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Reconciling DP aspirations with parent


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:32 PM

Hello All,
In another year, I'll be done with film school, and I'm faced with entering the world at large and trying to start a career for myself as a DP. I'm aware of the time and hard work necessary to be a success, and I'm willing to go all the way. I'm ready to put up with all the challenges, yet I'd be lying if I said I wasn't damn scared about it all. It doesn't help that my mom seems less than enthused by my aspirations. I love her, and I try to understand where she's coming from.

She wants me to live a happy and comfortable life, and I think our ideas of that differ. While I talk about moving to Austin to start working on student and indie films, and finding work with a rental house or post house, she talks about me living close to home, or working for a university, or a film archive or otherwise finding a job that will pay enough so I can get a nice apartment and afford health insurance and all that. I try to tell her I don't want that. I don't want to wind up in some job that will become my life. A nice house and car with a good healthplan is not my top priority, and not one I expect to achieve starting off the bat. I take care of myself, and if it comes down to it, I could make it for a while without health care.

I try to tell her how important it is to me to become a DP, how I'm committed to pursue it until I am no longer physically able. She talks about me setting a time limit, of knowing when to give up and find "real" work that pays. I couldn't imagine that. I figure, I've got one shot in this life, and I don't want to just have a job and a mortgage, and retire at 65, although that would be nice. I want to do something great, and I want to do it through cinematography.

Getting, then, to my question. Have any of the rest of you had similar situations with parents? How did you reconcile your dream with your parent's wishes? What did you say to them? How did you convince them that you knew what you wanted?

Brian
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:48 PM

"A nice house and car with a good healthplan is not my top priority, and not one I expect to achieve starting off the bat."

Don't worry...your future wife will ensure that a nice house, car, and a good health plan, WILL be your top priorities in life. ;)

Every one in this business faces the same hurdles that have been described on this site a 100 times before, there a 1000 applicants for every job, work comes and goes, etc etc.

I have a good friend who has directed two feature films that are widely available on DVD. This week he had to take a job in a warehouse, no film work is available. His wife is fed up with the film industry and wants him to get out of it. This a pretty typical story I'm afraid to say.

Film work is fine when you're 25 and single. It takes on a whole new game when you're married, and have children to support. It's ok for you to not have health insurance for your self, would you take that chance with one of your children?

Tell your mom you're moving to Toronto to work in the film industry there so you'll always have gov't provided health care whether you are working or not.

R,
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#3 Nate Downes

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 06:28 AM

I have a good friend who has directed two feature films that are widely available on DVD. This week he had to take a job in a warehouse, no film work is available. His wife is fed up with the film industry and wants him to get out of it. This a pretty typical story I'm afraid to say.

Reminds me of a friend of mine. Worked as a camera operator on oscar winning films, emmy award winmning TV shows, and when I met him, he was a retail sales clerk, not finding work for awhile.
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 08:02 AM

If it is something you want to do then go for it. Your parents have every right to be concerned about you. They wan the best for you. Seeing you want to enter a career that may never work out, will probably never offer you a job, or any guaranteed security is a concern. But if you don't try you may never know. And you are young enough that if it does not work out, you can always find something else to do. Let no one kid you. You are embarking on a 40 year career path. Sustaining work for that long and having something to show for it in terms of money to support yourself and retirement money is difficult in any field these days. And this business has far too many people trying to enter it. So many that new genres of work have been created with no budget film making, mini indie film making, and various other levels of work that support work but not a career. I would guess that 90% of the people you see on this site will not be working in the field of TV or film in 10 years. The infrastructure is simply too small for the hundreds of thousands of peopel trying ot become someone in the industry.

Okay, so there is one reality, it's tough. But why should you not try? Of course if it does not work out, you'll know real quick when you have no money and can not pay bills and buy a meal. We have all been there. One thing your parents are right about that you need to change your attitude about is making enough money to support yourself. No you don't need to drive fancy cars and the like, but once you wake up to the economic realities of the real world, you'll regret not wanting to find work that can support you. Not saying this endeavor can't, it might. But like any career it is a ladder. Most folks who want to enter this field work for 8-10 years before finding something that works for them in terms of finding what they like to do and finding work to do it. That means 8-10 years of on again off again work. Sometimes lots of fruit and sometimes none. Have a backup plan or other interest that also allows you to pursue this interest. I often say that today's wannabe filmmaker is more like an actor. He wants to get into something that has a small pool of people working in it, not as many jobs as applicants, and little long term career style work. To find a method that allows you to practice your art while supporting yourself can be challenging. But make no mistake about this, making a living is the most important thing you will have to satisfy. If that is not clear to you, it will be. So if you are passionate, let no one make any decisions for you. But do know that any field of art is one where one has to balance artistic desires with a business model that allows them to live and eat. Too many people loose themselves to the art and forget the business.
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#5 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 08:40 AM

But make no mistake about this, making a living is the most important thing you will have to satisfy. If that is not clear to you, it will be. So if you are passionate, let no one make any decisions for you. But do know that any field of art is one where one has to balance artistic desires with a business model that allows them to live and eat. Too many people loose themselves to the art and forget the business.


Spot on Walter.
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#6 Nate Downes

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 08:46 AM

Spot on Walter.

Hear Hear!

Now, you can make a living as a DP, it does take a lot of blod, sweat and tears along the way. Be glad you're starting now, and did not let 10 years of a "real job" get in the way, and leave you at 31 looking back only on regretting not doing it when you had the chance, and starting the work later in life.
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#7 Brian Rose

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 10:33 AM

But make no mistake about this, making a living is the most important thing you will have to satisfy. If that is not clear to you, it will be. So if you are passionate, let no one make any decisions for you. But do know that any field of art is one where one has to balance artistic desires with a business model that allows them to live and eat. Too many people loose themselves to the art and forget the business.


I absolutely agree, and perhaps I didn't make that clear in my initial post. I will definitely have to have a job that pays the bills while I build a resume and make a name for myself. I'm hoping to find some kind of work where my skills would be useful, like in a lab, or rental house or post house, but ultimately I will have to find work to support my greater aspirations. And that's the key. A job in the 9 to 5 sense would be for me a means to a career, not the career itself, and that's where I tend to come into conflict with my Mom. She seems to be more focused on success in a material sense: a nice place, a family, a well paying job at a Name institution with benefits and a title, and some upward mobility. I don't blame her. She and my dad worked hard for the live they (and I) have had, and they just want the same for me.

I'm of the mind that without careful planning, a career in cinematography could quickly be derailed by having to make house payments, caring for a wife and family and all that. I don't want to just continue my parent's way of life, but go further, and give back, and I want to do it through cinematography.

What leaves me troubled is I care a lot about them and what they think of me. I can put up with all the hard work, cheap living and hard knocks that comes with the profession, but I'm disturbed at the thought of them not being proud or approving of my work, or looking down upon me because I have not chosen to pursue a safer, steadier line of work. It is important for me that they believe in me, and support the choice I have made. The challenge is how to convince them that I know what is right for me, and I have not arrived at the decision with naivety or haste.

Brian
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 11:11 AM

Ha.

I have very little money, no car, and at nearly 30 am only just about to start owning property by going in with someone else. I will probably never be able to retire.

But what's the point of living? Rat race day after day, commuting, nine to five doing a task you hate? For what? Doing more tasks you hate for the paltry reward of two weeks a year where you get to do what you feel like? That's a particularly appalling form of purgatory.

I must admit that I'm beginning to itch for a more comfortable lifestyle. I don't think it's reasonable that I shouldn't be able to afford property, but then again, a friend of mine who's head of department at a local (what would be considered) high school is in the same boat. People who do much simpler jobs than mine make more money than me - but they're utterly miserable and will, in general, spend a quarter of their lives doing things they hate (and another third sleeping).

No it's not reliable, it's not going to make you rich, it's not necessarily going to work even slightly. I don't think life is good, or enjoyable, or pleasant either way; I'd just rather have a life of worry and concern doing things I like, rather than a life of worry and concern doing things I hate.

P
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 11:32 AM

When you get to be in your forties, then your mother will stop nagging you about your career choice and start nagging you about your retirement plans, so it doesn't end, that's just the nature of parents...
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#10 Serge Teulon

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:06 PM

Brian,

I believe that to be successful (and I don't mean rich) in our profession requires patience, perseverance, understanding and ingenuity.
The journey is the most important part of it all!

All the best of luck!!
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#11 K Borowski

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:56 PM

I don't think there's a single person here whose parents are supportive of a filmmaking career unless they are ignorant of the difficulties of breaking into it (how many people blindly think the only two jobs in the film industry are actors and directors?) or are filmmakers themselves.

It's pretty much the same for entrepreneurs, musicians, photographers, and other artists. Main stream working-class people fear the insecurities of living these types of lifestyles, yet they derive their own incomes because of (for the most part) entrepreneurs themselves, so there is a fundamental hypocrisy in discouraging the sort of free-spirited, entrepreneurial, self-employing drive that it takes to make it in this field, because this is the sort of drive that has generated industry and working-class jobs around it.

How many catering companies, film labs, rental houses, f/x companies have the entrepreneurs of the film industry to thank for the majority of their income? Someone has to be the first to cross into no-man's land.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:33 PM

Ha.

I have very little money, no car, and at nearly 30 am only just about to start owning property by going in with someone else. I will probably never be able to retire.

But what's the point of living? Rat race day after day, commuting, nine to five doing a task you hate? For what? Doing more tasks you hate for the paltry reward of two weeks a year where you get to do what you feel like? That's a particularly appalling form of purgatory.

I must admit that I'm beginning to itch for a more comfortable lifestyle. I don't think it's reasonable that I shouldn't be able to afford property, but then again, a friend of mine who's head of department at a local (what would be considered) high school is in the same boat. People who do much simpler jobs than mine make more money than me - but they're utterly miserable and will, in general, spend a quarter of their lives doing things they hate (and another third sleeping).

No it's not reliable, it's not going to make you rich, it's not necessarily going to work even slightly. I don't think life is good, or enjoyable, or pleasant either way; I'd just rather have a life of worry and concern doing things I like, rather than a life of worry and concern doing things I hate.

P



Ahhhhhh, it seems like you're actually positive on the film industry here Phil and encouraging this guy to keep going.

Ok so the question is what have you aliens done with the real Phil Rhodes? :D

R,
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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:35 PM

When you get to be in your forties, then your mother will stop nagging you about your career choice and start nagging you about your retirement plans, so it doesn't end, that's just the nature of parents...


I just tell my mother my plan is to inherit her estate, end of discussion. ;)

R,
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#14 K Borowski

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:38 PM

I just tell my mother my plan is to inherit her estate, end of discussion. ;)

R,


My strategy was to tell my parents that if they were so worried about me, they needed to go back into work and get overtime to provide for a more comfortable lifestyle for me ;)
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#15 Paul Bruening

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 04:02 PM

It might help if you explain to her that the film industry is definitely two notches above turning tricks in the street and at least one notch above being a carny. "See, mom? At least I'm not selling insurance!"
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#16 K Borowski

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 04:09 PM

It might help if you explain to her that the film industry is definitely two notches above turning tricks in the street and at least one notch above being a carny. "See, mom? At least I'm not selling insurance!"


Paul, let's back up a second here. You've passed up a great line to belittle insurance salesmen!

"See, mom? At least I'm not turning tricks or running away to be a carny in a traveling sideshow!"
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#17 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 07:59 PM

My strategy was to tell my parents that if they were so worried about me, they needed to go back into work and get overtime to provide for a more comfortable lifestyle for me ;)


Nice! :D

Both my parents and my girlfriend are very supportive of my career choice, thank goodness. As long as I can pay my bills, that is.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 25 June 2008 - 08:01 PM.

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#18 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 01:35 AM

My mother didn't have enough to eat in the 30's in part because her dad was a painter (the oil and canvas kind). She still loved art though, and encouraged her kids in those endeavors until they got out of school. Then she got scared and wanted them all to have nice secure jobs that paid a mortgage regularly. I got one, but not because of my mother. So now my own kids are musicians, and I tell them I support their choice 100%, and I have no idea if they'll be able to make a living at it. Life is long and there are many paths along the way, so do whatever you want and when you need to make a change, then change-- it's not that big a deal. As Baba Ram Das always said, Don't worry, be happy!

Bruce
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#19 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 01:50 AM

My mom still calls me a future Spielberg, even though I have no aspirations to be a director. She's very supportive, but still doesn't quite understand what I want to do.
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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 02:16 AM

My parents have been much more supportive of what I do since I started getting paid work regularly. They still worry when business gets slow, but that's just the way it is as a freelancer! For a while when I was only doing freebies, I would get the lecture about finding "a real job." Ultimately if your parents are anything like mine, they just want you to be able to support yourself and not have to struggle so hard to do so. Once you prove to them that you can make a living working in film, they'll stop nagging you ('course, then they'll start nagging you to get married and have kids, but I can't help you there ;)).
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