Director really translates into writer, producer, director, dp, and editor. What I'd like to know is how does my experience translate into moving into working on productions in the camera department. Even though my current responsibilities are a myriad of services; my true focus is on my camera work, some of which is available at www.pearsonmedia.net.

I may work in tv, but I'm not looking to automatically be an indie DP. I'm just really hungry to work in a camera department where my services can be utilized and the people I'd be around or working under would be people I could further my learning from.

Ohio is by no means a production hot spot, but there are a few productions around and on the few I've worked on there the crew seems to run the gammut from experienced crew members to people that work in gas stations and just happened to get into being a 1st A.C. one day. Should I just consider myself as any regular joe and say "Hey cool, I'd like to work on your crew." or does any of my experience translate into anything of worth?

Like many on this forum I am working to become a full time DP, like many others here I have shot a lot of tape and film, all of the clients in this geographical area request my services through the stations I work for after they have their first experience with me and see my work but these projects are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to budget, crew, and time alotted for production. I'm hungry for projects on a higher level even if it means my position/title is lesser than what I possess now. Any tips from the experienced people who have done this or made a similar move?



Rick,

I did exactly that. After working as an Editor/Videographer/Producer at WBGU in Bowling Green, OH, I packed my car and moved to LA cold, with nothing but a list of names to call. Rather by accident, I found myself learning to load film at Panavision a week after I got in town. It took about 8 months of working for free on student and low-budget films to finally get a paid job as a 2nd AC on "White Wolves II," a Corman movie. Another year later and I got into IA on "Murder in the First." Years of AC work later, I more or less burned out and segued into shooting behind the scenes where I have a video camera back in my hands, but I am working less, earning more, and not pushing carts around for someone else. I'm not photographing "narratives," but that was never my goal anyhow. Writing and perhaps Directing is so I'm not disappointed with that.

Anyhow, as others have said, the "best" route to take is to just go for what you want from the beginning. The AC route can be a deadend and never get you to the "top." The upside is that you can earn more quicker. By just trying to be a DP out of the gate, you may languish in low-budg world forever. Hard work pays off eventually, but not everyone gets to play in the majors no matter how good they actually are or can be.

Good luck!

(Oh, by the way, I just learned that my book has been picked up for publishing, so hopefully it will be available sometime in mid-2007)
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#10 Milo Sekulovich

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 04:10 AM

Hi,

I have to agree with Richard. I'm currently shooting my own feature in 35mm. It's a supernatural thriller that I'm financing myself. I'm directing and acting also as well as DP'ing. I call the shots.
I've gone from never having DP'd a feature to being the DP on my own. Never had to be an AC either. I feel very fortunate. There are lots of guys who struggle for years to DP a feature and I basically have done it right off the bat. And it's all because I decided to make my own movie. And I wrote the screenplay.

All the best,
Milo
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Wooden Camera

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Metropolis Post

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

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Willys Widgets

Ritter Battery

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