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So here's a question, about those big choice moments


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#1 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 12:18 PM

Ok, so, as you all know I've been shooting for awhile, and I love it. It's not super steady which is normal, but I could probably eek it out here in Philadelphia without too much trouble. But here's the thing; I might be getting offered a nice position working for my former University in their computer department; in charge of all their "media related" software and hardware. The title is "Senior Media Specialist." It'd include some shooting, live events, internal videos, etc, as well as giving lessons on the basics of editing programs, you know a typical jack of all trades, master of none. Now, normally I'd just be thankful and pass it up, but it's a nice salary considering. So here's my plan, and my questions and I'd like to get some feedback from you all people.

So, I get 4 weeks paid time off after 6 months of "probation," plus 2 weeks of personal days. So I figure I'll save those up and take them for shoots which come up after this probationary period. In the mean time the days and hours are Sunday through Thursday 2 pm till 10 pm. So in that mean time I'll just shoot little things when I can schedule them, and when I'm not shooting anything for pay I've been thinking about using some of the money I'll be making to rent and experiment with some equipment I haven't gotten my hands on yet (IMAX and Vistavision are thoughts; just to shoot on it and play 'round, same with 3D rigs etc, something like my own tests just to keep busy).

Allocate a good 1/4 of my income to go into savings for the 401K they offer which they match 1:1. Use this as a savings account and then take the 30% penalty when I go to withdraw it early. This money I'll use to save up a good 30-40K over 2 years for an eventual relocation to the West Coast.

the other 1/4 of my income will get allocated to maintenance and upkeep of my current, equipment, some equipment purchases (lots of lighting which I'll rent out to friends etc so it makes some money when I'm not using it) and some other cash on hand to round out the camera packages I have (I currently have an EX1, SR3, and 2M.. so might as well just bite the bullet and get some kind of D-Cinema camera. If anything It'll let me continue to shoot anything I want to when I have time off.)

the other 1/2 of the income is just for living expenses. For those who want to try to keep count the salary will be somewhere in the range of 40-50K/yr for the first year then a 10% raise in the 2nd year.

Now, since it's a university I can go to get a masters for free, if I wanted to, or round out a 3rd B.A. (I have a B.A. in film and a B.S. in Anthropology), or if anything take some classes in something-- thinking business, as after all, it's free. They also pay off all my student loans, which aren't that bad to begin with, but might as well get rid of them.

Now, by the time this all works out I'll be 28/29 and moving to be fresh in a new market, and that sort of worries me. At the moment I have a nice little niche here in Philadelphia and I know I'll loose a good deal of that were I to go to work full time. Hopefully I could keep doing enough on my days off and with my time off to keep the name out there and keep the work/experience coming in. But do you think 28/29 is too told to relocate out to L.A. and try to make ones way as a DoP? I won't be gong out empty handed, at least, in terms of experience/reel/resume/kit or bank account, so I figure that might be in my favor, but how long do you figure it'll take to reestablish a good a amount of work. And about how long will 30K or so stretch out in LA? I won't be on my own, I thankfully have my girlfriend whose totally behind the eventual move and she'll be working at least part time while there. And moreover, am I completely nuts in trying this? Do you all honestly think it'll adversely impact things for me? How long can one "stop," and then start back up again? I know that'll depend on so many things, and I suppose I'm partially looking for that "it'll be ok," from people in the know-- in the industry (as opposed to the many friends I have who aren't and just say, "awesome.") Ok.. that's bout it. Any feedback/info/words of encouragement/"you're an idiot,"/etc would be appreciated.


~Adrian
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#2 Tom Jensen

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 01:01 PM

Turn it down.


And pass on my name.
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#3 Josh Hill

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 01:31 PM

Adrian,

While I know everyone is different, I'm going to give you the same advice I give my friends whose plans involve -- at the end of some indefinite time period -- a major relocation:

If you want to move to the West Coast, forgo the job. While you may save money, accrue more equipment, etc., you are going to be setting yourself up for a very specific lifestyle. I don't know anyone (in my life at least) who has been able to walk away from that kind of money after living with it for a couple of years. It's why my friends who are teaching English in foreign countries, who were going to be there for one year "save a little" are all still there.

But beyond that, if the West Coast is your ultimate goal, every year you spend away is another year you are not making the contacts and meeting the people you need to be. You may know a few people already, I don't know, but we could very well be talking about pushing your other major career goals -- as a cinematographer -- years BEYOND the two you'd be spending in the job. It's why the most successful person from my graduating class at Columbia (where I got my MFA in Playwriting) is a Native New Yorker: he already know so many people -- hundreds -- that he could just glide into writing. The rest of us, we're no where near where he is.

I don't know what you want to do in the end -- action movies or documentaries or whatever you can get -- but if you REALLY want to do something worthwhile with some saved money, I'd say instead of relocating find a project that you love, with people that you love working with and that you believe in, and give it a real shot: SAG actors and all. Be more than an employee, if you can.

But if you really want to move to the West Coast, go now. Because every year you don't will make it one year harder to move in the first place, until maybe a mid-life crisis.

But those are just my two cents, if they even make sense.
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#4 Mike Lary

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 01:45 PM

If you're worried about money I think you should work there for six months, then move to L.A. Forget about building a giant nest egg. Just get into your arena of choice and keep shooting. The security of a nine to five is only going to limit your ability to work on creative projects. Once you start turning down gigs your phone will probably start ringing less often. Getting another degree makes no sense at all. It wouldn't be free because you'd be spending your valuable time earning it. And it has no value in the industry. Life is short. Do what you love.
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#5 David Rakoczy

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 02:26 PM

Take it... but don't take that 30% hit on your Savings... that is ridiculous! (and poor stewardship of your money) ;) ... meet with an Accountant/ Tax Guru.
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#6 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 06:09 PM

Hey Adrian,

I usually stay out of these types of discussions, but I'd like to add a few words.

First, I like Tom's comment! That's a very good job offer, and it could take nice care of you (and a significant other, and the kids...yea, it happens to most of us) for many years. And it could be interesting, and you could continue to work on personal projects. How big an issue is economic stablilty for you? and in the foreseeable future?

Or you could move to Hollywood and see where you can go there. I think that if you really want to go west you should go now. You know it's a relationship business, and the sooner you establish those relationships the better off you'll be. You seem like a bright fellow, you could get some kind of a job to support yourself while you worked up the chain.

What is it you really want to do? One can make a nice living being a cog in the giant entertainment machine here. Would you be happy being "in the industry" in LA in any position? I have a friend who was apparently considered quite a talented writer/director early in his career, now 20 years later he works to support his daughter as an assistant sound editor. I think he likes it, but it is a fair distance from his original goals. Would you be more comfortable with that scenario or with making your own projects that are interesting to you in your off time while you make a nice living through the University?

You're a lucky fellow to be in this position. Good luck!

Bruce Taylor
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#7 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 11:46 PM

Hi Adrian,

People have made some good points.

What do you want? Could you write it out in a sentence? Is moving to L.A. an essential part of that?

There are likely some different paths to what you want. If you cut out your present freelancing, people will start calling less
but are those jobs getting you closer to where you want to be? Will getting out of your particular spot in that world
be more likely to cause you to miss an opportunity to DP a great independent feature just around the corner or to set you
up with a new routine to plan thoroughly for one select film this summer?

It's great to have a steady cash flow but it seems like you've been doing okay. You're single, unmarried, relatively young. If
this position offers you stability to pursue your dreams, then good. If however, you gain a sense of security that
dulls the urgency of your dreams then you may lose them.

Being able to take classes tuition free sounds terrific. If I gave you free tickets to (name a team in Philadelphia) you might go
to those games a lot and see fewer movies and spend less time on developing the skills you need to be the DP you want to be.
Free classes could be a mixed blessing. I would love to take more classes in many different subjects and I'm sure that I could
con myself into believing that a tangential relationship to cinematography would justify my taking them.

Certainly, not every move you make (nor every class you take) should have a requirement of its fitting into your DP career track.
Just be careful to see the potential traps with these opportunities.

I agree that getting another degree isn't as free as it might seem. If you want one for its own sake, from a love of learning,
and you're willing to accept how going after that could affect your momentum as a DP, that's one thing but otherwise why do it?
Also, talking to a good financial planner is a good idea no matter what.

If you write out exactly what you think you want to do with yourself, and the best way for you to go about that, how would
this position fit into that plan?
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#8 Phil Connolly

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 05:14 AM

I think the position looks like a good opportunity as long as it doesn't distract you from the end game.

It's nice having a bit of finatual security, but that can become too tempting if you get used to it and prevent you from persuing your dreams. That said if your able to save up some money and still make the move to L.A. with a war chest of cash that might be a good option - since you could be more selective about projects you work on and not have to take jobs just for the money.

I don't think 28 - 29 is too old to move - although it gets harder to move when you get older - so be aware of that.

I was in a similar position to you - I was living in London and eeking out a living in the industry - doing anything to get by, camera jobs, editing jobs - coporates etc... I was working so hard my career wasn't really going anywhere - because I couldn't steer it in any direction, I was only taking jobs based on how well I was being paid. Since London is expesive - I missed out of lots of opportunites to take jobs that could have opened doors careerwise - because I couldn't afford to do them. So haveing some savings behind you can really help - as the key to success is not really about working on lots of projects - but working on the right projects regardless of what they pay. Eg that one killer film that really works will open many more doors then 10 or 20 ok films on your reel.

So I came to the desision London wasn't really working out - it is nearly as bad as Phil Rhodes say it is. I've just moved out of London and taken a Job as Technical Speciallist in Film and TV at a UK university. It was a scary desicion as I was worried I was turning my back on my career that want to persue (in my case directing). But I had clear resons for taking the role - universities are a nice place to work, the job is rewarding, the place has some decent kit that I can continue to learn and experiment with. Nothing wrong with a bit of finatual security as well.

I am worried that I'll get too comforatable and the directing thing will fall by the wayside - but ultimatly is down to me, not to let that happen. I'm finding the job is giving me more time to develop my own stuff and I've already got some shoots lined up for later this month. So hopefully I can do both in the short to mid term then see what happens and what opportunies come along.

At the moment i think for me the move to the university has been that right thing to do - but I'm not single and have other responisbilities which have affected my choices.

Good luck in whatever you choose to do and its nice to have options both ways.
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 12:03 PM

Thanks for the input guys. As for you, Tim, in terms of what I want to do in one sentence it would be this: Make a livable wage as a narrative director of photography. Ambitious, I know, but I honestly think that while LA isn't an absolute essential, there is more work (and more competition for that work) in that market than there is here in Philadelphia or even up in New York. At least in my experience so far.

I suppose my main reason for considering taking the job (and the degree is just one of those added things where I "might as well," since it's free and given my shifts I'll have free time in the mornings) is just to build up the nest egg I know I'll need for a move out to LA. Let's be serious, it's not as though I'll plop out on the west coast and have a network in place to get jobs from the get go. So, there will be a few months which I'll have to spend time building up contacts, working for less than I'd like to, and pounding the pavement, both virtual and real to meet people and get gigs. Hence why I figure 2 years of work out here will translate into a good amount of backup money for those expenses of moving myself and all my stuff across the country, my girlfriend's stuff as well (serious girlfriend as in the engagement is an "up and coming event," who wants me to do DoP work, which is all I could ask for), apartment, new car (as one needs a car in LA and I doubt my '87 oldsmobile will really last that long), as well as dealing with any other unforeseen problems which come up.

As for the phone not ringing as much here in Philadelphia in the meantime; well loosing work in the area would happen anyway, even if I left for LA today. I mean, let's face it, a move across the country would loose all the network I have here in Philadelphia and hopefully build up a new on there. Will I be shooting less in these 2 years at a 9-5 (erm in this case 2-9), of course. But, I hope to still be able to shoot something. I am curious, though, how many other peoples on here have had "normal" jobs while still working towards the overall goal of "industry" work? How did you find 'em, how hard was it to leave 'em?

As for life-style changes.. I have a habit of being able to break them, thus-far. Not always easy, but I don't get tempted by money too easily. So long as I can survive that's all I need. And, I am intentionally going to limit how much money I take home from this job by forcing a good percentage of the income into savings/investing in things. This way, while my income goes up on paper, I hopefully won't move into too much of a different life-style. Though a new-er car (e.g. one that doesn't stall/sputter and die when I put it in drive) and apartment without roommates are short-term goals from this income as well as the payoff of some debts. The rest of the money, as mentioned, I am going to put into savings (probably not a 401K or anything as such having looked into the fees/penalties on those recently) as well as some lighting equipment I've been eying for awhile (stuff which doesn't get outdated as easily as cameras), and rounding out the accessories for the cameras I already have/shooting little things on the side, for myself, just to keep in some form of practice.
Anyway, Tuesday is the big day of the interview, so we'll see how that goes. And then, well, we'll see what happens.
Personally I don't like this whole deal. I don't like even considering the job, but I am willing to suck up the "suck," of the position for awhile in service of, what I hope, is a more fulfilling career. So, now, everyone on here, if I do take this, 1) make sure I get fired/quit/etc somehow no matter what I say after no more than 2 years and 2) don't think I won't be on here and/or shooting every moment I'm not strapped to the desk!
The on plus about shoots in Philadelphia is that a good deal of them are on Fridays and Sats, which happen to be when I have off, plus 10 sicks days and 4 weeks of vacation I can use whenever will also help to keep at least some shoots happening monthly. We'll see....
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 12:29 PM

After college, I decided to work in an office for 2-years to pay off my student loans, but 2 turned into nearly 4... partly because I only applied to one graduate film school, didn't get accepted, and had to wait a whole year and then apply to several. End result was that I was 26 when I went to graduate school and 29 when I came out and started trying to work in the industry.

So I don't see a problem with your 2-year plan as long as you don't get too comfortable with that income. I would save as much of it as you can because your first two years in Los Angeles will be incredibly lean.
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 12:32 PM

Thanks for the reply David. Hell, if I can make it out to LA and start working at age 29 and be anywhere near your current situation, well that'd be ideal! Here's hoping I can keep my 2 years at 2 years, and I am serious about anyone on the forum helping me make sure it only is 2 years, if this job thing happens.
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:16 PM

It's always a question of balance.

Life is short and we NEVER get the "wasted" years back.

On the other hand, we have to pay the bills so that we CAN reach for and live the dream that makes life worth living.


Everyone's situation is different so there is no singular answer that works for everyone. As mentioned, the "danger" in taking a "real job" is that "life happens" and bills accrue and the idea of pulling out the roots and moving gets more and more difficult as time goes on. While it may not be the most financially feasible or "responsible" thing to do, moving to wherever it is you really want to go as soon as possible "wastes" less time than hunkering down in a "safe" place just so you can make money.

But who's to say that you wouldn't earn that same amount of money after you moved? You might not and probably won't... but you COULD...AND you'd be where you want to be doing the thing you want to do. Right?

You have to do what feels right to YOU.
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#13 Wesley Hartshorn

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:23 PM

The numbers all look great and it's mature of you to plan your next 2 years out the way you have. But I wonder why do you want to go to the "West Coast"? Besides the obvious reasons? Have you ever lived there? My 1 year spent there was great and I was booking gigs constantly but the traffic and environment is a drain on your soul and there are other hubs in the US where you can make a living in Film. Arizona and New Mexico? The government in Cali is driving production companies away to other smaller hubs nearby.

Me being stationed in Ohio I've grown to love the enthusiasm I get from my local filmmakers here and that was something that is hard to find in LA. Nothing can replace the raw energy from a small group working towards their film careers in an unlikely place.

Peace, Love, and Film
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 05:54 PM

Note well that the advice to come out here immediately comes mostly from people who aren't here. It's deader than Caesar's ghost out here, and likely to remain dead for a while. Fuggedabout 401K or anything tax deferred. The idea behind that is for us old guys who retire, and drop into lower tax brackets. If anything, brackets and rates will go up for you.




-- J.S.
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#15 David Rakoczy

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:04 PM

Absolutely John. Thanks for giving an honest assessment. That is what I (have been) hearing from my LA contacts for quite some time. Production is down, but whatever (is) being produced, the state of the State has chased out. Taxes.. no incentives... A person can move to Hollywood and rarely work in Hollywood. Heck, rarely work at all. There may be another surge in production but many 'stars' need to line up for that to happen and the way things are looking it could be quite some time. I saw the decline beginning in the mid 90's... If you were considering this in the 80's I'd say go go go! Now?... do what is prudent. Most people who move there end up being 50 year old children anyway.... I know, I lived there for decades :rolleyes:

"There's a big 'Ol dollar sign on the Sunset Strip. You can send your friend a postcard, it ain't worth the trip" -The Presidents of the United States of America- 'Naked and Famous'

Let John send you a postcard!
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#16 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:16 PM

Do you all honestly think it'll adversely impact things for me?


Having been in this exact situation I would have to say yes, I think over all it will have a negative impact if your goal is to be the next David Mullen and be in the ASC and shoot narrative features on a regular basis.

When I finished film school I went to work for CTV as a producer, sounded great at the time. I got stuck there for five years! I should have skipped it and lived in a basement apartment and ate ramen noodles while I worked on breaking into film. Maybe I would of had five features under my belt today instead of only two?

Then again I may have starved to death which would have resulted in zero features under my belt :D

I think every one in this business reaches a do-or-die phase, you either jump in fully with both feet, or you never make it.

R,
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#17 David Rakoczy

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:20 PM

I think every one in this business reaches a do-or-die phase, you either jump in fully with both feet, or you never make it.

R,


Even those who (have) "made it" can quickly die on the vine. I'd bet even Mr. Mullen would tell you it isn't all it is cracked up to be... afte rall, he is on this site a lot... tell you something? He isn't posting between lighting set ups!
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#18 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:36 PM

As David suggests, follow the Corporate Welfare/Fascist Agenda. I'm trying my best to keep up with all the States and Nations that feel the need to feed Corporations welfare (despite the Republican whining about Welfare to people who actually need it) at http://www.realfilmcareer.com. The "state of the State" (whichever state you happen to be in) is that Corporate Welfare (incentives) turn out to HURT states more than the tax incentives actually help. Of course, the incentives help the Corporations that MADE MASSIVE PROFITS last year because (duh!) the Corporations aren't really losing money despite the whining they do in order to drive "manufacturing" (that's people like you, me, and David) costs down. They just take the tax incentive cash and pocket it as profit instead of rewarding the states/nations for allowing them to shoot in their region.

The entire "tax incentive" thing is a massive scam/bank robbery. But, if you want to keep working just to eek by like the rest of us non-Billionaires, then keep in touch with the States and Countries that are handing over their bribe money to governments.

(pssst.... it's called Fascism, by the way)
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#19 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:43 PM

Most people who move there end up being 50 year old children anyway....


Hey! I resemble that remark! No, not really, I am all grown up now (mortgage, student loans for my kids...) -- but I know what you mean.

Some really good points:

Wesley's comment about living in LA. You should come out here for a week or two (if you haven't already) and see if you even like it here. Visit some of the people on this list perhaps. Lots of folks don't like living here, and it's easy to see why. Traffic, earthquakes, mudslides, fires, bad air... shall I go on?

I've been here 30 years and I still love it. I came from the San Francisco Bay Area, and while I miss the very pretty NorCal landscape I prefer to live here. I find it exciting, and I love the mix of cultures and variety of things to see and do. But lots people don't like it.

Second, John's comment about availability of work-- I thought it was just me! Slowwwwww. No one knows knows what the next couple of years will bring.

Good luck,

Bruce Taylor
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#20 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 07:06 PM

The entire "tax incentive" thing is a massive scam/bank robbery. But, if you want to keep working just to eek by like the rest of us non-Billionaires, then keep in touch with the States and Countries that are handing over their bribe money to governments.

(pssst.... it's called Fascism, by the way)


Film tax credit programs used by more than a dozen US states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and numerous other countries are here to stay Brian, you'll just have to accept that.

R,
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