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How do I get a job shooting for cable?


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#1 Nathan McCann

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 08:54 PM

I've spent several years shooting news and I'm interested in taking another step up the ladder. The most natural next step for me seems to be shooting for an unscripted cable show (ie - Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Top Chef, etc.).

What advice can folks give me on getting a job as a shooter for shows like that? Any ideas about what the pay might be? I'm living in Richmond, VA and don't really want to uproot right now. Can I stay here and get gigs like that or am I looking at a move to New York or LA?

In the long run I'm hoping to do cinematography for feature films. Hopefully this is a good next step.

Thanks.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 09:16 PM

I've spent several years shooting news and I'm interested in taking another step up the ladder. The most natural next step for me seems to be shooting for an unscripted cable show (ie - Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Top Chef, etc.).

What advice can folks give me on getting a job as a shooter for shows like that? Any ideas about what the pay might be? I'm living in Richmond, VA and don't really want to uproot right now. Can I stay here and get gigs like that or am I looking at a move to New York or LA?

In the long run I'm hoping to do cinematography for feature films. Hopefully this is a good next step.

Thanks.



Well, to address your last statement, the short answer is "no." Those in the narrative feature world have very little respect for anyone who shoots news or "video" of any kind. No matter how good you are at lighting or shooting in general, the assumption is that all videographers are untalented hacks. Some ARE, but so are a lot of "film" DPs, but the prejudice is out there and you'll have to work through it, fair or not.

If you truly prefer to shoot narrative features, shooting "cable" shows is not the next step. You'll have to probably volunteer your time on student films at first for NO money, but you'll get experience in that environment while you build a reel and meet people. Once you get a firm grasp on that working protocol and feel comfortable shooting in a feature world, you can put yourself out there as qualified to shoot an indie film, hopefully for some money.

IF you manage to get yourself in the "cable show" circle, you'll likely be working as a freelancer who will sometimes do a show and will fill the rest of your time with random day jobs shooting entertainment and corporate interviews in order to keep income coming in. The freelance world of Videography is very different from the "cushy" world of being a narrative DP where you show up and have assistants doing all the heavy lifting for you. Freelance Videographers often own most or all of their own camera and lighting gear (camera, sticks, light kit, c-stands, flags, grip/electric aks, sandbags, magliner, etc) and have to transport it all in their own personal vehicles, load it into the location on their own (perhaps with the help of the Sound Person), and setup in a less than ideal room with the expectation of perfection despite the obvious limitations of time and resources.

It's a bit easier for those from the Videography world to move to the feature narrative world because the effective work load gets easier. But for those who grew up in the "film" working protocol, the move to "Videography" (documentary, entertainment, corporate, etc) is more difficult as they aren't used to having to be "one man bands" who transport, move, setup cameras and lights, and often have to produce and direct on top of it all.

How you GET a job in either environment always comes down to "who you know." Sending resumes and reels "cold" doesn't usually work as most Producers worth working for already have lists of Cameramen and Sound Mixers they like working with. Some Producers for shows like that use crewing services that are essentially "agencies" that take a percentage of YOUR earnings in exchange for getting you a job. Not a bad deal if you would like to branch out, but it is at a cost.

Otherwise, just get out there, find out which independent production companies produce the shows you'd like to work on and try contacting them directly. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll take a look at your resume and reel. If not, try to find out who they DO use and try to get to know them. They won't be keen on you wanting THEIR job, but maybe... if they like you enough... maybe they'll recommend you for OTHER shows.
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#3 Brian Leid

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:39 AM

Nathan,
There is Keystone Pictures in Philadelphia that does a lot of cable shows for TLC, DIY and Travel Channel. Keystone Pictures
We hire their shooters for a lot of our projects. Their crews are some of the best I have worked with.


Brian
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:59 AM

Hey Brian, thanks for that. I'll have to stalk them now too along with Shooters ;)
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#5 Nathan McCann

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 08:54 PM

Thanks for the feedback everybody! I'll check out Keystone.

- Nathan
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#6 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 09:59 PM

Keystone is good people. They also happen to be a great (albeit small) rental house. I can't speak highly enough of their rental tech (and AC) John Dearnley.
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Glidecam

Visual Products

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Tai Audio

rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets