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Is it late to pursue DP-ing @ 38?


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#1 jkjas jkjas

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 03:24 PM

After all, they say that life begins at 40? :lol:
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 04:04 PM

Is it late? Yes, but it's not TOO late :)

Pursue on!
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#3 Daniel Smith

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 04:29 PM

There are a few people at my college of near 40. They are going into TV.

Why not give that a go?

Even if it's not lighting directior, it's still a job working with moving image that's a lot more stable than any job in film.

(Weird saying that after the recent cuts at the BBC but that was just a one off...)

Edited by Daniel Ashley-Smith, 23 October 2007 - 04:31 PM.

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#4 Daniel Smith

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 04:36 PM

Plus, they would probably be more open to the more mature people.
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#5 Marc Levy

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 04:49 PM

It's never too late. Just be prepared for the financial strain of the hustle.

Best
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:17 PM

Better late than never. It all depends on how quickly you can get things rolling... if you're not a complete novice, then at least you don't have that long period of initial learning to get through (for example, if you are making more of a lateral career move from still photography, let's say, or lighting design, or shooting local video spots, etc.)
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#7 jkjas jkjas

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:48 PM

You are all so nice to me :) (Even Mr. Mullen who had his first pro credit in his late 20s :) I suspect either because most of you are similar in age, or have previously been "there" yourself.

But are you realistic?

More importantly, am I?

With no previous experience in artificial lighting whatsoever, only a decent, but not too great still photography amateur knowledge, coupled with a decent professional video production work, and my Eastern European genes ;) - am I only kidding myself here?

Most importantly, how much of this is an art, and how much is it a craft? Can I be a complete non-talent "art-wise", but a hard worker with sound logical mind, average technical knowledge ("average" for a working pro DP), and an engaging personality - and still make it professionally outthere?

I guess what I am trying to ask is; it's easy enough to know when there's hope for you (your phone rings regularly), but when and how do I find out that I'm not cut out for this? How do I keep myself in check, and prevent myself from lying to myself?

Any other suggestions, please feel free to unload 'em on me. Helpful are most welcome, but even if they are harsh, I am a big boy, I can take it :)

P.S.

One more thing,

are you all married (happily?)

Do DPs have higher divorce rates than average? You know with the stress of contributing to the "family economy", while trying to "break-in".

Edited by jkjas jkjas, 23 October 2007 - 10:51 PM.

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:54 PM

It's an art and a science, but which amount of each changes shot to shot depending on the demands & needs. Some set-ups are mainly a technical challenge while others are an artistic challenge.

But if you don't have a passion for the art side of it, I'm not sure what the interest is -- it's awfully hard work if you're not getting some sort of personal artistic fulfillment now and then.

There is a higher divorce rate -- it seems -- among film crews, not DP's in particular. It's the long hours, the uneven work & pay, the out-of-town jobs, etc. Luckily I don't have any kids, and I have a supportive wife. In our case, we've been together since 1984, so I guess we are the exception to the trend.

As for wondering if you are lying to yourself, I'm afraid I still wonder that -- it's a long-term fear. Unfortunately you won't know for a decade whether you made the wrong career choice...

It's not a career for dabblers, for the half-hearted. You have to love it so much that you can put up with the disappointments and setbacks because you can't really imagine doing anything else. When my wife sees me trot off to film libraries to do research, or read mountains of books, go to dozens of movies, go to lectures, seminars, meetings, spend all day online discussing cinematography... it's pretty obvious to her at least that I was meant to do this.
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#9 Bugs Haller

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:19 PM

You are all so nice to me :) (Even Mr. Mullen who had his first pro credit in his late 20s :) I suspect either because most of you are similar in age, or have previously been "there" yourself.

But are you realistic?

More importantly, am I?

With no previous experience in artificial lighting whatsoever, only a decent, but not too great still photography amateur knowledge, coupled with a decent professional video production work, and my Eastern European genes ;) - am I only kidding myself here?

Most importantly, how much of this is an art, and how much is it a craft? Can I be a complete non-talent "art-wise", but a hard worker with sound logical mind, average technical knowledge ("average" for a working pro DP), and an engaging personality - and still make it professionally outthere?

I guess what I am trying to ask is; it's easy enough to know when there's hope for you (your phone rings regularly), but when and how do I find out that I'm not cut out for this? How do I keep myself in check, and prevent myself from lying to myself?

Any other suggestions, please feel free to unload 'em on me. Helpful are most welcome, but even if they are harsh, I am a big boy, I can take it :)

P.S.

One more thing,

are you all married (happily?)

Do DPs have higher divorce rates than average? You know with the stress of contributing to the "family economy", while trying to "break-in".

If your Eastern European then that's half the battle right there! LOL!

Seriously though, I think it's good you're trying to be objective about this. One thing is for certain... this business is not something you can half -ass. You're either in or you're out. You either feel the desire from your head to your toes or you don't. To me it's black and white.

As far as making it out "there" (I'm assuming you mean LA) no one knows that but you... and you won't know it until you've put in the time. Whatever you do, don't come to LA unless you're willing to sacrifice and do some hard time. If your not ready for that you'll be torn apart and eaten alive. "Welcome to the Jungle" comes to mind...

And I may get crucified for saying this... but I don't think you can teach someone how to be a DP. Sure you can teach them how to focus, use a camera, choose a film stock, but if you don't already "get it" you never will. You can teach someone how to play piano but you can't make them Beethoven. So... at the ripe old age of 38 I believe you can be outstanding at anything... as long as you were born with the latent talent and it just has to be coaxed out.

And if you're already single... stay that way! At least until you're picking and choosing your projects...
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:20 PM

Knowing the job is probably the easy part. The longer you work, the more you learn and the better cameraman you'll be.

The caveat in that last statement is the part about work. Getting a start can be difficult for anyone. Some people have the benefit of family in teh business who can give them a job (as an Assistant) or they know someone who can help. A lot of people in the business seem to have grown up in Southern California while a few of us made the conscious choice to drive across the country (or from around the world) to do this.

It's your ability to financially survive which will afford you the opportunity to do what you have to in order to break in to the business and also to persevere through the slow times. Some people have trust funds. Others have supportive wives and families. Others have to work for every dollar and live rather sparsely for a long time. Being able to take those sudden last minute calls for somebody's "great project." With any luck, one or more of those "great projects" (Read: freebie) will hook you up with someone who will like you and your work. Or maybe you don't meet anyone who can advance your career, but the shots you get are worth putting on a reel.

Just know that you could hit it big within six months or never. Everybody is different and the cream does NOT always rise to the top. There are a lot of very qualified cameramen (and women) who have the skills but never seem to get the one opportunity (Read: popular movie) that will take them from the low-budget world to something more substantial. Hard work, enthusiasm, perseverance, and patience coupled with skill as creative and technical cameraman are what it takes. And don't forget knowing how to navigate the politics that can get you meaningful work (Read: well paying).

For all of those reasons, becoming anything usually means starting at the bottom or starting out not making a lot of money. Because of that, it can be easier to accomplish your goals when you are younger, before the bills and family obligations kick in. It isn't impossible for someone older to switch gears, but it can take a long time to get to the point where you are paying your bills with your work. If you have enough in savings to outlast the process, you'll at least have a fighting chance at success.


Good luck!
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#11 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:35 PM

There was an American newspaper advice columnist named Dear Abby. A man wrote to her that he always
wanted to be a doctor but now that he could finally go to medical school; he figured that by the time he
finished school he wouldn't be a doctor until he was 36.

Dear Abby said, "Well how old will you be by then if you don't go to medical school?"

Follow your heart. If you have obligations that you can't abandon, but you really love doing this, then you
can at least get started the way many regular working people paint, write poetry, work their regular jobs
and play in bands at local pubs or act in community theater. Some of those people break out. If not
however, they still are finding fulfillment in finding some way to do what they love.


In many communities there are notices posted on local film forums seeking crew for graduate student thesis
films (often high production values) and other projects such as people making their short films for festivals.
Lots of these productions are open to somebody who can offer some skill and committment and will work
for lower pay or for the cause.

The 48 hour film project in many cities is a way in which many people move up and build reels.

You don't have to burn all your bridges to do this. Many no-budget projects shoot on the weekends or
whenever people with regular jobs can do them and many of these projects are quite worthwhile and
furthermore may permit you to use a lack of resources i.e. big lighting and grip trucks, to find ways
to use natural light and homemade lights and ingenuity to do a great job.

There are many novelists who wrote for three hours before going to work. There are filmmakers who
find ways to be filmmakers themselves when nobody is calling them. Sometimes, they get to a point
where people do call them. If not, they still made more films than they would have otherwise.

Good luck.
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#12 Bugs Haller

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:45 PM

There was an American newspaper advice columnist named Dear Abby. A man wrote to her that he always
wanted to be a doctor but now that he could finally go to medical school; he figured that by the time he
finished school he wouldn't be a doctor until he was 36.

Dear Abby said, "Well how old will you be by then if you don't go to medical school?"

Follow your heart. If you have obligations that you can't abandon, but you really love doing this, then you
can at least get started the way many regular working people paint, write poetry, work their regular jobs
and play in bands at local pubs or act in community theater. Some of those people break out. If not
however, they still are finding fulfillment in finding some way to do what they love.


In many communities there are notices posted on local film forums seeking crew for graduate student thesis
films (often high production values) and other projects such as people making their short films for festivals.
Lots of these productions are open to somebody who can offer some skill and committment and will work
for lower pay or for the cause.

The 48 hour film project in many cities is a way in which many people move up and build reels.

You don't have to burn all your bridges to do this. Many no-budget projects shoot on the weekends or
whenever people with regular jobs can do them and many of these projects are quite worthwhile and
furthermore may permit you to use a lack of resources i.e. big lighting and grip trucks, to find ways
to use natural light and homemade lights and ingenuity to do a great job.

There are many novelists who wrote for three hours before going to work. There are filmmakers who
find ways to be filmmakers themselves when nobody is calling them. Sometimes, they get to a point
where people do call them. If not, they still made more films than they would have otherwise.

Good luck.

Well put!
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#13 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 01:05 AM

Helps to be in decent shape (if nobody's said it) all film people are part sherpa, right? schlepping heavy gear around is a hazing ritual in this business. It's fun though :lol:

-Rob-
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#14 Bill Totolo

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 03:21 AM

What can I do but add my two cents. I changed careers late in life as well. You have to drop yourself in whole heartedly and immerse yourself in the craft like you were just dropped into a foriegn land and were forced to fend for yourself.

Save up at least twice as much as you estimate you need, keep your expenses low, say goodbye to any social life, to regular sleep hours, to financial security, to a healthy back and dive in.

On the plus side, well, you really do get to meet some amazing people, see some amazing things and stand in places you never thought possible in your previous life.
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#15 jkjas jkjas

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 09:54 AM

Oh I am all for having an "arty" sensibility, and I am in it for all the right reasons. However, I "feel" like an artist, but I think like a tradesman. I guess my maturity is preventing me from fully immersing myself psychologicaly in this. At my age it's really hard to say "screw everything, I'm gonna do this because I can't live without it no matter what". I'm not an idealist 20-25 year old who can say that and really mean it. Because, let's face it, we can adjust to anything (even if it means adjusting to blowing this off) . If anything, my advancing age taught me that there are no certainities in this life. It's a hard transition, not only due to my age, but also because becoming a working DP is no small feat. Oftentimes, at least on major productions, experienced DP is the most crucial and most knowledgable person on the set.

Being a film director is easy. Any bozo with an arsty sensibility and some knowledge of visual grammar can do it, and often do it nicely. There are stories about first-time directors who had no clue of anything. Most of them were so technically weak, that they had no clue about any of the lenses. They literally did not know the obvious difference between say 28mm and 50mm. And yet, they went on for a successful, glorifying careers, most often than not on the backs of their crew, and especially under-appreciated DPs.

So yes, being a DP is hard. Everyone expects miracles from you. Everone except you to know everything. While a director doesn't need to know anything technically, DP is supposed to know everything. If that's not pressure, couple of dozen producion eyes staring at you, waiting for an immediate answer, I don't know what is :) And on top of that, in the unlikely case of a major success, still no red carpets for you my hardworking anonymous sherpa, because film is a "director's medium".

But I still love it.

If you are visually oriented, and I'd like to think of myself that way, "painting" a "pretty", or at least a "storywise functional" picture is one of the most gratifying professional rewards one can have. I'd rather take a "perfect shadows" and/or an illuminating glow which only a few "techies" notice it, than any red carpets of du jour.

And my age can sometime work as an advantage. Not only am I more mature, more clear-headed, and more experienced socially and people-wise, I am also often able to take shortcuts because of that. I'm not a 22 year old assistant who has to toil for 10-15 years before getting a chance in the traditional Hollywood industry route, when I can get my own gear, print a few business cards, and hit the low budget music videos/film student shorts/indy features route right away (that and a lifetime of continuous learning) - can I not?

P.S.

I've been married for almost 10 years. I have a relatively supportive wife who has a low six figure salary, and I also have a 2-year-old kid. So the things are not that tight, and for the first time in my life I'm maybe a chance to pursue something I really like, as opposed to struggle for existence and my place in this society, which is what most of my immigrant years were thus-far. Yet, I'd hate to be irresponsible, even though I kind of think of this as my "mid-life crisis". Well, some guys go out and buy a Porsche, some guys run off with another woman,

and yet

I'm

falling in love with a lightmeter.

Silly me :lol:

Edited by jkjas jkjas, 24 October 2007 - 09:58 AM.

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#16 Bill Totolo

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 10:09 AM

If you begin the journey allow yourself to be surprised by where it leads you.

I think many of us on this board have adapted our career strategies and have survived because of it.
As a result we find ourselves in places we could not have anticipated and that can be very rewarding.

My experience leads me to believe that life in a cubicle really only leads to life in a cubicle.
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#17 Michael Nash

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 01:09 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that you have to be committed 100% if you're going to pursue cinematography as a career. But who say's it has to be your sole occupation? Perhaps approaching cinematography as a hobby is not what you had in mind, but you yourself said, "we can adjust to anything (even if it means adjusting to blowing this off)."

Now obviously you get out of it what you put into it -- in other words, if you approach cinematography as a hobby you may not get to work on as many productions, with as many tools, or learn as much in the same amount of time as you would if you did it professionally. But if the desire is there to make pretty pictures, just go make pretty pictures!

I have a friend who is a video producer/director, and he built up a decent production company for himself. Around age 40 he got an "itch" and started studying for his pilot's license. Within a couple years he became a commercial airline pilot, while still doing some video projects on the side. For him, what started as a career became a hobby and what started as a hobby became a career. Now he gets to do both.
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#18 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 03:54 PM

After reading the fine responses you have gotten, I would like to add that even though it will be hard, if your heart is in it, then damn the challenges ahead. It's about finding meaninful (challenging) activities what really makes human beings live at their best. I much rather struggle financially being able to do something I truly love than being better off financially but soul-crushed at whatever other job I couldn't care less about.

That said, breaking in could be hard of it could be easy. This industry is all about who you know and will recommend you. If nobody does, you will have a pretty hard time finding people that will give you a chance to shoot their project, especially if you don't have a demo reel. BUT NO ONE WILL HIRE YOU IF YOU DON'T HAVE SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE. To break in the bussiness and keep getting calls, it really is a combination of lots of hard work, good eye, good luck and good connections, as far as I am concerned. If you have a good part-time paying job or money put aside, you can get your name out there by working for free until you get to that elusive reputation as a good cameraman. If not, you can still shoot for a demo reel during weekends. Find good looking people, locations, etc. Then just go at it and learn as much as you can. THINK OF IT MORE AS JOURNEY THAN A DESTINATION. Learn as much as you can, mostly from errors or could-have-been's.

Once you have a demo reel, you can send it to local independent film makers groups, to promote yourself as a cameraman. If someone in the industry sees it and thinks it's good enough, you could send it to talent agencies and small production co's. Not everyone starts by (or ever gets to) shooting multi-million feature projects. There are music video, commercial, TV, industrial and documentary cameramen that are just happy doing their job.

Good luck to you, and the rest of us trying to make it.

S
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#19 jkjas jkjas

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:17 AM

I stumbled upon this webmaster's quote on the http://www.cinematographers.nl homepage (in the lower bottom right corner under the heading "Is there a problem?":

"...Some people are afraid of getting old. They think that others will judge them only by their age. They want to keep their date of birth a secret. And cinematographers are just people. Some cinematographers have asked me to remove their date [and sometimes even their place] of birth. Because, they say, it is private, strictly personal, and publication is harmful to them gaining employment!..."

So my comment is; when well-known working DPs are telling you that posting their age publicly is hurting their chances of employment, what does that tells us about my own question?

Should we take it from the horses' mouths that cinematography seems just as bad in the "ageism" discrimination dept. as most other careers in the U.S.

It's scary outthere isn't it?

Edited by jkjas jkjas, 26 October 2007 - 10:19 AM.

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#20 Tom Lowe

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 09:40 AM

Chris Doyle was in his 30s I think when he started out.
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