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My foot's in the door. Now what?


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#1 Micah Fernandez

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 10:03 AM

I've been helping out at a commercial production company as a lackey of one of the DOPs for several shoots now. While I'm learning a lot about the craft and have been making friends among the technicians, I don't see myself getting any work continuing in this vein. My cinematography mentor told me that I should get chummy with the producers, but the director and DOP (both friends of mine) don't really help me in the social networking department, and I'm generally a shy person. It might seem like a really dumb question, but what can I do to get the right kind of attention?
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#2 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 10:11 AM

Keep learning. Prove to the crew that you are capable, reliable and can handle yourself even when out of your league. I don't know what format you're shooting on, or if your friends have more experience etc., but you can try moving up from "lackey" to AC. Request to take on, or learn, some of the duties of the loader. Get in touch with other DP's and shooters in your area, do your best to work with, and learn from, them.

For all you know, they're waiting for you to step up and begin taking on more responsibilities (especially if its a very small crew/company). Working in this business (and more importantly -- supporting yourself) takes time. Don't be afraid to blunder, fail and struggle on your way!
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#3 Micah Fernandez

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 09:50 AM

Well, that was a simple reply, and yet it made me see things in a completely different light. Thank you for that. My friend HAS been telling me to make myself more visible around set, and I didn't quite understand what he meant. I had the mentality that they've got they're own little crew and if I helped around too much I'd be stepping on toes. Asking to be assigned work for some reason did not occur to me to do. Well, at least today I was able to change the ultraprimes a couple of times. :)

Another question: the DP I work with is Japanese and doesn't speak our language very well, though his English is acceptable. The camera and lighting crew speak our native language primarily, so miscommunications (minor, but they do waste time) happen frequently. I speak both languages very well, and sometimes feel like jumping in to make sure instructions are carried out properly. However, I hold back again on account of fearing that I am overstepping my bounds. Is this a valid concern, or do I need to branch out more as that bridge for the DP and his crew?
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 10:10 AM

Another question: the DP I work with is Japanese and doesn't speak our language very well, though his English is acceptable.

Interesting situation. My first thought would be to ask the DP if he'd like some help but being Japanese he might be a bit touchy about "help" - loss of face??? Is there a Japanese way of asking someone about something potentially embarrassing in such a way that face is preserved? My impression is that it could be a win-win situation for everyone if you became sort of an Assistant to the DP on the crew - there to make certain everyone understood everyone else. It would also have the potential to be very educational for you since you'd be the spider at the center of web and understand everything going on between DP and crew.
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#5 David Regan

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 10:36 AM

I've recently done similar stuff, working as a camera intern on films. One day someone said a bit of advice to me, that mirrors Micahs, and stuck with me, he said "Make yourself indespensible." Prove to everyone else you aren't just some average guy who is getting his kicks being on set but isn't doing much work. Always be there, be attentive and show you want to learn more. More often than not even when I wanted to do more I couldn't, because it was a Union job, but they noticed how willing I was to work, and it payed off.

In regards to the translating issue, I think it is an assitance that would be good for you to provide, but done tactfully. I think it isn't so much overstepping your bounds as you just don't want to look like a show-off, or make the DP feel worse about his English speaking. If you can ask/phrase it in such a way that doesn't make anyone 'loose-face' as Hal said, than I think it would be a worthwhile thing to help out. (Again it will prove how useful you are and helpful)

Good Luck
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#6 Michael Nash

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 05:13 PM

Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.

What are you doing to prepare yourself for more responsibility? What are you doing to pursue or create opportunity?

You have to distinguish yourself. As long as you hang in the background, no one will notice that you have anything to offer and that's where you'll stay. Learn to get over being shy, and don't be afraid to offer extra help when you see an opportunity. The worst that will usually happen is that they will say "no," as long as you use a little discretion when offering your help.

If you want opportunities that allow you to continue down a certain path, you need to make it clear to anyone and everyone who'll listen that that's what you want to do, and that you'd be good at it. If you don't distinguish yourself as something other than a general set of hands with no particular skills, you'll never be asked to do something more. The flip side of this is that working as general "lackey" is what the company wants and needs you to do. So you have to keep doing all the general help, and doing it well, while you prepare for and seek opportunity. That's really the fundamental premise being getting ahead in life; you have to keep doing what you're doing while simultaneously investing in other areas that will pay off later.

Your work ethic and aptitude in a specific area are the things that will be of value to employers. If you demonstrate these qualities consistently to your employers, they may start to trust you with more responsibility.

And give it time. It takes a long time to build a career in the business.
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#7 Matt Pacini

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 06:13 PM

What I'm about to suggest depends highly on the project, but you might try what I did.
(Keep in mind, my career objectives are as writer/director, I shoot much of my own stuff out of necessity, not because I'm trying to break into being a DP.)

A friend was shooting a music video, with a fairly experienced DP, shooting with two 35mm cameras.
I asked him if it would be OK for me to bring my 16mm camera & shoot "extra stuff" on my own, just for a lark.
He said sure, what the hell.
I made it sound like it was just for fun, but I took it dead seriously.
I brought along my Canon Scoopic and intentionally tried to get moving shots & more interesting angles than the "real guy" was getting, & gave him the film afterwards.
He ended up liking my footage more than the 35mm stuff.
Obviously, you can't always just show up with a camera, but I'll bet in a lot of situations, with low budget films, you could pull something like that off.

MP
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#8 Luc Allein

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 01:24 PM

I've been helping out at a commercial production company as a lackey of one of the DOPs for several shoots now. While I'm learning a lot about the craft and have been making friends among the technicians, I don't see myself getting any work continuing in this vein. My cinematography mentor told me that I should get chummy with the producers, but the director and DOP (both friends of mine) don't really help me in the social networking department, and I'm generally a shy person. It might seem like a really dumb question, but what can I do to get the right kind of attention?


Where do you live? If you live in Los Angeles, check the "crew" listing for craigslist. I've gotten some pretty amazing jobs off there. Some of them were even paid. Expect to do a lot of freebies. Hang out at Panavision and practice loading in their dark rooms if it's a slower day, or bug camera crews to do a few days as a free camera pa. If you're not in LA, there's other options.
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Tai Audio

CineLab

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine

Visual Products

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Wooden Camera

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

Opal

Ritter Battery