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Relatively new and wanting more experience


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#1 Ben Luke Taylor

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Posted 04 June 2010 - 04:55 PM

First of all, hi, my name is Ben Taylor and I am relatively new to this industry. Im 18 and have been freelancing as a camera assistant at a small corporate company, and a second AC for a Channel 4 drama, which also involves some grip work (basic operation of a Fisher 11). I am based in the NW of England.

The work that I have done so far seems to always get positive feedback from all members of the crew, from director, to DOP, operators and AC's and I just generally want to progress in my career. Most of the operators and DOP's that I speak to say that the company I am currently freelancing for is a great place to start, but I shouldnt look to spend the rest of my life there.

So I am generally just trying to find out how I can progress, and what are the best ways to do this. I have experience working with DV and XDCAM so far, and have also worked on a 3D short, but only as a runner.

Any tips and general advice would be great, and if anyone from England knows of places worth giving a call or dropping an email to would be a big help too! Thanks.
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#2 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 12 June 2010 - 06:06 AM

First of all, hi, my name is Ben Taylor and I am relatively new to this industry. Im 18 and have been freelancing as a camera assistant at a small corporate company, and a second AC for a Channel 4 drama, which also involves some grip work (basic operation of a Fisher 11). I am based in the NW of England.

The work that I have done so far seems to always get positive feedback from all members of the crew, from director, to DOP, operators and AC's and I just generally want to progress in my career. Most of the operators and DOP's that I speak to say that the company I am currently freelancing for is a great place to start, but I shouldnt look to spend the rest of my life there.

So I am generally just trying to find out how I can progress, and what are the best ways to do this. I have experience working with DV and XDCAM so far, and have also worked on a 3D short, but only as a runner.

Any tips and general advice would be great, and if anyone from England knows of places worth giving a call or dropping an email to would be a big help too! Thanks.


Maybe you can get an internship at a rental company, meet all the ac's and dop's who come there and let them know you're an ambitious young man who wants to work hard and learn. The best advice is: meet people and make a good impression.
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#3 Ben Luke Taylor

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 02:49 PM

Thanks Alex, I'll definitely look into that.

But as I am trying that do you have any more advice or things I could be doing in my spare time to help me out a bit more?
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 07:01 PM

Well, what do you want to progress towards?
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#5 Ben Luke Taylor

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 02:11 PM

Well, what do you want to progress towards?


I want to stick down the camera route, progressing to 1st AC, operator, DoP eventually…

As you are a DoP yourself, what kind of route did you take when you first started out, and what do you think I should be doing right now?
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 02:36 PM

I went through the grip/electric department and then gaffed on some smaller things before jumping behind the lens- figured it would be a lot easier to learn how to turn the damned cameras on -v- where to put a head and which one to put up ;).

One of the best ways to move up is just to keep on working. Work in the departments your interested in when you can, and when the time comes to move up a position, take on some free work, and I stress SOME, just to build up experience and a reel in that area. I was kinda lucky that when I was born my own dad was lighting some smaller stuff, and a lot of very boring stuff (aerobics videos!) so I had the "in," to get some work under my belt and learn the lay of the land. Then I went to Film School later on to learn the theory, and just said, ok, time for me to start DoPing. The only reason why I was able to get some of my classmates to let me DoP, aside from us getting along, was that I had shot a few of my own projects before hand and they didn't look like other freshman film projects-- if you know what I mean. From there I did one shoot as DoP, next time it came around it was 3 shorts, and so on and so forth.
What I'd recommend doing is linking up with other young like minded individuals-- people who you trust and who can trust you and doing some work together. At that point it might not matter too much whether or not they can afford to pay you (if it means you get to rent better equipment, or put that money on the screen, and your buds and both doing this, literally to help establish your career. Not offering pay to established pros is what many, myself included frown upon). And when you're on set make sure you speak with your superiors and get them to show you what they know, ask questions when appropriate. The key to all of this is being "the guy" (or gal) they'll recommend later on when some other shoot needs you. Knowing the local rental and post houses is also important- you don't necessarily have to work there, though it would help- so as when people ask around for "hey, we need someone who knows this damned X9600-L Super-D Camera," they'll mention your name (assuming you know that totally fictitious camera).
The thing with this industry is that there is no real "path," or way to move up. What works for one person probably won't work for you. The general idea, as far as I can tell it, is that you move up with the people around you. In my own way, there are a few ACs (2) who I really liked to work with. We started out together and they know how I work and they know what they're doing (for the most part,) when/if I ever get a bigger job and I get to pick ACs, I'll probably pick them (though honestly, I might be a little bit worried bringing them out on a super big job as A-Cam1st, B-Cam, or 2nd, probably.. and hopefully they won't get offended). Same goes for the rest of people I work with. The hope is too that the directors I've shot for before, as they move along they'll call me for those bigger budgets, better work, cooler systems. Now, not all of them will because frankly there are a few I'd tell to go screw themselves, same goes for a few other clients I've had who couldn't pay me enough to work for or with them again-- but ideally they'll keep my name fresh in mind and give me a call for the job. So far, this seems to have been my experience with a few people, so lucky me there!
The other odd thing is the glacial pace of a lot of advancement in this industry, and I use that in the sense of global warming.. meaning for a long time it can seem like hardly anything is happening, then boom, a lot of things happen very quickly (all the ice caps melt!) and you're in a whole new ball-game where you spend some more time, again, till whoosh, so on and so forth. In these slow-ish times it's best to make sure you're really taking every advantage to network-- speaking with people whom you know, the PA you had on set who you thought was funny, that Producer with the really nice beach-house, the colorist you know loves a good pint. Drop them all lines here and again, not to ask for or seek work-- though that seems to always be where a filmmaker conversation eventually ambles.. that and new toys-- but just to say "hey mr or ms Y i'll be in your neck of the woods on days zed and I was wondering if you wanted to stop out for a (insert something they like here).
This keeps you palsy and helps them remember you, you get wind of what's coming up in their life, and they in yours. This is a way you can also advance yourself, especially if you're hanging with a DoP whose just passed on a project and over beers says, "hey, you know what, I dunno if they have someone else, and I know you wanna shoot something, I can give them your info."
And a lot of course comes down to pounding the pavement-- digital and real. looking for jobs as they come up, sometimes taking a crappy gig for a good check, or a great gig for (no check), being frustrated and unhappy with your work, developing some mental ticks, and wishing you had a chiropractor friend. Shake well, add in some luck, and somehow you might have a career. I often say it's not really about who you know, or how good you are at what you do, or how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. This is often a war of attrition to establish ourselves somewhere in the industry, and then a long pitched battle to stay there and/or move up.

Sorry for the long reply.. hope it helps.
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#7 Sam Ebrahim

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 11:13 AM

Where specifically in the NW Ben? Only asking because I'm wondering if Screen Yorkshire still do their Year-long Trainee scheme. If so, it might be worth checking out. The first Focus Puller I worked with was selected for it and he's doing well for himself. As far as I remember, they fast-track you into at least 5 major Productions, giving you a good head-start. I was in the runnings for it myself but ended up moving to London.

As for Alex's suggestion on Rental Houses: Provision in Leeds were a good place when I was around. They always had showcases for the new Camera Tech. and/or Open Testing Days, so it might be an idea to visit just for that. Of course there's always Panavision in Manchester and Arri in Leeds as well (I think?). Get in to those places and ask to study/play around with the Gear, both new and old. They normally set-up tutorials etc.

Remember that Wales has become some-what of a hotspot for certain Productions because it's proving a bit cheaper to film over there. If you're close enough and willing to travel it might be a chance to get on some good stuff.

Looks like you're trying to avoid Film School/University which is a good thing in my eyes. I made this mistake and it's only put my career on hold whilst I finished my degree. Helped me to prove creative ability but unless you're planning to state you're a DoP straight off the bat it can get in the way of being a Technician.

Good luck and hopefully we'll bump in to each other one day!

Sam
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#8 Ben Luke Taylor

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 02:51 PM

Where specifically in the NW Ben? Only asking because I'm wondering if Screen Yorkshire still do their Year-long Trainee scheme. If so, it might be worth checking out. The first Focus Puller I worked with was selected for it and he's doing well for himself. As far as I remember, they fast-track you into at least 5 major Productions, giving you a good head-start. I was in the runnings for it myself but ended up moving to London.

As for Alex's suggestion on Rental Houses: Provision in Leeds were a good place when I was around. They always had showcases for the new Camera Tech. and/or Open Testing Days, so it might be an idea to visit just for that. Of course there's always Panavision in Manchester and Arri in Leeds as well (I think?). Get in to those places and ask to study/play around with the Gear, both new and old. They normally set-up tutorials etc.

Remember that Wales has become some-what of a hotspot for certain Productions because it's proving a bit cheaper to film over there. If you're close enough and willing to travel it might be a chance to get on some good stuff.

Looks like you're trying to avoid Film School/University which is a good thing in my eyes. I made this mistake and it's only put my career on hold whilst I finished my degree. Helped me to prove creative ability but unless you're planning to state you're a DoP straight off the bat it can get in the way of being a Technician.

Good luck and hopefully we'll bump in to each other one day!

Sam


Hi Sam,

I'm based in Merseyside, and currently do most of my work in Liverpool. Although I would definitely consider the Screen Yorkshire training you have mentioned, I will look in to it right now actually!

I have been looking into rental houses, there is Panavision and Arri both in Manchester, which I have been considering sending an e-mail out to, however I am getting steady work at the moment at Lime Pictures, so I also don't want to shut them out right now until work starts to die down a bit, but then would that be more likely that rental houses would be less likely to take me on for some kind of work placement as they probably wont be trading as much in the winter?

Yes, I did an apprenticeship in Manchester which got me work experience at 3 companies, 2 of which I work for at the moment, the other closed down, and I feel that I can show I have a few media related qualifications (which I have found are about as worthless as the paper they are printed on so far) but more importantly I have the actual experience to do my job as an AC. I certainly wouldn't go to a job claiming I am a DoP when I have only been a 2nd AC for just over a year now!

However I still haven't had any luck when contacting any production companies outside of the ones I have worked for so far which is kind of frustrating. Am I best calling the companies up and asking to speak to their production offices and putting my name forward for freelance work directly rather than just sending out an e-mail which will probably never get read?

Thanks for the advice you have given so far, and any replies to my new questions would be great!

Ben
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#9 Sam Ebrahim

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 03:57 PM

Hi Sam,

I'm based in Merseyside, and currently do most of my work in Liverpool. Although I would definitely consider the Screen Yorkshire training you have mentioned, I will look in to it right now actually!

I have been looking into rental houses, there is Panavision and Arri both in Manchester, which I have been considering sending an e-mail out to, however I am getting steady work at the moment at Lime Pictures, so I also don't want to shut them out right now until work starts to die down a bit, but then would that be more likely that rental houses would be less likely to take me on for some kind of work placement as they probably wont be trading as much in the winter?

Yes, I did an apprenticeship in Manchester which got me work experience at 3 companies, 2 of which I work for at the moment, the other closed down, and I feel that I can show I have a few media related qualifications (which I have found are about as worthless as the paper they are printed on so far) but more importantly I have the actual experience to do my job as an AC. I certainly wouldn't go to a job claiming I am a DoP when I have only been a 2nd AC for just over a year now!

However I still haven't had any luck when contacting any production companies outside of the ones I have worked for so far which is kind of frustrating. Am I best calling the companies up and asking to speak to their production offices and putting my name forward for freelance work directly rather than just sending out an e-mail which will probably never get read?

Thanks for the advice you have given so far, and any replies to my new questions would be great!

Ben




You're right that Rental Houses see Peaks and Troughs in activity dependant on Season, but turnover of staff isn't something I'd particularly attach to that as well. If they've got a position, and you can prove you're the right guy for the job, then there's no reason they won't bring you in on the floor. The reason you want to be in there initially is to get to grips with all the Camera Gear they have from a technical stand-point. The jobs will then come when your superiors have got to know you and feel confident to recommend you out on a job, or you make an impression on a Crew that have come in for Tests/Check-out etc. It's a route that I didn't take, but still think about.

I don't know about Lime Pictures, but what Arri can do is eventually get you on their Crew Diary Service. Again, this isn't something I've experienced personally, but I know a DoP who is and this surely helps him in terms of Kudos and to some lengths steadiness of work. It depends on how you want to do it; if you want to be doing your job on set all the time, then it might not be the best option. As another person said, it's good enough to have a working relationship with the Houses, but not imperative to make your start there. However, I'll re-iterate that the one huge benefit of working in a House is that you can learn everything you need to know about a plethora of Cameras, Lenses, Grip Equipment etc. that will make you infinitley more confident in working with said equipment when the job comes.

In terms of getting on to Productions, there are again a variety of ways to get in. The major one is recommendation from previous colleagues, so take Adrian's advice on board and keep those contacts close. The other, which some might disagree with is yes, contacting the Production directly through whatever means (Listings etc.). You might also like a DoP's work and get in touch with them, offering your services. The same goes for your 1st/2nd AC. If you can get a personal rapport going, then I imagine it will be much easier to land the work.

Finally, I would like to give a word of warning. Be careful not to throw yourself out there for something you might not be prepared for. As a Focus Puller once told me, it takes years to build a reputation but can take seconds to destroy it. Don't state to be something you're not, as it will only bite you in the arse later, unless you're lucky!

Hope that helps.

Sam
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 04:10 PM

Oh bloody hell, not another one. What is it, graduation season or something?

Use the search function - I don't like typing out treatises on the general state of the British film "industry" three times a day. It's turning me into something I don't like, and I was already something nobody else much liked.


Edit: don't bother, I've done it for you. Linky.

P
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#11 Sam Ebrahim

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 04:55 PM

Basically, if you can formulate a sense of humour similar to Phil's, then you're pretty much sorted.

I would certainly take a good look at what he's said in the linked thread. The home truths are all spelt out there for you.

Sam
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#12 Ben Luke Taylor

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 09:18 AM

Thanks again for the replies guys.

I am aware that there arent many English films around, and England is generally a hard place to get work in. Although I am still prepared to carry on trying to work.

Just yesterday when talking to a DoP he was saying how well I am doing for working where I am at my age, so surely this will give me a good impression when applying for a internship at a rental house. The link Phil shared I think has been directed more to people that expect to come out of education, and the next week be directing the next £200M feature film. I know that I am just a AC at the moment, and I will be for a hell of a long time, but I see some of the people I am working with at the moment, and they getting work in London all of the time, but they have a lot more experience than me, and I know that until I have that experience, I wont be working out of the companies I am at the moment.

So, Phil, I dont disagree with you at all, I know people are struggling to get work, but I also know some people who are rolling in it, I suppose its all a case of who you know, and where you are. I also know people who have left the media industry and are making a hell of a lot more money now, but after just one year, I dont want to give up, because this is the job I want to have.
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