Jump to content


Photo

Steadicam Workshops


  • Please log in to reply
42 replies to this topic

#1 Jamie McIntyre

Jamie McIntyre
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 212 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles / Reading, UK

Posted 27 April 2009 - 08:33 PM

I've been looking to attend a 5 day steadicam workshop. The one's in PA fill up pretty quickly and I'm moving back to the UK soon. Could anyone provide me with some quick info on workshops in the UK? Or maybe some good short courses in the Los Angeles area?

Cheers

Jamie
  • 0

#2 Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1234 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 27 April 2009 - 10:03 PM

I just did a google search and found this. http://www.tiffen-eu..._Workshops.html
I bet you could find a Steadicam Operator in LA that isn't working and just pay him and I bet he could teach you everything in 3 days for "fee." I would venture to guess that most Steadicam operators that take the course either own or buy a rig and throw themselves out there shortly after they take the course. It's not really a class you just take for fun. Are you planning on buying a rig. You could probably pick one up here for less than you could in the UK. There are more here.
  • 0

#3 Jamie McIntyre

Jamie McIntyre
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 212 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles / Reading, UK

Posted 28 April 2009 - 03:12 AM

Thanks for your reply. I am planning on buying a rig. Thing is, I'm 21 years old, is it realistic to say I will get work as an op if I own my own rig and I am trained at a workshop? I know steadicam requires years of experience, but where do I start? If I throw down 49,000 dollars on a steadicam and attend the course will I be able to find work or will it be a gross waste of money? These are the things I need to weigh up. I will be living and working in the UK. Is there a serious demand for steadicam ops in the UK?

Cheers,

Jamie
  • 0

#4 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5069 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 28 April 2009 - 04:16 AM

I used to go to a rental house (Joe Duntons in London before Panavision bought them out) and practise there after I did the International Film Workshops Steadicam woorkshop.

Chances are you'll earn more as a camera assistant than a Steadicam operator when you're just starting out and buying a rig is a big risk if you don't already have clients - more so in a recession and assuming you can even finance a rig. It really depends on the level you wish to work at, there are a lot of the lower price rigs out there, but I suspect the people who use them are also doing the full camera job as well, rather than being just specialists.

At this stage of your career you really need to meet people, build up your contacts and understand the on set politics. With Steadicam you're often just parachuted in for one shot or one day, so you really need to know the other stuff as well

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 28 April 2009 - 04:16 AM.

  • 0

#5 Jamie McIntyre

Jamie McIntyre
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 212 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles / Reading, UK

Posted 28 April 2009 - 04:34 AM

I used to go to a rental house (Joe Duntons in London before Panavision bought them out) and practise there after I did the International Film Workshops Steadicam woorkshop.

Chances are you'll earn more as a camera assistant than a Steadicam operator when you're just starting out and buying a rig is a big risk if you don't already have clients - more so in a recession and assuming you can even finance a rig. It really depends on the level you wish to work at, there are a lot of the lower price rigs out there, but I suspect the people who use them are also doing the full camera job as well, rather than being just specialists.

At this stage of your career you really need to meet people, build up your contacts and understand the on set politics. With Steadicam you're often just parachuted in for one shot or one day, so you really need to know the other stuff as well


I get some work as an OP already, I've done a lot of AC work. I'm looking to branch out and broaden my horizons. I guess attending the workshop could do no harm? I have an understanding of ons et politics, finding work at the moment is tough, I thought maybe expanding my skills as a camera operator could help greatly.
  • 0

#6 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 28 April 2009 - 10:41 AM

Jamie:

Lots of information over at the sister forum, steadicamforum.com.

The general rule of thumb is that the most likely people to see initial success at Steadicam at those who are essentially consumed by it, often to the point of obsession. That might sound slightly alarming but it means that you have to have a passion for it, be so fascinated by it that you can't imagine not doing it. Wanting to become a Steadicam operator for the money or "it just sort of seems like a good idea" is generally not a recipe for success. It's highly competitive, takes many years to get good at it (as you mentioned) and $49K is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it will cost you to get properly set up.

Taking a workshop is the single best way to find out if this is all for you or not. It's an investment that will pay back immensely (whichever way you subsequently decide to go).

And...not trying to be a smart-ass, but at 21, your understanding of on-set politics is assuredly still in the nascent stage. More than likely, 10 years from now, you'll look back and go "wow, did I have a lot to learn"! That stuff is far more complicated than Steadicam...
  • 0

#7 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11934 posts
  • Other

Posted 28 April 2009 - 02:22 PM

> Is there a serious demand for steadicam ops in the UK?

No, hell no, absolutely not and far from it.

There is a quality problem with steadicam in the UK, which divides work into effectively two camps:

- Good stuff. This is all done by the likes of Alf Tramontin, Roger Tooley, and so forth. These people are massively practised and you will never, ever be as good at it as they are. There's probably half a dozen, certainly less than ten people in that high-level group and they do all the high-level work where people care about quality. They have all the clients, all the contacts and all the work and they are not going anywhere.

- Bad stuff. It's important to recognise that most of the steadicam that is done in the UK is done abysmally badly. Quality, therefore, is not important; as with much of the rest of the UK industry, who you know is vastly more important. Not that it isn't everywhere; but in LA, say, you'll need to be good at it and know the right people. In the UK, nobody really seems to care if you're good at it or not. I'm an extremely elementary, unpractised steadicam operator, as Mr. Papert is fully qualified to tell you having taught me what little I do know, and I'm probably about as good at it as most of the guys who do the bulk of the "Bad Stuff" in London.

The core of the problem is that we have no film industry; certainly no industry capable of supporting expensive toys like steadicam in more than the most marginal numbers. What we especially don't have is the sort of industry that exists here (I'm in LA right now) where they build enormous standing sets which are lit to look fabulous from any angle, and through which you can wander for minutes on end burning off page after page of dialogue. This is also something Mr. Papert can tell you about and it works very well; it is not regularly, if ever, done in the UK.

In short, steadicam gear has probably never been cheaper, given the amount of it that's being hawked on this very forum, but the sad fact is that the UK still doesn't have the industry to support the investment. The equipment is made in the US and priced to cater to the market there, where people can make several thousand dollars a day, five days a week, six months of the year, on long-running TV series that just don't exist anywhere else.

I wouldn't even bother taking the course; I did, but I didn't have anyone to tell me these sad facts until after I'd got involved in doing it.

P
  • 0

#8 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 28 April 2009 - 02:31 PM

The equipment is made in the US and priced to cater to the market there, where people can make several thousand dollars a day, five days a week, six months of the year, on long-running TV series that just don't exist anywhere else.


By my math that is $10K a week--which series is that?? Sign me up! Although some shows run 9 months a year, so the total amount would be equivalent. I myself can't work on the same TV show for 9 months without going looney tunes.

Anyway Jamie, there you have the unique perspective of Mr. Rhodes, probably the most polarized in that particular direction! Definitely gather a few more and see what you think.
  • 0

#9 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11934 posts
  • Other

Posted 28 April 2009 - 04:49 PM

There are people who regularly make that kind of money, and you know it.

> I myself can't work on the same TV show for 9 months without going looney tunes.

"Oh, no, I'm bored of making enormous amounts of money working on insert-huge-TV-drama. Woe am I."

I'll take those looney tunes!

P
  • 0

#10 Jamie McIntyre

Jamie McIntyre
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 212 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles / Reading, UK

Posted 28 April 2009 - 05:43 PM

> - Good stuff. This is all done by the likes of Alf Tramontin, Roger Tooley, and so forth. These people are massively practised and you will never, ever be as good at it as they are.


Wow, thanks for that. I mean, that is a bit of an extreme statement is not? How can you say I will never be as good as them? They had to start somewhere, there was a time where they had never flown a steadicam before. Am I right?

You're right in saying in should be an obsessive thing, and for me it is, I have never been paid to work on anything, in fact, a few times I've lost out due to paying gas for traveling to locations miles away from my home in Los Angeles to operate and AC on productions - The thing is I don't even mind one bit. I'm doing this, and want to be doing this for the rest of my life, it's not a job for me it's an artistic career (thats cheesy but true). If I was bothered about not being paid now, that would be a serious issue. It's not like I imagine myself working on big hollywood productions on 4 years time, I want to start at the bottom of the ladder, I have no choice in the matter. But I have to start somewhere, would you agree?
  • 0

#11 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 28 April 2009 - 06:27 PM

I managed to miss that pearl of wisdom before--really, Phil, who are you to tell someone they will never be as good at Steadicam as X, Y or Z? That's simply not for you (or anyone) to say without having even met the person--it's not helpful advice. Anyone who is reasonably coordinated has the potential to be great at Steadicam, and also they have the potential to being very successful as a Steadicam operator (and guess what, those are two separate achievements that don't necessarily go hand in hand).

I will resist commenting on the status of episodic television and rates as I don't feel like being told that I am spoiled at every step of the way. If you were less interested in taking the piss and being a wiseass you might actually learn some things about the industry and possibly start to make some of those supposedly enormous amounts of money for yourself, but that's a song we've been singing to you for going on 10 years now and I'm sorry to see that it still falls on deaf ears.

Jamie, it is generally safe to say that owning a rig and having done a workshop will not guarantee you work anywhere; there is never any guarantee or even likelihood. Things are obviously tough out there right now but that might mean that you can pick up a used rig at a good price from someone who is getting out. There's actually an easy parallel to draw between buying a Steadicam and buying a RED camera package; that won't immediately make you a DP, you won't have guaranteed work, there's a lot of competition and it will be a lengthy process to make your money back on your investment.
  • 0

#12 Jamie McIntyre

Jamie McIntyre
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 212 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles / Reading, UK

Posted 28 April 2009 - 08:17 PM

I managed to miss that pearl of wisdom before--really, Phil, who are you to tell someone they will never be as good at Steadicam as X, Y or Z? That's simply not for you (or anyone) to say without having even met the person--it's not helpful advice. Anyone who is reasonably coordinated has the potential to be great at Steadicam, and also they have the potential to being very successful as a Steadicam operator (and guess what, those are two separate achievements that don't necessarily go hand in hand).

I will resist commenting on the status of episodic television and rates as I don't feel like being told that I am spoiled at every step of the way. If you were less interested in taking the piss and being a wiseass you might actually learn some things about the industry and possibly start to make some of those supposedly enormous amounts of money for yourself, but that's a song we've been singing to you for going on 10 years now and I'm sorry to see that it still falls on deaf ears.

Jamie, it is generally safe to say that owning a rig and having done a workshop will not guarantee you work anywhere; there is never any guarantee or even likelihood. Things are obviously tough out there right now but that might mean that you can pick up a used rig at a good price from someone who is getting out. There's actually an easy parallel to draw between buying a Steadicam and buying a RED camera package; that won't immediately make you a DP, you won't have guaranteed work, there's a lot of competition and it will be a lengthy process to make your money back on your investment.


Thanks for your sound input Charles, I really appreciate it. Phil Rhodes' post sort of cut me at the knees a little bit and I was disappointed. I have learnt that nothing in this industry is easy and nothing just 'comes' to anyone, you have to work hard to achieve what you want. I am more than ready to do this, this is my passion, I chased my dream and came over here from the UK to study cinematography. I am here now and all I want to do is to thrust myself into this industry as much as possible. Steadicam fascinates me beyond anything I have ever encountered and I would just love to experience it and work with it, thats why I'm posting here, to gather the opinions of working professionals like yourself.
  • 0

#13 Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1234 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:16 PM

Jamie, I think Phil was just trying to give you a dose of reality and Charles was just trying to give a boost in a very, very rough profession. The very first job I did was a Steadicam shoot with my cousin Peter. I had never even seen a movie camera and here was this awkward and crazy machine. I use to go with him when he would practice going up and down a stairwell. THen I put it on myself and the thing almost took me over. I have never put on one since. But, I have worked with of the best Steadicam operators and some of the worst. To be a good Steadicam operator you have to be a good operator first and foremost. It's all about getting the shot done right. Then, you have to be physically capable of carrying the weight of the rig. On top of that, many directors start to think that a Steadicam is just a substitute for a dolly. I've seen DP's and directors pull their hair out at the monitors. I've seen them get up and push the Steadicam operator into a tighter shot. I've seen DP's pan the Steadicam into the proper framing, I've seen Steadicam operators being screamed at like they are complete idiots while the operator is just drenched in sweat. I've seen grips grab operators to keep them from falling over and getting hurt. I've seen Steadicam operators fall over and get hurt. I've worked with grizzled old vets who just threw their gear in a box and new guys with brand new equipment that look like it just came from the factory without a scratch on any of the cases. I've seen guys as small as me do it and I've seen guys that look like linebackers do it. That being said, I think Phil was just giving you a fair warning that you are about to embark on probably the most difficult thing you have ever done. If you make this investment, which is moderate, you might not make it. But you might. Charles was saying you might make it. He's done well at it. It takes its toll on the body and spirit. I've seen the most experience guys get fired and I've seen rookies make it the entire show. There is no rhyme of reason. I worked on show called NightMan and our Steadicam guy was a guy fresh out of film school who borrowed the money to buy a Steadicam. He knew the producer's son and he got a job that most Steadicam operator would probably resent because they had paid their dues and truly they probably deserved this job more than he did. But, he had the job. Do you think he got grief? He got it from the producers down to the craft service guy. Everybody gave him endless poop. Even me. But he was there everyday, he never complained, he took his beatings like a man, he fought back when he had to and he was eager to do the shots and learn. He got BBQ'd but by the end of this 7 month, grueling, awful TV show he had more experience than most new Steadicam operators get in a couple of years. He paid off his rig and he owned it outright. He met his wife on the show and he gained the respect of the entire crew. So, it can be done. Is he as good as the guys Phil mentioned? Probably not but I saw him a few years later on a Gwen Stefani video and he looked like a pro. Here, you probably have more opportunity. In London, Phil might be correct. You have to be where the work is. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a lot of work. Proceed with caution. Do your homework. Blaze your own trail but be realistic. If you take the course and it isn't for you, nothing lost but some $. But if you make the investment and you don't get work, you still have to pay the monthly. It's a lot to think about.
  • 0

#14 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 April 2009 - 12:59 AM

Good notes Tom.

Having taught at various workshops for years, I've seen firsthand students who were brand-new to Steadicam go on to very successful careers, some even A-list (and many others opt not to become Steadicam operators). So I know that it can happen; many factors enter into this, not the least of which is luck, being in the right place at the right time etc. I would never say that it is easy. But is it possible? Sure.

p.s. Tom, say hi to Peter for me, haven't seen him in years.
  • 0

#15 Bruce Greene

Bruce Greene
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 488 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 April 2009 - 01:36 AM

Jamie, I think Phil was just trying to give you a dose of reality and Charles was just trying to give a boost in a very, very rough profession. The very first job I did was a Steadicam shoot with my cousin Peter. I had never even seen a movie camera and here was this awkward and crazy machine. I use to go with him when he would practice going up and down a stairwell. THen I put it on myself and the thing almost took me over. I have never put on one since. But, I have worked with of the best Steadicam operators and some of the worst. To be a good Steadicam operator you have to be a good operator first and foremost. It's all about getting the shot done right. Then, you have to be physically capable of carrying the weight of the rig. On top of that, many directors start to think that a Steadicam is just a substitute for a dolly. I've seen DP's and directors pull their hair out at the monitors. I've seen them get up and push the Steadicam operator into a tighter shot. I've seen DP's pan the Steadicam into the proper framing, I've seen Steadicam operators being screamed at like they are complete idiots while the operator is just drenched in sweat. I've seen grips grab operators to keep them from falling over and getting hurt. I've seen Steadicam operators fall over and get hurt. I've worked with grizzled old vets who just threw their gear in a box and new guys with brand new equipment that look like it just came from the factory without a scratch on any of the cases. I've seen guys as small as me do it and I've seen guys that look like linebackers do it. That being said, I think Phil was just giving you a fair warning that you are about to embark on probably the most difficult thing you have ever done. If you make this investment, which is moderate, you might not make it. But you might. Charles was saying you might make it. He's done well at it. It takes its toll on the body and spirit. I've seen the most experience guys get fired and I've seen rookies make it the entire show. There is no rhyme of reason. I worked on show called NightMan and our Steadicam guy was a guy fresh out of film school who borrowed the money to buy a Steadicam. He knew the producer's son and he got a job that most Steadicam operator would probably resent because they had paid their dues and truly they probably deserved this job more than he did. But, he had the job. Do you think he got grief? He got it from the producers down to the craft service guy. Everybody gave him endless poop. Even me. But he was there everyday, he never complained, he took his beatings like a man, he fought back when he had to and he was eager to do the shots and learn. He got BBQ'd but by the end of this 7 month, grueling, awful TV show he had more experience than most new Steadicam operators get in a couple of years. He paid off his rig and he owned it outright. He met his wife on the show and he gained the respect of the entire crew. So, it can be done. Is he as good as the guys Phil mentioned? Probably not but I saw him a few years later on a Gwen Stefani video and he looked like a pro. Here, you probably have more opportunity. In London, Phil might be correct. You have to be where the work is. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a lot of work. Proceed with caution. Do your homework. Blaze your own trail but be realistic. If you take the course and it isn't for you, nothing lost but some $. But if you make the investment and you don't get work, you still have to pay the monthly. It's a lot to think about.


Hi Tom,

What a great post as I think it really applies to all camera department jobs, not just Steadicam. For some of your anecdotes, I was sure you were talking about me, but it made me feel good to see we all face the same challenges, at least most of us:)

And I do recall that when your cousin Peter talked me into splitting the investment on a used steadicam (we each put in $6000!), so many people told me that I was crazy, that I could loose a lot of money, that I hadn't paid "my dues", that it was just a fad. I heard it all. But Peter and I did OK...But of course there were only 12 owner/operators in the US when we started and now there are thousands?

Jaimie, go ahead and take the workshop, and if you really want to maybe invest in some used equipment so you can sell it without much of a loss if you change your mind. It's probably a good time to buy as there must be a number of newer operators who are behind on their payments in this economy. By the time you master the machine, the economy will turn around and you're good to go!

And you could become one of those guys, mr. namedropper mentioned above. Why not?
  • 0

#16 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5069 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 29 April 2009 - 04:04 AM

As Charles said, I don't think Phil is really in a position to say how much someone will achieve without knowing them. Certainly to reach the top levels will be difficult, but getting there will depend on the person needing to achieve the best possible quality work; practising, combined with getting into the position where they can get the volume of work needed to improve their skills, making the right contacts at the right time etc.

I know assistants who did the Steadicam workshop, just to be better camera assistants and get onto Steadicam shoots.

If you get the bug, you don't need to buy a brand new rig, but be aware of the market you're working in and don't buy an Ultra when the Merlin is all that is required.
  • 0

#17 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11934 posts
  • Other

Posted 29 April 2009 - 04:33 AM

> really, Phil, who are you to tell someone they will never be as good at
> Steadicam as X, Y or Z?

And I'm sure next week he'll start astronaut training too. Would you force me to prefix every statement with "as near as makes no difference?"

I am doing my level best to fulfill two aims: first, to forewarn someone of inevitable, or as near inevitable as makes no difference, disappointment, but also to avoid someone digging himself an impossibly deep hole of debt from which the UK industry will not, unless he is pan-galactically lucky, rescue him.

I would not presume to tell anyone how things work in the US. Equally I don't think that someone whose career has been wall-to-wall high end drama really has much to say about someone starting out at the bottom in London. If Ben Spence* was making these statements, they'd have some weight. There is a horrible tendency in the film industry to assume "aha, I have worked on big stuff, therefore I know everything there is to know about absolutely everything". Really - you don't.

Encouraging people to drop tens of thousands on equipment that has near-as-makes-no-difference zero chance of paying for itself is grossly irresponsible.

P

* Steadicam operator and super-nice guy who worked his way up from a low-end Glidecam in very short order, and now does very nice work on very big stuff, which makes him both highly unusual for London and astonishingly lucky for the UK in general.
  • 0

#18 Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1234 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 29 April 2009 - 09:35 AM

Hi Tom,

What a great post as I think it really applies to all camera department jobs, not just Steadicam. For some of your anecdotes, I was sure you were talking about me, but it made me feel good to see we all face the same challenges, at least most of us:)

And I do recall that when your cousin Peter talked me into splitting the investment on a used steadicam (we each put in $6000!), so many people told me that I was crazy, that I could loose a lot of money, that I hadn't paid "my dues", that it was just a fad. I heard it all. But Peter and I did OK...But of course there were only 12 owner/operators in the US when we started and now there are thousands?

Jaimie, go ahead and take the workshop, and if you really want to maybe invest in some used equipment so you can sell it without much of a loss if you change your mind. It's probably a good time to buy as there must be a number of newer operators who are behind on their payments in this economy. By the time you master the machine, the economy will turn around and you're good to go!

And you could become one of those guys, mr. namedropper mentioned above. Why not?


Hahaha Bruce Greene,
Great to see you here! Of course I was talking about you, you're one of the best. I was just checking out your web site the other day wondering what you have been up to. You guys should check it out. Bruce is the second person in the entire film industry that I ever met. Like he mentioned, he's been doing it a while. Bruce has probably seen or heard about everything I mentioned a hundred times over. Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Bruce came out to do Steadicam on a show I was on for German TV. It was about 200 degrees in the middle of summer in Santa Barbara. I can't remember the exact details but Bruce is doing a shot of a person or a car pulling into a driveway, they get out of the car and walk up to the house. The director and the DP are watching from a shaded video village. Bruce is having a little trouble getting the shot. The DP and director are upset and they come over to Bruce with these looks that could make your heart sink and say, "What's the matter with you can't you get this shot?" Bruce says yes, he just needs another take and we try it again. We did a few takes before we got but Bruce got it. It sounds simple enough but there was a catch. The drive is a gravel driveway. Its' not a packed gravel driveway but more of a loose rock driveway with these smooth rocks about 6 inches deep. I was pulling focus and believe me I could barely walk on this as it was. It was about as easy as walking in thick dry sand at the beach. I was sweating profusely and Bruce looked like he just walked home in a rain storm. I remember looking at him and watching his feet sink almost out of sight every step he took. I can still here the crunching sound with every step. The grips were in a foul mood and were giving hit grief. They claimed they had no plywood to layout. Bruce I'd have to say this was probably the hardest thing I had ever seen a Steadicam operator do. Even as the DP and director came out to berate Bruce, they were losing their balance walking across the gravel. The point here is that directors and DP's have a very high expectation from their crew. For some reason they expect more from Steadicam operators. I don't know why it is but they expect you guys to be some sort of supermen. They couldn't even walk on the gravel without a Steadicam and here they were expecting Bruce to do it with one. But, Bruce got the shot. It was seriously one of those day where you are baking in the sun and every step through the gravel was just painful. Bruce, I gained a lot of respect for you that day and Steadicam operators. Again, great to hear from you.
  • 0

#19 Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1234 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 29 April 2009 - 11:34 AM

Good notes Tom.

Having taught at various workshops for years, I've seen firsthand students who were brand-new to Steadicam go on to very successful careers, some even A-list (and many others opt not to become Steadicam operators). So I know that it can happen; many factors enter into this, not the least of which is luck, being in the right place at the right time etc. I would never say that it is easy. But is it possible? Sure.

p.s. Tom, say hi to Peter for me, haven't seen him in years.


Thanks, I will tell him hello. I have found that there is no low hanging fruit in this business. But there is still fruit on the tree. You just have to figure out how to pick it. In my response to Bruce, I forgot to mention to Jamie that no matter how much experience you have, you will be expected to perform to a certain level and sometimes that level expectation is set too high. In certain situations, you could fail no matter what you do. But, there is only one way to find out.
  • 0

#20 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 April 2009 - 11:35 AM

I would not presume to tell anyone how things work in the US. Equally I don't think that someone whose career has been wall-to-wall high end drama really has much to say about someone starting out at the bottom in London. If Ben Spence* was making these statements, they'd have some weight. There is a horrible tendency in the film industry to assume "aha, I have worked on big stuff, therefore I know everything there is to know about absolutely everything". Really - you don't.


Apparently you think I started off doing high-end work. Actually I think you know otherwise, but it doesn't fit neatly into your argument so you choose to ignore that. For the record, I DID start at the bottom, in a small market (Boston). That may not be the same as London, but it sure wasn't like I grew up in a film family in Los Angeles and my dad was a big DP who gave me all my breaks.

I made a homebuilt rig when I was 18 and took the workshop when I was 19, massively in awe of the titans that I was learning from (Garrett, Ted etc) and very intimidated by the working cameramen around me. It took me 4 years to save up to buy a really beaten up Model 1; I spent years working on anything and everything I could find. I did a LOT of promotion and cold calling and trying to convince production companies why they needed Steadicam and building relationships, and working on crappy industrials and low-budget whatevers. Finally my career got to a stable if unexciting point, but I realized that if I needed to get to the next level I would have to move to Los Angeles. And then things started to work out.

So what's the moral of the story? People sometimes MOVE to where the work is. And before you insist "it's not that easy", consider that many of our A-list operators here are emigrees who began their careers in other countries. Chris Haarhoff, Andrew Rowlands, Colin Anderson, the list goes on. English guys specfiically? Andy Shuttleworth comes to mind. I know that it is harder now than it used to be to get the US citizenship but again--it's not impossible, nor is it "near-as-makes-no-difference".

So to tell a 21 year old that because he happens to be moving back to London that he will NEVER, EVER be a great Steadicam operator (your words, but let's just simplify that to "be a working Steadicam operator") is to deny him any of the possible futures that may be in store for him. That's not realism, that's pessimism, which is of course your stock in trade. The chances of getting to the top in ANY profession are slim; that is so obvious it doesn't even need to be said. However there are hundreds if not thousands of people worldwide who are making a living with their Steadicam gear (along with conventional operating, or doing DP work etc., all of which may be enhanced by the value of their also being Steadicam operators).

Now about your statement "I would not presume to tell anyone how things work in the US", well, just yesterday you were telling me that there are people making 5 figures in episodic TV (actually chastising me because I said otherwise), along with what I will generously call teasing me about my preference not to do long-form episodic. YOU have no idea what it is like doing 9 months on an episodic series. I do. Enough said.
  • 0


Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

The Slider

Visual Products

Opal

Abel Cine

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

Ritter Battery

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

The Slider

Glidecam

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Paralinx LLC

Technodolly

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Visual Products

CineTape