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How do you keep it up?


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#1 David Calson

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 03:05 PM

I love cinematography. I can't get it out of my system. Lately though, my confidence has been shaken.

I've been talking with some DP friends and they all seems to have extrenuous schedules, working long hours everday, all day (shocking I know). One is working 13, 14 hours days for the next six months.



If put in their place and working almost every waking moment, I don't know if I could keep interest and still stay creatively sharp, still professionally competent. How do you do it? After day 67, after hundreds of setups and meetings, do you just not care anymore?

It seems like having your favorite meal, everday, all day.

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a professional cinematographer, maybe I'm too green at the moment and just need some time to get stronger.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 05:10 PM

Well, I can only speak for myself and my career. There are definitely times when it seems like I'm only doing it for the money. It's very easy to get into a routine and get bored.

But I try to look at every new setup as a challenge to be solved. For me, I'm typically asked to shoot inside a room that's too small, that's not necessarily attractive, with the minimal amount of gear and help, and only thirty minutes or less to do it. While that scenario in and of itself isn't necessarily a Cameraman's dream, it is the situation I have to deal with mostly if I'd like to continue receiving paychecks that enable me to keep doing this and other things. I actually have a more difficult time in some respects when I have too much space to work in, too much gear and people to help out. I'm just not used to working that way, not that I don't welcome it when it happens. :)

I guess the moral of the story is like life itself. You have to find pleasure in the smaller moments and not let yourself get caught up in the grandeur of it all. The more you find challenge and opportunity in each shot, the more you'll realize how much you enjoyed the day after you've gotten home late every night. The quest to become a DP isn't a destination. BEING a DP (or anything else for that matter) IS a journey. You never really reach the destination, because once you settle in and decide that you've "made it," that's likely the day that you will begin phoning it in. Once that happens, what's the point except to collect a check?
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#3 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:55 AM

I love cinematography. I can't get it out of my system. Lately though, my confidence has been shaken.

I've been talking with some DP friends and they all seems to have extrenuous schedules, working long hours everday, all day (shocking I know). One is working 13, 14 hours days for the next six months.



If put in their place and working almost every waking moment, I don't know if I could keep interest and still stay creatively sharp, still professionally competent. How do you do it? After day 67, after hundreds of setups and meetings, do you just not care anymore?

It seems like having your favorite meal, everday, all day.

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a professional cinematographer, maybe I'm too green at the moment and just need some time to get stronger.


Making films is extremely hard work. Most of the public see it as a glamorous profession, and sometimes it can be, but most of all, its gritty, stressful work. But satisfying in the end. Look at it this way, when you are on day 2 of a 30 day shoot and its stretching into hour 18 and tempers are short, just remember all your other friends who are working at an insurance company, or in the home mortgage industry. That alone gets me through the tough days.
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 09:32 AM

If put in their place and working almost every waking moment, I don't know if I could keep interest and still stay creatively sharp, still professionally competent.


I have worked every day strait for the last 9 months. No, not a day off. Not just shooting, but editing at least 50 hours a week on top of shooting, meetings, setting up shoots, doing story boards, coming up with ideas, making radio spots, giving seminars, dealing with problems, etc. I gave up a vacation this spring because of work. I did go on a vacation last year. That was my first vacation in 9 years. I am not driven by money, creativity, or anything else, just a desire to continually do my best and love for what I do. Sometimes I can walk away for a moment and catch my breath, and sometimes I am juggling four or five projects/proposals at once with deadlines. And the work just keeps getting piled on. Plus I'm moving my family in a month so will have to squeeze that in. This business is no more glamorous than selling insurance. My sister does that. She works hard too. She is creative in her business just as any field of endeavor has creativity. I work hard. I may not always be at my creative best, but no one is in any field. But your question is clearly from someone on the outside. You just have to experience it to know if it works for you. Any field of endeavor you get into these days requires a lot of work. A lot! So how do you know if it is for you? You simply have to try it. If you like it, you will not mind making your family second, and every other responsibility outside of your work will be chores you need to get out of the way so you can work. And if you like it, you might find a nice niche. And if not, move on. But you will never know if you do not try. But don't expect any other field of endeavor to be any less strenuous, nor less time consuming.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 10:29 AM

One of the reasons I go to NAB is because it's the closest thing I'll ever get to a vacation - it's damned hard work but at least it's a change of scene.

Haven't had a laze-around holiday since... since... the 90s?

P
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#6 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 12:55 PM

I'm at the tail end of a feature (15 hrs yesterday) and I am sooo ready for some time off. I get three days and then I'm on to another four-day shoot.

For me though, the irregular schedule of the freelance world balances it out. Sometimes there is so much downtime you start to go stircrazy, exhausting your DVD backlog and chomping at the bit to get back behind the camera.

After nearly 20 years of this though, I still learn stuff every day and love what I do.
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#7 Serge Teulon

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 02:03 PM

I absolutely love my job and I feel very lucky that I discovered it....there are millions of people out there that get up every morning and curse the job that they are about to go and do. I only curse having to get up so early!!
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#8 David Calson

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 09:34 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments, and you're right Walter, the only way I'll know if I can is by trying.
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#9 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 10:22 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments, and you're right Walter, the only way I'll know if I can is by trying.


Seems like you are still in college. It'll probably take some time to get to the point where you are working non-stop for months on end, unless you take every camera-crew job that comes your way for the next 3 years (if you are lucky to find the people who hire for those jobs, that is). Unfortunatley, it usually is that for folks just out of college, the opposite of what you fear is true: most of them languish for months on end between film jobs and have to get part time jobs or full time jobs to make ends meet and the majority abandon filmmaking altoghether.

In the event that you find yourself swamped with work, it is matter as figuring out as to how much you want to work, of course. Simply saying: "No, I am not available right now, thank you for asking" can give you a much better quality of life, should you think that is right for you.

I personally work like crazy for a week, and will usually get one or two weeks off. But work keeps coming my way, thankfully. I am booked for the greatest part of next month already, and I want some time off soon. Just today I turned down a feature job offer: they are simply too long and my quality of life suffers tremendously. I don't care how much I am making, if I am not happy, it is not worth it.

So you just have to find what works for you.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 28 May 2008 - 10:23 PM.

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#10 David Calson

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:10 PM

You hit the nail on the head Saul, I just graduated not too long ago and am having career crisis issues. It's the fork in the road, do I commit fulltime to what will pay the bills or linger a little bit and wait for production to pick up...


Even if working in films doesn't cut it enough for me to raise a family someday, or if I'm not cut out for it, I'll always shoot.
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#11 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 12:04 AM

How do you keep it up?


Do what many other professions do that have "jobs" as "lifes", e.g. investment banking, professional politicians, corporate lawyers, full-time artists..: take cocaine.
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#12 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:12 PM

For me it's like Stephen Fry said: " I live to work". Surely after a long shoot I relish getting some time off. But predictably, after just one day I start to get itchy feet and long back to the set again. I even hate weekends because that's two days where I KNOW my agent won't call with a new interesting pencil or job. Quite contrary to the rest of the population, when Monday comes around again I'm super-excited!
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#13 Ollie Bartlett

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:28 PM

cant seem to find a way out of the kit room and onto the set :( ... i just have to know that if i try and learn everything i can, at some point the right person will ask me to assist them
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#14 Ollie Bartlett

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:55 PM

damn 9-5 job!

Edited by Ollie Bartlett, 31 May 2008 - 12:57 PM.

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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:55 PM

No matter what job, what shoot, what i'm getting paid, or what setup I'm on, I always enjoy it. I don't know why, i don't know how. There's a rush which I get everytime I'm in line at a cafe in the morning before heading out with my setwear gloves dangling from my belt, and every night when I stop at Dunkin Donuts to get coffee for the ride home, gloves still dangling and people take a peek.
I love that I may have sweat dripping down my face, but through my viewfinder I am recoding something interesting. maybe it's a shitty shoot and the most boring thing in the world, but watching the light play on people, on things, gives me the quiet moment i need to move on to the next setup; always wanting to do more.
Sadly, I don't shoot NEARLY as much as i'd like/love to. I get a day or two a month, but I'm fresh still so I know that's a good sign. most of it is for too little pay (sometimes no pay,) and most of it will never see the light of day, with production design [or lack there of] which is unprofessional and crewmembers who have never seen a C-stand! But I keep going on, day after day, and I keep learning and trying to do better. That's enough for me.
I think to keep going, whether you're working too much or too little, you have to be insane, out of your mind, to a certain extend. We all have sacrificed much to be where we are in the industry, and we'll sacrifice more along the way. I know I don't mind it, and I think the rest of us here will not mind either. We all find those things about the job which we love which we need, which keep us going. A colorist saying, "wow, this looks really good," to me means worlds (more than the director liking it in fact sometimes). My girlfriend rolling over when I get home and mumbling something half asleep asking me if it went well, or a new PA who hasn't seen a C-stand watching everything I'm doing, and then e mailing me a bunch of questions (more than I'm qualified to answer of course). Those are my cinematographer's viagra, how I keep it up. How I get creative, well, that normally involves me reading the script while pacing back and forth talking to myself and smoking a cigarette, and then dealing with all the multitudinous catastrophes which can and sometimes do happen on sets.


Ok, I'm done ranting (as you can tell I'm not booked anymore, so now I'm itching like mad!)
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#16 Chris Keth

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 09:41 PM

The answer is in enjoying it. If you don't enjoy it, you will never put up with the long hours and nasty schedules for long and will quit.
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#17 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 10:23 PM

If you work long enough you're going to film some boring/uninspiring poop. What keeps me going is that I'm constantly meeting cool new people, seeing new places and learning. And too, every setup, no matter what, is a chance to try something out. If it's just a boring old headshot, try a different key light or frame something up extreme.

That said, I wish I slept more.
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