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Hiring technicians - US way of doing it


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#1 Cohet Etienne

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 08:28 AM

Hi,
I need informations on how lighting technicians are hired in the US.
But my request is special :
- I know that a particular novel I love is being adapted : Dan Simmons - "Hyperion"
- I looked IMDb Pro and read GK Films and Warner Bros. are producing it
- Trevor Sands just finished the script and Scott Derrickson will be the director.

That's all I know at this time but I'm french and don't know how things goes in the US.
I intend to contact GK and WB, but before doing it I hope some of you can give me clues.

Of course, if someone know something on that particular project, please let me know.

Frog thanks you in advance,

Etienne.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 12:14 AM

Hi,
I need informations on how lighting technicians are hired in the US.
But my request is special :
- I know that a particular novel I love is being adapted : Dan Simmons - "Hyperion"
- I looked IMDb Pro and read GK Films and Warner Bros. are producing it
- Trevor Sands just finished the script and Scott Derrickson will be the director.

That's all I know at this time but I'm french and don't know how things goes in the US.
I intend to contact GK and WB, but before doing it I hope some of you can give me clues.

Of course, if someone know something on that particular project, please let me know.

Frog thanks you in advance,

Etienne.


Well, from the looks of his resume on IMDB.com, he doesn't seem loyal to any one DP, so you've got that going for you.

Recommendations will likely come to him from the Producer or someone at the studio or from one of the Actors. Or Scott may have seen a recent film he really liked the look of and he'll approach that DP on his own.

There is no single way that DP's (or anyone else really) gets hired.

The best thing you could likely do is to contact his agent with your request that he consider you as the DP. Ask if he's reviewing reels or interviewing possibilities before you send a reel.


According to IMDB Pro, here is the contact info:

Representation

Company Agent Type Address Contact
William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment Adriana Alberghetti Talent Agent 9601 Wilshire Blvd
3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
USA
Phone: 310-248-2000
Fax: 310-248-2020
http://wmeentertainment.com/


Brillstein Entertainment Partners David McIlvain Manager 9150 Wilshire Blvd.
Ste. 350
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
USA
Phone: 310-275-6135
Fax: 310-275-6180


Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein Karl Austen Legal Representative 1925 Century Park East
22nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
USA
Phone: 310-553-0305
Fax: 310-553-5036
kausten@ahjtw.com
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:24 AM

If you're not an American citizen you'll also need to sort any work visa issues.
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#4 Cohet Etienne

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 05:36 AM

Hi,

thanks for answers, precise and instructive.

But I think i'm not experienced enough to apply for the DP position for such a "big prod". (my bad, question not precise enough)

I work as DP, but not on feature films yet. I was more like learning from being "behind" the DP or the gaffer and his best boy.

So my question is more about "how may i apply to work in the lighting team ?" as it is the crew in wich I will fit best, I think.

Must I contact the DP or gaffer when they will be hired ?
Or is it the rental house that finds job for electricians ?
Or will the production company place some foreinger ?

I feel the "Union parameter" is important in the US and I don't want to do things wrong.

Thanks again,

Etienne
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#5 Jean Dodge

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 11:16 AM

Let me start off by saying your passion for a novel isn't going to carry much weight with the people who are most likely making the final decisions here. It's frustrating, since you love the work and want to be part of the team but you may be better off tempering your expectations now... as in, don't get your hopes up. Even if you were the lover of the author himself you aren't likely to be included in any "must hire" arrangement. The director himself will have to justify every person he recommends for a position and if someone is his best friend he still may not get hired if he isn't also the most qualified for the position.

In the USA the system is rather informal but it works in a hierarchy from the top down. The director and producer select the DoP with the approval of the studio, and the DoP hires his crew based on who he is comfortable working with, while negotiating with production about the expenses of doing it various ways. First, he tries to bring all his regulars with him but often it isn't possible since it is cheaper to hire local crew and not have to pay housing. So one opportunity you might pursue is to work hard to discover the location and hope for a remote one, where you make yourself available in advance to work as a local hire. The chances of you being selected for hire and having your travel, union and work visa arrangements made by production are pretty much zero, I'd say. You need to increase your odds considerably to make it worth the effort.

The gaffer, once selected by the DP and approved by the production manager then hires his best boy who is the "straw boss" and often makes individual decisions about who gets the most days work and who to call for pre-rigging and extra hand days on the biggest nights' setups, etc. If the gaffer is from "out of town" he fights for his favorite best boy but often loses out to the budget and is influenced to hire local, especially since a local will know who among the freelancers is actually the most experienced and safest/ pleasant to work with. For someone like yourself, this is where the real decision making will take place, and it will occur at the last moment before filming begins since the "top hands" are booked most often and end one show and start another in a serial fashion, often as a select gang or regulars that controls the game. Infiltrating a group such as this takes luck, skill and determination but mostly it takes time - time spent working in the same general milieu as the Best Boy so that your reputation at least is known, if not yourself personally.

Sadly, enthusiastic letters to the producer and director are long shots at best in situations like this. A best case scenario has your resume being added to a stack that gets considered by various people, none of whom you know and none of whom know you. People hire entry level and below the line positions based on who they know, or at least who they can see standing in front of them and make a fuller judgement about than can be gleamed from a resume.

You may have better luck volunteering as an unpaid intern in the camera department, since this can sometimes smooth over union and work permit issues. The best way to get hired for a low level position as an unknown outsider is going to involve a great deal of luck and perfect timing. If you were to find out the location and travel on your own expense to the production office on the very first week of actual pre-production where the production team is assembled, and politely and persistently introduce yourself to the various department heads you will be received in a mixture of politeness, and skepticism as someone who may be an unstable fanatic rather than a real professional. "You flew here from France? That's insane!" This might impress someone enough to give you a chance. Or you might find yourself asked by security to leave and not come back. But that is the week and there is the place where the decision will most likely go down as to who is the office intern and who is the art department PA.

So you see the safe way to apply for a position is going to be a long shot that most likely gets ignored, and the bold way is risky too since you will have to spend your own money to present yourself to people, assuming you can even figure out the timing.

You are also assuming a lot when you say this movie is going to be made at all... until there is a cast attached and a notice posted in the trade magazines it is most likely just one of many projects being considered at the moment.

I don't wish to be the one to ruin your dream but if you love this writer's work, read his next novel and write him a letter of appreciation and forget about being a crew person on the movie. Honor your good taste and enthusiasm by building your own career in the usual way and maybe someday you and he can work together as equals, or else your work will just be something that was influenced by his. It's very likely that whatever film is made from this novel you love will be a disappointment to you, anyway.

Having said all that, I can tell you that if you listen to the naysayers (pessimists) you won't find your lucky break. Good luck and don't be afraid to try several approaches - just be respectful and honest and polite and knock on every door you can. Yes, try the likely rental houses and ask the director's former collaborators, why the heck not, you never know when you might find the one friendly person who can steer you in the right direction. There is no right way to do this, other than the polite and professional way.

Bon chance.
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 12:25 PM

Let me start off by saying your passion for a novel isn't going to carry much weight with the people who are most likely making the final decisions here. It's frustrating, since you love the work and want to be part of the team but you may be better off tempering your expectations now... as in, don't get your hopes up. Even if you were the lover of the author himself you aren't likely to be included in any "must hire" arrangement. The director himself will have to justify every person he recommends for a position and if someone is his best friend he still may not get hired if he isn't also the most qualified for the position.

In the USA the system is rather informal but it works in a hierarchy from the top down. The director and producer select the DoP with the approval of the studio, and the DoP hires his crew based on who he is comfortable working with, while negotiating with production about the expenses of doing it various ways. First, he tries to bring all his regulars with him but often it isn't possible since it is cheaper to hire local crew and not have to pay housing. So one opportunity you might pursue is to work hard to discover the location and hope for a remote one, where you make yourself available in advance to work as a local hire. The chances of you being selected for hire and having your travel, union and work visa arrangements made by production are pretty much zero, I'd say. You need to increase your odds considerably to make it worth the effort.

The gaffer, once selected by the DP and approved by the production manager then hires his best boy who is the "straw boss" and often makes individual decisions about who gets the most days work and who to call for pre-rigging and extra hand days on the biggest nights' setups, etc. If the gaffer is from "out of town" he fights for his favorite best boy but often loses out to the budget and is influenced to hire local, especially since a local will know who among the freelancers is actually the most experienced and safest/ pleasant to work with. For someone like yourself, this is where the real decision making will take place, and it will occur at the last moment before filming begins since the "top hands" are booked most often and end one show and start another in a serial fashion, often as a select gang or regulars that controls the game. Infiltrating a group such as this takes luck, skill and determination but mostly it takes time - time spent working in the same general milieu as the Best Boy so that your reputation at least is known, if not yourself personally.

Sadly, enthusiastic letters to the producer and director are long shots at best in situations like this. A best case scenario has your resume being added to a stack that gets considered by various people, none of whom you know and none of whom know you. People hire entry level and below the line positions based on who they know, or at least who they can see standing in front of them and make a fuller judgement about than can be gleamed from a resume.

You may have better luck volunteering as an unpaid intern in the camera department, since this can sometimes smooth over union and work permit issues. The best way to get hired for a low level position as an unknown outsider is going to involve a great deal of luck and perfect timing. If you were to find out the location and travel on your own expense to the production office on the very first week of actual pre-production where the production team is assembled, and politely and persistently introduce yourself to the various department heads you will be received in a mixture of politeness, and skepticism as someone who may be an unstable fanatic rather than a real professional. "You flew here from France? That's insane!" This might impress someone enough to give you a chance. Or you might find yourself asked by security to leave and not come back. But that is the week and there is the place where the decision will most likely go down as to who is the office intern and who is the art department PA.

So you see the safe way to apply for a position is going to be a long shot that most likely gets ignored, and the bold way is risky too since you will have to spend your own money to present yourself to people, assuming you can even figure out the timing.

You are also assuming a lot when you say this movie is going to be made at all... until there is a cast attached and a notice posted in the trade magazines it is most likely just one of many projects being considered at the moment.

I don't wish to be the one to ruin your dream but if you love this writer's work, read his next novel and write him a letter of appreciation and forget about being a crew person on the movie. Honor your good taste and enthusiasm by building your own career in the usual way and maybe someday you and he can work together as equals, or else your work will just be something that was influenced by his. It's very likely that whatever film is made from this novel you love will be a disappointment to you, anyway.

Having said all that, I can tell you that if you listen to the naysayers (pessimists) you won't find your lucky break. Good luck and don't be afraid to try several approaches - just be respectful and honest and polite and knock on every door you can. Yes, try the likely rental houses and ask the director's former collaborators, why the heck not, you never know when you might find the one friendly person who can steer you in the right direction. There is no right way to do this, other than the polite and professional way.

Bon chance.


Perfect answer.
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#7 Cohet Etienne

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 01:01 PM

Hi,

Thank you very much for your answer.

You confirmed my thoughts about my odds and ways to get a (very low) chance.

Also, you told precisely how crew is hired and gave me real good infos about how, where and when to eventually apply.

Thanks again for all, especially the time you "gave" me.

Etienne.

ps : I'll post further developments later in this topic.
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rebotnix Technologies

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Abel Cine

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post

Opal

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc