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Making a living at being a DOP


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#1 Jase Ryan

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 03:42 PM

I'm fairly new to cinematography. I finished school about 3 years ago. I've shot some smaller projects, a couple shorts on Super 16mm and one project on 35mm and more on 24P. I did a couple small PSA's and things as well but everything is low/no pay and I'm struggling.

I love cinematography and filmmaking and I know this is my lifes work in progress but I need to know how to get in there with the right people to work on the right projects. I've seen some demo reels of people who work all the time and I personally feel my work is stronger than some of these DOPs.

SO, my question(s) is this. For everyone who makes a living at cinematography, can you tell me what you think was your career making decision? What one thing you did that really seperated you from starving to being a full time DOP? What do you think is the most important thing to do or/and learn to becoming a SUCCESSFUL director of photography?
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#2 Matthew Buick

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 04:00 PM

This is a very interesting topic. One that I've wondered about for a while. I'm guessing you're 21? I'm 16, and about to start shooting Semi-Professionally. I would like to work as a full time DP too. :)

Happy Shooting.
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#3 Stephen Williams

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 04:26 PM

SO, my question(s) is this. For everyone who makes a living at cinematography, can you tell me what you think was your career making decision? What one thing you did that really seperated you from starving to being a full time DOP? What do you think is the most important thing to do or/and learn to becoming a SUCCESSFUL director of photography?


Hi,

Put up your price & stop shooting for free.

Stephen
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 05:45 PM

I'm fairly new to cinematography. I finished school about 3 years ago. I've shot some smaller projects, a couple shorts on Super 16mm and one project on 35mm and more on 24P. I did a couple small PSA's and things as well but everything is low/no pay and I'm struggling.

I love cinematography and filmmaking and I know this is my lifes work in progress but I need to know how to get in there with the right people to work on the right projects. I've seen some demo reels of people who work all the time and I personally feel my work is stronger than some of these DOPs.

SO, my question(s) is this. For everyone who makes a living at cinematography, can you tell me what you think was your career making decision? What one thing you did that really seperated you from starving to being a full time DOP? What do you think is the most important thing to do or/and learn to becoming a SUCCESSFUL director of photography?


For better or worse, building a career that will pay all of your bills isn't just about the quality of your work. Naturally, as a DP, at the very least you have to know how to light a set and get an exposure that makes sense for what you are doing. Practice and experience will improve your skills in creating and not just "illuminating." But just as important to building a career are the relationships that you develop. You may have incredible technical and logistical ability, but if no one knows who you are, you're likely to lose jobs to DPs who may be less qualified, but know the right people. The way to meet those people is to get out there and work. Be willing to start on small projects, but don't settle in comfortably at any level. Talk to others no matter what they do and let them know what you've been up to. Make a reel. Get an agent. Make calls yourself. Never stop trying.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 07:04 PM

Looking back - there was no defining moment. No watershed. It was a progression, derived from hard work, networks, tiniest bit of talent and whatnot. But as a general rule, network and personal conduction is more important than talent. Talent plays a part, but if you're a difficult a**hole, it won't last. Unless you're so good you're a genius.
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#6 greg bates

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 07:42 PM

tiniest bit of talent and whatnot.


Lol, gimme Adam's tiniest bit of talent anyday! By the way I miss those BTS pics on your site.

Edited by greg bates, 23 June 2007 - 07:43 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 02:03 AM

What one thing you did that really seperated you from starving to being a full time DOP?


About ten years of being supported by a very forgiving wife...
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#8 Nate Downes

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 10:57 AM

About ten years of being supported by a very forgiving wife...

I know how that is. We figured out last night that we can afford for me to persue DP'ing full time, instead of "an odd job here and there" so starting august, time to get to real work.
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#9 Matthew Buick

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 06:54 PM

That sounds like excellent fun. Best job in the world, I say. :D

I'm going to try and get a degree of some sort before persuing a career full time. Then at least I have somethinf to fall back on if it all goes pear-shaped. :)
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#10 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 05:09 AM

Did I mention luck? You need tons of luck. :rolleyes:
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#11 Michael Nash

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 06:44 PM

Looking back, a big factor for me has been learning the business/client side of it. That it's not all about you, what you want, or even how spectacular your images look. It's about knowing what the client wants and needs, and doing whatever it takes to give that to them with quality and grace.

Your own dreams and visions will make you to strive to do better work, but your clients are paying you to execute their vision, not yours. When I made the decision to be more adaptable in my style, I not only got more work but actually started doing better work.

The flip side of that is that you still have to consciously guide your career in a particular direction. I've probably been too flexible in the kinds of projects I'll take on, and haven't built the momentum I would like in any single market niche.
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#12 Chris Walters

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 06:19 PM

I'm still in school, and far from professional, but I've noticed what really helps getting called back is attitude. Someone else stressed it before, but I believe it is the most important aspect. Having a personable attitude with the "client", director and other crew makes the set much more enjoyable and that really helps people work harder on the long 14+ hour days... You should also realize that the film is not about you (like Michael was saying) You're just one bolt that holds the movie together. I would also recommend working as a electric, gaffer, or part of the camera crew to pay the bills because there is always more of those jobs than DP or directing. This will also allow you to see what other shooters are doing which you can take notes from or even say I would have done it another way (obviously to your self and not to the other DP) There are so many jobs in this industry that you can learn and practice your trade while learning and networking with those who have already found their path. Best of luck to you. The best advice I got from all the DPs I've talked to is to never give up. If your serious about making this your career never lose sight of your dreams and goals. Again good luck and happy shooting.


Chris Walters
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 01:19 PM

It also helps if you're perhaps the calm one on set. On a shoot a couple months ago, things were getting kinda crazy, we were having sound issues and falling behind schedule. Just a little grace under pressure on my part and a quick solution to our problems really helped to calm down the entire vibe on set and get back on schedule.

If you're able to do that, and people notice that it comes from your ability to not freak out when a problem arises, then they'll give you a call for future projects for sure.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 04:46 PM

It also helps if you're perhaps the calm one on set. On a shoot a couple months ago, things were getting kinda crazy, we were having sound issues and falling behind schedule. Just a little grace under pressure on my part and a quick solution to our problems really helped to calm down the entire vibe on set and get back on schedule.

If you're able to do that, and people notice that it comes from your ability to not freak out when a problem arises, then they'll give you a call for future projects for sure.


That definately helps. The AD in those situations often (well meaning, but still) tries to hurry the pace and it gets everyone in a tizzy. A calm (not to be confused with lazy of course) crew is definately a more effective crew.
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#15 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 12:18 AM

Show us some of your work.

Jamie
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Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

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