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Frustrated as hell!!!


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#1 James Leonzio

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:37 AM

Seriously, I'm having a hard time even getting free work!!!!

I just finished a year of graduate film production at Chapman, emphasizing in cinematography. I learned quite a bit about storytelling, which was great, but the more I talked to graduating students, the more I realized that graduating film school doesn't do s@#% in terms of finding real work. Every working professional I got a chance to talk to laughed when I told them I was in film school.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that this business is very competitive and I love to shoot and just being on set, so I have no problem with "paying my dues." I WANT to work hard and learn! I know enough about cinematography to know there is ton more I need to learn.

It just seems like there is no way to actually learn cinematography besides trying and screwing up on your own (which I've already done a bit of). Wouldn't it make more sense to be taken under the wing of good DP and work for him/her (for free of course) to learn hands on directly? Are there any DPs that do this? Sort of like an apprenticeship? I feel like this would be a much more effective way of learning cinematography than going to film school or working your way up as an AC.

If you're a DP, especially if you're in NY, and you have any advice for me I would greatly appreciate it cause I'm this close to giving up and going back to engineering...uhhh, I think I'm gonna be sick.

Thanks in advance,
James
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:43 AM

Wouldn't it make more sense to be taken under the wing of good DP and work for him/her (for free of course) to learn hands on directly?


Well, that would have been nice, but it didn't happen to me. I had to learn on my own, and then work my way up as a DP, from no-budget to higher budgets. But on every shoot, I'd ask crew people what other DP's were like.

It wasn't until this year when I worked with Bill Wages as a co-DP on "Big Love" that I finally got to watch another DP working.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:51 AM

I have no problem with "paying my dues." I WANT to work hard and learn!

...

Wouldn't it make more sense to be taken under the wing of good DP and work for him/her (for free of course) to learn hands on directly? ... I feel like this would be a much more effective way of learning cinematography than going to film school or working your way up as an AC.


So which is it; do you want to pay your dues by working your way on up, or do you want someone to take you in so you don't have to?

Looking at this another way; what incentive is there for a DP to take on an apprentice? There are already assistants, PA's and interns readily available to do the work that needs to be done.

I'm just playing Devil's advocate here. The reality is that you're going to have to continue to screw up and learn from those mistakes for YEARS if you want to become a good DP. There is no shortcut.

Besides, what do you think the camera, electric and grip crew do? They work for a DP, who shows them right then and there, hands-on, every day, how to shoot a movie.
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:07 PM

I'm this close to giving up and going back to engineering...uhhh, I think I'm gonna be sick.

Thanks in advance,
James

If you're already considering another career path, then this business probably isn't for you. I don't think you'll be able to handle 10 more years of trying to "break in" if you're just out of film school and already thinking about giving up.
There's a hell of a lot more money in engineering anyway.
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#5 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:20 PM

Work your way up from camera assistant (loader, 2nd assistant, 1st assistant) , gripping, or working as an electrician. In the non-union world you can float around the departments but (in my opinion based on my experience) you will be able to move up the ladder more effectively in the camera department. Working in the other disciplines can give you great set experience and, as a Director of Photography, knowing something about what an electrician and a grip does on set is very beneficial.
Be prepared for roadblocks and frustrations every step of the way.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:29 PM

Yes I agree with Brad. Oh my gosh Brad and I agree on some thing! :D

But I digress...technically I finished film school in 1995, and made the stupid choice to sign up for network TV. I'll only be here a while I said, yeah right, it was a good way to waste five years!

So finally in 2007 I completed my first feature film, four network commercials, and the week of Dec 17th I'll be flying to scout the location for feature number two I've been hired onto. So maybe I'm finally moving forward, 12 years after leaving film school, yes 12. I don't count my years in TV as having any value.

On a practical side why would a working DP take you under his wing? A guy in his 50s is probably paying for his boomerang kids, the last thing he needs is some 20 some thing guy out there using all of his techniques to compete against him. Most DPs guard their "bag of tricks", it gives them value on a film set.

I hired a CSC member for one day this year, $3500.00 for the day. My guess is that if you got $300.00 a day you'd be happy. This scares the crap out of the guys that command, and need $3500.00 a day, to maintain their life style.

No one will give you any thing in this business, you have to take it. Look at guys like Robert Rodriguez who volunteered for medical experiments in order to raise money for his first film. How far are you prepared to go? You're competing with guys willing to do almost any thing to make it in this business.

R,
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:24 PM

Look at guys like Robert Rodriguez who volunteered for medical experiments in order to raise money for his first film.

How do you do that? How much does it pay? If this strike runs past the end of the year, I'll be looking for money like that.



-- J.S.
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 06:07 PM

How do you do that? How much does it pay? If this strike runs past the end of the year, I'll be looking for money like that.



-- J.S.


Hmmmm, should not be too hard. Selling your plasma is always good as well, big business in the USA.

Of course we all hope the strike ends soon and you can get back to work. A lot of people are being caught in the crossfire in this strike and that really isn't fair at all.

R,
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 10:01 PM

The damned blood bank here won't take my plasma. Something about being out of the country and risk of malaria or the like :(
Anyone interested in a kidney? I need to buy a new zoom lens! :blink:
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#10 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 03:45 AM

I quote from my response to a similar thread:

Bubble burst, welcome to the world of film making. I don't mean to sound cynical or mean, but that's how this is until you can get a reel that will sell your skills to the right people. And then there is the part where you have to find those right people and somehow show them your stuff and convince them that you are the right person for the job.

I can't speak for everyone, but I when I started working, first I had to volunteer as a PA. Then, if one does a good job, and they need someone they may call one back. And then one slowly climbs the ladder, if lucky enough to be in the good with the powers that be. Especially in this line of work. Every one of us wants to be a famous Director, DP, etc. right off. I don't know where people get the idea that this industry is glamorous. These days I work on three of four features a year doing something I much rather not, so that I can go do what I really much rather do mostly FOR FREE in between features.

Unfortunately, that's just how it is when nobody knows just how talented and deserving of $1000 a day we truly are. I see twenty-somethings who have gotten some student film prize while in college maybe, and upon graduating they have to start working as a PA just like the rest of us, be it LA or London. It's called paying our dues.

A lot of people buy a digital camera thinking that it will propel them to where they want to go automatically. While it certainly may help, it is not automatic. Just try asking someone like David Mullen, ASC how easy it is to secure consistently high-paying gigs. And we are talking about talented, experienced and recognized people here.

Sure, it helps if you know the right people, but otherwise, it is just a darn hard slog BEFORE one can actually start making some cash doing this film making thing. I don't mean to give you a lecture, but hey, you asked!
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#11 John Sprung

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 01:34 PM

Selling your plasma is always good as well, big business in the USA.

I've checked that -- it won't come anywhere near to the $4K/month I'd need to keep the house.



-- J.S.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 03:16 PM

I've checked that -- it won't come anywhere near to the $4K/month I'd need to keep the house.
-- J.S.


Oh dear that's a bugger. Well its' tough to make light of a really bad situation :(

Back to the original thread. I've learned in the last 12 months that film schools are doing a horrible job at preparing people for the real world of filmmaking. They are taking their money, and selling them a pile of never achievable dreams. If the yearly crop of film school grads was cut by 90% it would still be too many for the industry to absorb.

Here in Ontario they run ads on TV for the Toronto Film School. They always show people aged 19-24 having an exciting time at the school learning about film and TV production. I always laugh to my self. They should have a course in how to apply for welfare. The "lucky" people around here graduate with their four year degrees and go onto earn maybe $9-$10 an hour.

I can't believe how many new graduates on this site have posted, "I've finished film school now what?"

When I was crewing up my movie I received over 500 resumes for less than 10 positions. I was shocked at how many listed a coffee shop as their "current employer" after film school. What a waste, four years and all that money to work in a coffee shop. You can get work in a coffee shop as a high school drop out!

I've met so many young people with stars in the their eyes about this business, so so many.

R,
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#13 James Leonzio

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 03:42 PM

Oh dear that's a bugger. Well its' tough to make light of a really bad situation :(

I can't believe how many new graduates on this site have posted, "I've finished film school now what?"

R,



Ha, that's what I saw happening at my school. I mean how many DPs have you heard of that came out of film school that started shooting right away, besides Janusz Kaminiski shooting Schindler's List almost right out of AFI? But he probably would have been successful with or without film school.

Even the graduating DPs in my school who were talented seemed to have nowhere to go after school besides more free work. Again, I know this is a tough industry but if you are paying someone $10k+ a semester, you better get some kind of guarantee that you can at least get a paying pee-on position somewhere.

My first year of film school was actually great. It was fun, I learned a lot, worked hard, and I don't regret it at all, but I just saw that tuition money floating away.

The higher ups in film school look at it as a business/investment more than anything else. Students should start looking at it the same way, in my opinion anyway.
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#14 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 10:40 PM

Ha, that's what I saw happening at my school. I mean how many DPs have you heard of that came out of film school that started shooting right away, besides Janusz Kaminiski shooting Schindler's List almost right out of AFI? But he probably would have been successful with or without film school.

Even the graduating DPs in my school who were talented seemed to have nowhere to go after school besides more free work. Again, I know this is a tough industry but if you are paying someone $10k+ a semester, you better get some kind of guarantee that you can at least get a paying pee-on position somewhere.

My first year of film school was actually great. It was fun, I learned a lot, worked hard, and I don't regret it at all, but I just saw that tuition money floating away.

The higher ups in film school look at it as a business/investment more than anything else. Students should start looking at it the same way, in my opinion anyway.


Well the problem here is that film school is an industry, really, first and foremost. I mean how many people would be unemployed if it weren't from kids who go to their film programs. Hell, they want to continue misleading these young minds into thinking they will graduate from film school and go make blockbusters: it is in their best interest. Nobody is going to kill the golden-egg goose.

And most students SO want to believe that they will be the exception to the rule, that they will find someone with $50 + million to go make a movie with, it is obscene. I see it all the time. And if someone dares burst their bubble, watch out! So it is a choice, a self-delusional one, but a choice nontheless.

Also it's about being young and in college, with a million possibilities ahead in life. No one really expects to come fresh out of college ready to get a Nobel Prize in physics anyway, or win a high-profile corporate law case, etc. Who wants to do that boring poop anyway? But film, it feels like anybody can do it. It's the ART thing, the so-called "democratization of the arts" (which is a good thing otherwise). I guess that is probably why most people out of film school get so disproportionately hopeful.

It's like rock and roll: if I had a dollar for every time I heard that such-and-such college rock band was going to make it big, I could finance my own big-budget films. Yeah sure, anybody can make films or play guitar (and they should). But are they going to make a living out of it, put their kids through college, retire on it? How hard can it be to be an Oscar winning DP or director anyway, right?

Edited by saulie rodgar, 07 December 2007 - 10:42 PM.

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#15 Danny Lachman

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 02:55 AM

I had to comment on the paying your dues part. You only have to pay dues until you realize that your the only person who can get you where you want to be.
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#16 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 05:36 AM

Yes I agree with Brad. Oh my gosh Brad and I agree on some thing! :D

R,

If you were just right more often you'd agree with me more often!
My dad told me I was nuts when I told him I wanted to work in the film business. But I didn't care. If you're willing to take "No" for an answer then you're not cut out for this business. It's worse for actors of course, but it's generally the same for all positions on a set.
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#17 John Sprung

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 02:41 PM

It's worse for actors of course, ....

I'm not so sure. Each show has many jobs for actors, but only one DP. The ratio of jobs to people trying to get them may be a wash to slightly worse for cinematographers.





-- J.S.
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 03:41 PM

Well, when I say actors, I don't mean extras or really even day players. I'm talking about actors that are acting as a profession and need to make enough money to live off of (generally leads). And I was also referring to the fact that they audition a lot and hear "NO" much more often than we do. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel sorry for them. They chose this just like we did. When you think about how many lead actors there are on a TV show or feature it is generally a few less or about equal to how many crew members there are in the camera department.
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#19 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 04:19 PM

Ha, that's what I saw happening at my school. I mean how many DPs have you heard of that came out of film school that started shooting right away, besides Janusz Kaminiski shooting Schindler's List almost right out of AFI?


This is a quote from Kaminski!

"Once i made up my mind to be a cinematographer, i never had any doubt that i would succeed.
I worked really hard in film school; at weekends, when other students would go and hang out , I'd be asking around; "Do you want me to shoot
your movie? Do you need a cinematographer? Apparently i became a legend around the school; nobody had ever worked so hard. So after
5 years of film school, i had close to forty 20 min. films; and my demo reel got me my first job."

It's hard work, talent and luck.

Pick 2 as they say in the business!

Kieran.
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#20 Matt Workman

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 02:12 PM

Interesting thread ya'll.

I'm fresh out of school and more or less making a living in NYC working as a DP and gaffing. I'm not rich and famous but I'll say that it is do-able if you go about it the right way.

What is that right way? Can't tell, you'll take my jobs. ;)

Keep on grindin!!!!!!!! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Seriously.
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