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Losing my mind trying to get in


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#1 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 04:10 PM

Greetings,
I'm at my wit's end trying to get a paying job in this industry. Though my aspirations are to one day get into the 600 and become a DP, I'm currently just trying to transition from unpaid volunteer to paid set p.a.
So far I've worked two features as camera p.a/video assist, pulled focus for a few commercials, and interned as PA to a production office. All of the people I've worked with have been pleased with my contributions. I've also volunteered on several feature documentaries and other smaller, yet professional TV ventures.
I'm currently volunteering at a grip and lighting rental house just to learn about the equipment and make more connections. However, nothing seems to be panning out. I've sent out twelve resumes so just this month. Several of these were submitted through people I've worked with in the past who also happen to work on the show in question. However, I don't really forsee getting hired on any of these shows.
Through volunteer work, I have accquired more than enough hours to get into the 480 as Video Assist. However, I'm not sure if I should wait to join until I recieve some kind of paying job. I would really hate to fork over all that money and stilll be unemployed. Also, since my goal is to get into the 600, would it be a waste of time join the 480?
At any rate, I feel that my approach must be erroneous in some way. I would happily accept any advice you might offer. I also have two different versions of my resume that I could post if you would have any advice concerning that.
Thank you,
Rick Shepardson
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 05:05 PM

I've made some connections with DP's, and there's a handful that I work with from time to time. But I've found that I really get a good amount of my paying jobs from fellow AC's in the area who I've networked with or become good friends with. Not sure what it's like in your neck of the woods, but there are a lot of owner/operators out there who just simply rarely need an AC, so you're not going to get a ton of work from them.

It also takes quite a bit of luck and timing to meet and work with the right people who will get you started and call you out to more gigs. I really can't offer much more advice than that, the usual "It's not who you know, it's who knows you" will always apply.

If it's mostly financial woes you're suffering, there's no shame in getting a day/temp job, something you can just drop once the next gig comes along. That's what I did early on in my still very young career.
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#3 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 06:24 PM

"If it's mostly financial woes you're suffering, there's no shame in getting a day/temp job, something you can just drop once the next gig comes along. That's what I did early on in my still very young career."


That's actually more helpful than you know. Having to apply to the same jobs I strived for so long to get out of is definitly a blow to the face. I've worked alot of crummy jobs; call centers and the such, with the attitude that I'd get out of there at some point. I guess patients is the best friend I have right now.

Thanks,
Rick Shepardson
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#4 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 03:47 PM

Hey Rick what's up? You should post your resume if you haven't already...the people on this board are really helpful with resumes!
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 06:44 PM

Yes to all the above.

However.

There are some people who, through no fault of their own, will never get in. It relies to a large extent on luck, and if you just don't get any luck, it won't happen. For every 600 member there's a hundred people doing the rat race every day dreaming of what might have been and they probably were all good. I consider myself extremely lucky to have avoided this situation, since I don't think I've been hugely lucky; as it is, I end up being a jack of all trades to keep the rain out but it's vastly preferable to the alternative.

Just be aware - it quite likely will never happen, and there's probably nothing whatever you can do about it.

P
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#6 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 07:55 PM

I disagree, and because I am waiting for the newest version of Itunes to install, I will explain.

First of all...if you have an attitude of "It'll never happen", then at least get out of the way before you get trampled by the people who actually believe that they're worth something and that someday, someone will see it. I think one way or another, there's work out there for whoever wants it. It won't be effortless, but it's there. The people who "don't make it" either really suck, or they don't try. But come on. We live in a golden age of entertainment. With all due respect to those who came before me, the gatekeeper to the oh-so-sacred motion picture film and television industry has just been shot in the head by some rich trust fund kid who owns a RED camera...and people who weren't even born when VHS first came out, are watching movies on their Ipods. The most I can say for the climate of the business these days, is that at least now, all bets are off and it seems to me that, well, at least the way "in" is no longer guarded in the same way that it was during Hollywood's prime. So yeah. There's always a way. And by the way, I do not think it's too much to ask to work in this business and get paid for it.

What is "making it" anyway? Haven't you "made it" when you continuously get hired by the same people, when a film you work on goes to Sundance, when you have IMDB credits under your belt and can pay your rent on time each month? I dunno, man. I like to think so. If you constantly compare yourself to everyone else out there, you will never win. I had a friend give me a hard time about accepting $200 a day cash-in-pocket for a 10-day job. I gave him my phone and said, "I'm sorry. If you think you can do better, why don't YOU give production a call and tell them the bottom line?" Hell, I still take pride in what I do, whether I'm getting $150 a day or $500 a day. Yes, I have the same grandiose visions as everybody else of pulling focus on some big-budget union feature someday, but as AC/DC said, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.

So I say, break in at the bottom and then climb up, over the heads of the people who all said it was impossible. Screw the "Hollywood system", there is none anymore...why perpetuate this cycle of "I need to get down on my knees and eat poop before I am worth anything in this business?" This is the biggest lie that film school feeds you and it's time to tear it all down and get real. We might as well take advantage of the fact that the workflow is changing... and try anything. If emailing your resume doesn't do it, get on the phone again, or just show up with a nice shirt on and a winning smile on your face. Personalize your game...give these people something that they'll see is YOU, not just another name in the pool of potential hires.

Even Facebook is fair game now. If these people don't call you for work, maybe at least they'll friend you and invite you to a bar or a ballgame or something. You can't tiptoe around on eggshells waiting for them to call you, because they pretty much won't. I am in the process of finally understanding this, and it took me three years of banging my head against the wall wondering what the hell has become of my life, all because I thought that I had broken some cardinal rule of schmoozing in the film business. F*** that...there are no rules! Throw it all out there...something will happen...someday, the universe will respond.

This is just me after two shots of espresso and you are perfectly welcome to either argue, or not take me seriously. ;)
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 04:41 AM

I recommend taking Annie seriously. She can be dangerous, and she makes valid points.
Achievement/making it, is all on you. I don't think filmmaking is really all talent or luck based. Being in this industry, for me at least, is a war of attrition. You just have to survive the b/s in the beginning and before you know it, somehow, things just start to click. I'd be more articulate but I'm dead exhausted after a 16 hour day :/
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 06:39 AM

Yes, I have the same grandiose visions as everybody else of pulling focus on some big-budget union feature someday


Umm, I don't have those visions. And not only because we don't really have "union features" here. In any case, you're in the union - where's your gold-plated SUV? In fact, what're you doing working on all this low budget stuff, don't they tar and feather you for that and drag you through the streets of manhattan behind, uh, well, a gold-plated SUV?

P
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#9 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 08:40 AM

...don't they tar and feather you for that and drag you through the streets of manhattan behind, uh, well, a gold-plated SUV?


Them's the teamsters, 600 tend to turn a blind eye to most productions.
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#10 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 10:42 AM

Phil,
If you think I should be getting better work because I'm in the union, you're perfectly welcome to pick up the phone and start making some calls on my behalf. I'll forward you my copy of Production Weekly and you can just go down the list and find the jobs that are shooting in New York. Just make sure that none of them start on August 3rd because that is the Depeche Mode concert.

The number one reason for "If you're in the union, then why are you working on all THIS poop?" is because sometimes the poop is all that's happening, and until something bigger happens, it's not like I'm gonna sit around my apartment with my thumb up my ass waiting. The bottom line in this business is money. I love what I do and if I can make money off it, how much can I really complain? If I work 10 days on a crappy NYU thesis for $150 a day cash-in-pocket, then there's my minimum income for the month and I have those other 20 days to do whatever the hell I want.

I'd love to get better work. And I've been trying. Part of the problem is that a lot of the people I've worked with on non-union stuff, end up joining the union, and now instead of working together as 1st and 2nd AC on indie jobs, we're both fighting each other for union 2nd and loader jobs. It's not like when you join the union, they send out a big announcement to all the big-name AC's in the city to dump the guy they've been working with for 10 years and start hiring you because now you know how to load a magazine. It's not like the union helps you get work. They just send you their little newsletter and give you that ICG magazine for free. Chaim Kantor doesn't go around calling people being like, "Hey! Are you dead or something? I haven't seen you on any of these jobs! Wanna talk about it?" Whatever...I don't expect any of that. I joined the union because everyone else I worked with at CSC did the same thing and I figured well, it seems like as good a choice as any, so what the f*ck, here's $2000.

But in the meantime, I HAVE a solid network of people in the independent world who like hiring me, and I like them. It is what it is. So I play the hand I've been dealt, plain and simple. There are things I want for myself. I want to be able to go down to St. Mark's and blow $100 on vinyl without my stomach twisting in knots. I want to be able to maintain my dye job without being a stingy bitch and not tipping my stylist. I want more tattoos. I want to take a trip to Europe like all the other kids my age who had the luxury of taking a "gap year" out of college. Paying off my loans and credit card would be nice too.

If carrying around an HVX for $150 a day for two weeks will help me to have these things, you're goddamn right I'll take the job. There is a time and place to ask for a better rate, but sometimes you just have to be cool with whatever they can give you, and the rest will fall into place.

And yes. Local 600 doesn't care. Why would they, as long as their members are still paying dues? They only take 1% of your pay from union work anyway. When you think about it, it's a perfect system. Because all I have to do is make enough money that I can continue to pay them, while working on whatever I want. If they WERE stricter about working on non-union jobs, THEN I'd be on the line for food stamps. But as it is, it kinda gives you the best of both worlds.

Defensive? Not at all. Proud of the fact that I am successfully making a living in one of the most impossible, expensive cities in the country? You bet your ass. You do what you can, with what you have. I wish things were different and that the guy who just got fired off the low-budget indie I'm on, had stayed, so that *I* could take the union job that he just got called for. But they aren't different. There is no logic or justice to this business and you just have to deal with it. The difference between now and then, is that instead of sitting around crying about it, I take a longer view on it...and I say, "At least I'm working and making money." Tell THAT to the union.

</soap box>
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#11 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 12:27 PM

Thanks to everyone's advice.

I've definitely think about luck. I know a prominent local 2nd AC who got his start when he met a DP at a casino. He had no prior interests in film, but got his first camera PA gig when the DP wrote the shooting location on a napkin, handed it to him, and said "here's your new job." He was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. At the same time, he was dedicated and quick enough to adapt to such a crazy environment that he's one of the most prolific 600 members in town.
I just try not to think of luck too much. I mean, consider the big bang theory: if that tiny little singularity wasn't lucky enough to get banged, the universe would have never of happened. Put in those terms; luck definitely exists, but is cosmically absurd.

Thanks again
Rick
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 12:52 PM

There probably were billions of "big bangs", but this was the one where enough clumpy matter was created to form stars and planets with the right heavier elements like carbon, where the expansion wasn't too fast or too slow. We could have had a billion previous big bangs that just evenly distributed hydrogen and helium, or just collapsed back immediately due to gravity, etc. It's the old problem of anthropomorphism, because only the right sequence of events had to happen for us to be here to talk about it, therefore it must mean something... but if those elements didn't come together, we wouldn't be here talking about it, so of course the right sequence of events happened. Is that destiny or just luck?

Anyway, attrition is the right word -- the people who have a long career are mainly the ones that stuck with it.

It took a long time for me to get to a point where I was supporting myself enough to call it a career, so don't worry too much about it.
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 02:42 PM

able to go down to St. Mark's and blow $100 on vinyl without my stomach twisting in knots. I want to be able to maintain my dye job without being a stingy bitch and not tipping my stylist. I want more tattoos. I want to take a trip to Europe


*giggle* You are the coolest Annie!! :)

I'd love to get better work. And I've been trying. Part of the problem is that a lot of the people I've worked with on non-union stuff, end up joining the union, and now instead of working together as 1st and 2nd AC on indie jobs, we're both fighting each other for union 2nd and loader jobs. It's not like when you join the union, they send out a big announcement to all the big-name AC's in the city to dump the guy they've been working with for 10 years and start


How are you actually fighting? At the end of the day people will hire who they like and feel comfortable hiring. Theres no battle there! In time you may end up working together on union shoots, just like you did on indie shoots. I'm sure it's not like you each put in a tender for the job, so why see it as a competition. It's more like one of your friends is doing well and may be able to help you down the line. Seems all good to me!

But in the meantime, I HAVE a solid network of people in the independent world who like hiring me, and I like them. It is what it is. So I play the hand I've been dealt, plain and simple. There are things I want for myself. I want to be able to go


It sounds like you are holding a good hand! What happens if the people in your network start being more succesful. If they like working with you, they may still want to work with you as things grow.

If carrying around an HVX for $150 a day for two weeks will help me to have these things, you're goddamn right I'll take the job. There is a time and place to ask for a better rate, but sometimes you just have to be cool with whatever they can give you, and the rest will fall into place.


It sounds kinda fair enough to me. I mean not to sound snobby but they are making their "film" with a HVX200. That's soooo like yesterdays camera. ;) Even at that level, it's all EX1/3 these days or at least the newer Panasonics, let alone things like Red and SI. It's clear these people are making a tiny Indie and probably trying to hold it together on no money. Yet they are getting to make their movie, you are getting to work and learn stuff and exercise your craft and most of all you are managing to pay your rent and eat! Fantastic!


the guy who just got fired off the low-budget indie I'm on, had stayed, so that *I* could take the union job that he just got called for. But they aren't different. There is no logic or justice to this business and you just have to deal with it.


But is that what would have happened? Would they have immediately called your number instead? Or is it the case they would have randomly hired some other indiidual. Theres actually a whole bunch of logic and often a weird kind of justice in things. There is also often a bunch of random stuff that happens but why dwell on the random stuff that might be out of your control. It's just there to make stuff more interresting.

You are carrying your own weight, you are doing wonderful.

Tommorow may bring even better things. :)

love

Freya
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 02:57 PM

Thanks to everyone's advice.

I've definitely think about luck. I know a prominent local 2nd AC who got his start when he met a DP at a casino. He had no prior interests in film, but got his first camera PA gig when the DP wrote the shooting location on a napkin, handed it to him,..; ...luck definitely exists, but is cosmically absurd.


A lot of people here have talked about luck. I assume what they mean by luck is the interaction of "random" events. In reality events aren't all that random. They totally are, but they completely aren't at the same time. Chaos and order are the same thing really. It's a bit like people say that nobody can predict the future, and yet they wait at bus stops expecting buses to arrive?

If luck is being in the right place at the right time, then that isn't really all that random. Just make sure you are in the right place as often as possible and then when the right time randomly comes you have an increased chance of being there statistically. In the case of working on films that would presumably mean working as much as you can on as many different projects as possible. Getting the work is the problem of course but that is a matter of being out there and letting people know you are there.

Or people here who have spoken of attrition, again it's a case of staying in the right place over time, till the right time comes.

love

Freya
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#15 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 04:25 PM

There probably were billions of "big bangs", but this was the one where enough clumpy matter was created to form stars and planets with the right heavier elements like carbon, where the expansion wasn't too fast or too slow. We could have had a billion previous big bangs that just evenly distributed hydrogen and helium, or just collapsed back immediately due to gravity, etc. It's the old problem of anthropomorphism, because only the right sequence of events had to happen for us to be here to talk about it, therefore it must mean something... but if those elements didn't come together, we wouldn't be here talking about it, so of course the right sequence of events happened. Is that destiny or just luck?

Anyway, attrition is the right word -- the people who have a long career are mainly the ones that stuck with it.

It took a long time for me to get to a point where I was supporting myself enough to call it a career, so don't worry too much about it.


That was a great illustration for "sticking to it." If you're interested in astronomy, you ought to read Cosmos, if you havn't allready. The information may be a bit dated, but the conclusions Carl Sagan draws from them and how those conclusions relate to daily life are timeless.
Thanks sir,
Rick Shepardson
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#16 Tom Jensen

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 05:50 PM

Pretty soon you'll be taking my class at the Learning Annex called, "How to Break Out of Film."
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#17 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 05:56 PM

480, huh?

That would be the our sunny Land Of Entrapment . . . I know several NM people in 600 who had a really rough start, one in particular, who worked several very long years as a camera PA before the camera crew members in 600 he usually worked with finally managed to get him in. He now is a 2nd and works all year round on IPS / Crash. It sure isn't easy to break in. As David mentions, you have to stick to it!

The measure of success in this industry is holding today the film job one chooses to do, or in NM, any film job one can get. I am successful only in that I earn my living working on film / video productions, and that isn't easy at all sometimes. NM being as small as it is, sometimes one has to keep doing many different things (something the LA boys and girls tend to frown upon).

Networking is key, but also one has to realize that there are hundreds of people like oneself out there (well, maybe not in NM), all desperately trying to break in. Having worked on 10-11 features as a crew member, one is constantly reminded that there is someone out there desperate to move in, should one not cut it. As they say "you are only so good as the last movie you worked on." So a good rep and can do attitude will get you far.

However, this industry is all about ebb and flow, union or no union. The fact that one holds a union card does not guarantee that one will be working all the time, or even part of the time. Ultimately it is up to one to get out there and make it happen.

Good luck.
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 06:42 PM

I'm afraid I don't get this at all.

There is no guarantee of success. The only reason we believe there is is because:

a ) the people who tend to get interviewed on the subject tend to be those who were successful, and

b ) the media constantly force-feeds us an image of an idealist utopian society in which everyone is slim and beautiful and likeable and nobody ever leaves the coffee shop and actually does any work, which would not be desirable even if it were possible.

If it isn't happening, it isn't happening.

P
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#19 Bruce Greene

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 01:08 AM

Pretty soon you'll be taking my class at the Learning Annex called, "How to Break Out of Film."


I'm game. When is it? :blink:
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#20 Bruce Greene

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 01:20 AM

Greetings,
I'm at my wit's end trying to get a paying job in this industry...
Thank you,
Rick Shepardson


Rick,

In whatever business you choose to pursue your career, you will probably start at THE BOTTOM. You can just as easily start at the bottom of the Movies as any other business :rolleyes:

Most of the people I went to film school with never stayed with it and have faded into the ether. Some had very good early success. I didn't, but I stuck with it. I don't have a gold statuette, but it's still possible, even if not likely B)

Determination on your part will make a big difference. And remember what Tim Allen said in "Galaxy Quest": Never Give Up, Never Surrender....

Good luck Rick!
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Visual Products

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

The Slider

Metropolis Post

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC