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"What else could I do?"


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#1 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 07:51 PM

As most people in this business, I jumped in with both feet unaware of what my LIFE would really be like when/if I "made it."

After having "made it" (whatever that means), I wrote my book, What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood, which describes everything that I wish I would've known before I moved out to LA from Ohio.

I left ACing behind a few years ago and have been shooting behind-the-scenes for a few years now, which is a really great way to combine my film set experience with my video experience. As I travel from set to set, I quite often run into familiar faces and we have a few minutes to catch up since the last time we saw one another.

Inevitably, most "veterans" I know tell me two things: 1) I wish that your book had been available before I got into the business, and 2) I've been wondering what else I can do for a living (because of the way the film industry has been changed in recent years).



I've often wondered that for myself. I didn't move 2,500 miles from Ohio to be an AC or to shoot behind-the-scenes. I did move out here to "work in the movie business," but pushing carts around and watching other people work isn't exactly what I had in mind. I do have more I'd like to accomplish in this business before I call it quits. As I write book two (What I Really Want to Do: OFF set in Hollywood), I still have scripts out there and do hope to direct someday.

But as I grow older, that nagging question still lingers at times: What else could I do for a living? I'm not really qualified for anything else and cubicle life with set hours and two-weeks vacation doesn't really suit me or how I'd like to spend the remaining years of my life. I've thought that being a fireman sounds intriguing, but I think I'm almost too old now for that. I may have no choice but to stay in this industry. I enjoy the work, but the politics and "logistics" do tend to wear down on us after time.

So I wonder how many others out there have similar feelings? I know that I'm not the only one as so many of my Camera Department compatriots have expressed to me over the years.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 08:35 PM

I am young, and stupid. And often I wonder, being young and stupid, if I should even keep trying to DP, or if I should call it quits. Am I good enough? Will I make it? I don't know. I just know I have to keep trying or else I'll go mad.
If I wasn't doing this, I'd probably continue at my "day job," working in IT. . .
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 09:51 PM

I wanted to be an oceanographer, but apparently you need good grades in school for that, go figure?

I have managed to combine my interest in marine life and film on many occasions though, shooting and selling my dive video.

I've re-adjusted my life time feature film count from 10 down to five. I've done one, and my next one is planned for Oct 1st, 2009. Yes I know one year of pre-prod is a long time, but I'm pacing myself.

I have thought about a career in law, apparently people tell me that with my argumentative nature I'd be good at that. Argumentative????????....bah! :D

R,

PS: I have two sons, they will NOT be in the film biz come hell or high water!!
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#4 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 08:18 AM

The question on my mind is not so much "What else could I do?" but rather "Where else could I do this?" I don't know about you all but I'm starting to feel a little paranoid about our crumbling economy. When congress starts discussing martial law, you know the poop's hit the fan.
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#5 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 10:11 AM

I have to admit, I was thinking about this too....if only to provide a sense of balance to my life and to remind myself of the world outside this business. As some of you guys know, my "other" job is as a film camera technician...to which I am still very new, but definitely willing to learn more. Unfortunately, this position is not exactly in high demand, so for now it remains something I do on the side when I'm not working as an AC. When I moved back to New York a couple of months ago, I looked all around to see if any rental houses or schools might be interested in hiring me to help them out. I happened to pop into New York Film Academy and found out that their SR mags are in pretty rough shape. I am not getting technician's wages, but now I have something else to do when I'm not working that provides me a paycheck, an opportunity to keep learning this stuff, and also helps NYFA out.

If I had to choose a career completely outside of the film industry, I would probably put my BFA in Sound Design to use and try to find work as an audio engineer, recording or mixing. I am familiar with Pro Tools, Logic, Reason, and the ins and outs of most mixing boards, so what the heck, why not.

If I had to choose a career completely outside of the entertainment business, I would probably follow in my father's foot steps and start learning more about construction and home renovation. I've been his assistant" on various house projects since I was in middle school. I know how to paint, spackle, tile, and lay sheetrock, I know my way around most tools, and it's fun to come to a crappy, ugly house and make it nice.

Or, I guess I'd be a writer. I have been writing poetry, essays, and short stories since I was 4 years old and have never had the guts to pursue publication, but maybe it's time!

I think people like us are luckier than people who have been at the same job for decades. As freelancers, we have been forced to constantly think about "what else" or "what if" anyway...so it's not as new to us, as it is to people who suddenly find themselves facing unemployment and have forgotten what else they can do.
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#6 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 10:58 AM

I have two fantasies.

1) Owning a golf course.

2) Owning an ice cream parlor.

I think I could be satisfied with either. I like doing things that make people happy.
:P
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:02 AM

Or, I guess I'd be a writer. I have been writing poetry, essays, and short stories since I was 4 years old and have never had the guts to pursue publication, but maybe it's time!


Hey Annie. You could become a writer, but you'd have to start drinking again to do that one ;-)


It seems that the average film-industry person craves flexibility, and working for themselves, with the exception of the folks that "give in" and work for TV. Then they get sick of it after five or seven years and want to go back to flexible work.

So, probably teaching, still photography, and small business would all be a nice fit, as they all tend to be pretty flexible in terms of having time off or being able to make your own schedule.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:06 AM

Actually. . my other fantasy job is to either own a book shop and/or a cafe (or a bar on the beach on a tropical island). But I really suck at accounting.
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#9 Justin Hayward

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:11 AM

You could drive a truck.
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:13 AM

You could drive a truck.


Yeah, actually quite good money in this. Only problem is, the really flexible positions involve owning/operating, which, despite recent relief in gas prices, are still prohibitively expensive.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:24 AM

I've been tempted at time to look for a teaching position in filmmaking -- I figure with ASC after my name, my credits, and one textbook, I could get a job somewhere if I wasn't in a hurry (positions don't open up regularly at schools). The academic schedule suits my nature...

I'm sure as I get older though, I will go from being attractive to a college as a teacher to possibility being too over-the-hill, as some retired cinematographers have discovered when applying for teaching positions -- many schools would rather hire some 30-year-old recent graduate who is current on video technology than a 65-year-old ASC member with forty years of feature and TV experience...

Other than teaching, I don't have a fallback plan other than writing about filmmaking, which cannot support most people as a sole means to an income.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 11:37 AM

I've been tempted at time to look for a teaching position in filmmaking -- I figure with ASC after my name, my credits, and one textbook, I could get a job somewhere if I wasn't in a hurry (positions don't open up regularly at schools). The academic schedule suits my nature...


I think you are a natural teacher. Look at this site. It really is a monument to your passion for helping others understand cinematography. It'd be too bad if a film school didn't see your potential, really their loss.

Well, I know you are busy actually making movies these days, but have you ever thought about teaching one class, as a part-time faculty member David? That'd be a great way to get your foot in the door so to speak, and I'm sure if you did get a two- or three week shoot during the course of a semester, a college would be willing to accomodate your absence with a substitute.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 12:26 PM

I think you are a natural teacher. Look at this site. It really is a monument to your passion for helping others understand cinematography. It'd be too bad if a film school didn't see your potential, really their loss.

Well, I know you are busy actually making movies these days, but have you ever thought about teaching one class, as a part-time faculty member David? That'd be a great way to get your foot in the door so to speak, and I'm sure if you did get a two- or three week shoot during the course of a semester, a college would be willing to accomodate your absence with a substitute.


My work comes in big chunks of commitment -- two or three months for a feature, four or six months for a TV series, etc. Not to mention the month or so looking for that work. So it doesn't matter if it is a one-week class or a three-week class, agreeing to do anything other than for a weekend would basically mean taking off from cinematography work for a semester period. It would be different if I had a regular career shooting commercials, but I don't.
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#14 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 12:46 PM

It is interesting how many of us share this "what else could I do for a living" feeling. Here I thought I was the only one having internal career second-guessing.

I personally go back and forth from features to commercial to industrial to shorts and TV every six months or so. They all have interesting aspects, but I have found that after a while they all wear me out. Politics on and off set definitely drive me insane. I still can't find my niche, which is fine cause I am still relatively young and this town does not afford the possibility of doing one thing and one thing only for a living.

Lately I have been doing a bit of all of them at once, day playing I mean. And I actually enjoy that since I don't get tired of any single one as I move between them. I don't think I can sustain that forever, but it is nice for now.

I have often thought about doing something else, like being a chef, as I love to cook (but not for a living). I always come back to working with images one way or the other. Music is my other passion, but alas, it is even harder to make a living just doing that, recording and/ or playing.

Perhaps doing documentary-style camerawork around the world wouldn't be so bad. :) I just want to get out there and see the world and record it for someone else to see.

Nice job, if I can get it . . .

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 12 October 2008 - 12:47 PM.

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#15 Walter Graff

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 12:49 PM

This is an important thread. Maybe one of the most important here. It speaks of reality. That reality is that it's difficult to get into this business, hard to maintain a career in it, and near impossible to retire doing it.

There isn't a person who doesn't think about it, whether starting out, having been doing it for a few years, or folks like David and I who have been doing it over 25 years. I am always looking for new things to do too. I've always loved teaching. But I hate the system, so I teach my own seminars, and make DVDs to help those starting out get some understanding of the art. I could probably support myself easliy doing it.

I also work in areas of advertising and marketing outside of this business so I always have that to fall back on it it is available. I also do quite a bit of multimedia consulting. And I work with a group of investors giving advice and helping get new ventures off the ground. Basically if there is a job, I can usually wear a hat to do that. But I am a multi-tasker so it is easier for me than others I know. I think my diversity has helped me keep going longer but then again it's always in the back of my mind.

Most folks narrow themselves and their talents into something and like some have stated here, they can't think of anything else to do. I will say from seeing folks move into new areas outside of this that the biggest fear is doing it. No one I know regrets the move and is happier now that they did it. A few I can think of: one is a creative at one of the apple stores in NYC, another into real Estate, another started a temp service, still another runs a charter boat service.

For me, I've always wanted to be a gardener. Give me a truck, trailer and tools and I'd be perfectly happy cutting grass. It was a passion in high school when I worked from 3am-8am at a golf club, when to school and then worked till 10 at night. If any thought keeps coming back to me it's this. I already have all the machinery I would need to start and the trailer too.

One of the disadvantages of working outside of a system, and for yourself is that wth as much as you know, you are unemployable in the corporate world. I've considered settling into a job at one of the Disney owned organizations but I know too much, get things done too fast, and that doesn't go well with a system where it all has to be done a certain way. Bottom line is that making moves out of this business are tough as this business doesn't give you much to go on to work in anything else.

I'd say start with a website or book on careers. Find a few that catch your eye and see if you want to try it. The worst you could do is fail at it, but I doubt anyone would. If you find something you like to do, you can do anything. And even if you don't like it, if it's about paying the bills, it's surprising how fast people learn to like something.

Then again think of how many people have horrible 8 to 6 jobs they hate and yet do it till they die. Certainly there is something one can do that they like and still pay the bills.
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#16 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 12:56 PM

I have often thanked David Mullen for providing top notch cinematography information on this site and others. Sharing his hard earned knowledge seems to be second nature to him. Definitely, David is the single person I have most learned cinematography from, so teaching (and writing) would seem like viable alternatives for him - if his busy schedule permits.

Thanks again, David.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 12 October 2008 - 12:58 PM.

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#17 Ira Ratner

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 12:59 PM

At 51, I'm able to discuss this mid-life crisis with the best of them--although I never worked in the industry. But I CAME to film now as a hobby because of that mid-life crisis.

My basic spin on life is that as far as work goes, it usually sucks. Whoever came up with this working for a living idea should be shot, and even if you're doing what you thought you wanted to do, it still sucks.

So I get up and go to my job to pay the bills, but I know that the more enriching, satisfying areas of my life will never have anything to do with a "job."

If I was a porn star, I'm sure I would find a way to be miserable doing THAT. It's just the nature of "work."

And before you start flaming me, this is just how I feel about it.
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#18 JJ Garcia

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 01:14 PM

I hope you don't mind if i chime in, but couldn't help read this thread and wonder to myself if i'm making the right move in my life.

I make almost $100K a yr and i'm 28 with no degree, i work for a pvt aerospace company, but i'm leaving all this to pursue what i believe to be my dream. I hav no experience and i think at my age that i've got a late start in cinematography. When i read these posts by you all and as i can see all of you are very versed in film and have probably done great things in the past, i start to question if i'm making the right choice. I truely believe i am, but again, like i said i'm worried. This is a new chapter in my life, and the "If's" tend to get the best of me. 10 years ago or so i worked with Cirque du Soleil and i thought that was the coolest and best job i had ever had, so far it still is, i've also fought in Iraq when i was in the service for six yrs. Military was good to me, but i would never go back.

I know i'm about to venture into a difficult industry, but it can't be any harder than living in a tent for a year in a hostile environment, or can it? I know it's not for the faint of heart...

Sorry to butt into you're thread.



JJ
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#19 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 01:17 PM

It's just like a long ruck-march. It's not whether or not you can do it, it's whether you got the balls to keep at it till the pain goes away and your feet just keep plodding you on to a big plate of chili mac.
Second thoughts always happen. It's quite important to reevaluate one's life here and again, I think.
I miss chili mac.
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#20 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 01:25 PM

I make almost $100K a yr and i'm 28 with no degree, i work for a pvt aerospace company, but i'm leaving all this to pursue what i believe to be my dream. I hav no experience and i think at my age that i've got a late start in cinematography.


If this is really the case then you're the craziest one of us here! :D

R,
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