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Getting my foot in the Door


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#1 Chris Durham

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 04:21 PM

I've recently moved to NYC from Dallas where I was making steady progress in the local independent film scene - for what that's worth - as a DP. I worked as a DP on a lot of short films, did some editing here and there, and did some crewing for various other productions. Then I got a chance to move to NYC with a really good day job and figured it would be a good move all around.

Now I'm settled in and wanting to start working again. I know this is a real production town and expect my previous experience will be less significant here than it was in Texas, particularly on larger productions, and of course I'm not above starting at the bottom - I just want to work and grow. A big hurdle for me is that for the immediate future I'm only really able to work weekends and evenings, but I'm more than willing to work my ass off at every opportunity.

So for those of you who do, or have, worked here, what can I do? How should I proceed to start building the foundation of a professional career in the camera department?
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#2 JD Hartman

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 06:47 PM

Expect to work lots of three day weekends. As best as possible pick and choose when it comes to student shorts. If it's a student short, try to stick to shoots at SVA, NYU and Columbia. Undergrad shoots at NYU and Columbia are generally better to work on than the shoots in the graduate program. Seems backward? Think about possible reasons why.
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#3 George Ebersole

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 11:46 PM

I've recently moved to NYC from Dallas where I was making steady progress in the local independent film scene - for what that's worth - as a DP. I worked as a DP on a lot of short films, did some editing here and there, and did some crewing for various other productions. Then I got a chance to move to NYC with a really good day job and figured it would be a good move all around.

Now I'm settled in and wanting to start working again. I know this is a real production town and expect my previous experience will be less significant here than it was in Texas, particularly on larger productions, and of course I'm not above starting at the bottom - I just want to work and grow. A big hurdle for me is that for the immediate future I'm only really able to work weekends and evenings, but I'm more than willing to work my ass off at every opportunity.

So for those of you who do, or have, worked here, what can I do? How should I proceed to start building the foundation of a professional career in the camera department?

When I was working lots in my 20s I had a ton of free time and resources, but also some familial obligations. If you don't have anything tying you down, then get into one of those lofts rented by 20 people (preferably artsy film types), and work on their stuff. I wish I had.
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#4 Chris Durham

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 09:12 AM

Undergrad shoots at NYU and Columbia are generally better to work on than the shoots in the graduate program. Seems backward? Think about possible reasons why.


Well my guess is that grad students often don't come from a film undergrad program, or a film background. They therefore might know less about what they're doing than someone who has spent time learning the ropes.
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#5 Chris Durham

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 09:21 AM

When I was working lots in my 20s I had a ton of free time and resources, but also some familial obligations. If you don't have anything tying you down, then get into one of those lofts rented by 20 people (preferably artsy film types), and work on their stuff. I wish I had.


I wish I'd done something like that too. I'm now in my mid-30s and the primary breadwinner. I'm maneuvering my finances so that I'll eventually be in a position (by having fewer expenses, less debt, etc.) to responsibly take the willing pay cut that will come with a career change. In the mean-time I want to do everything I can to cultivate the skills and curate the relationships necessary in having a career to change to.
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#6 JD Hartman

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 09:45 AM

Well my guess is that grad students often don't come from a film undergrad program, or a film background. They therefore might know less about what they're doing than someone who has spent time learning the ropes.


You hit the nail right on the head. Working on a Graduate thesis film for someone with an undergrad law degree, isn't all it's cracked up to be. The other problem is the poor condition of the equipment in the graduate program. Never found an answer to that issue.
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#7 George Ebersole

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 12:30 PM

I wish I'd done something like that too. I'm now in my mid-30s and the primary breadwinner. I'm maneuvering my finances so that I'll eventually be in a position (by having fewer expenses, less debt, etc.) to responsibly take the willing pay cut that will come with a career change. In the mean-time I want to do everything I can to cultivate the skills and curate the relationships necessary in having a career to change to.

I hear ya on that note. It's never really too late, but it all depends on your financial situation. Me, I simply can't afford to do it anymore, and with my new job I'll only be able to eek by and live. That's just the way of it.

One of the reasons I never boarded with a bunch of filmmakers, as I probably should have, was that a lot of them didn't seem serious, or were still unsure of what they wanted to do. That was a kind of intimidation unto itself, risking moving in with people who wind up flaking. No fun. So, you've got to be careful even there. But, if you find the guys who've got actual cameras and are shooting footage, then stick with them and network.

Good luck. I know you'll make it. :)
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 01:25 PM

Don't room with film-people. Room with accountants (steady-er income!) But live in an area where other filmmakers live; find out what bars they go to, what coffee shops, and buy 'em a drink if you ever seen 'em. Network like made, that's where it really is. Take a few for free projects, if you must, but get food and money for gas, or try to work out something (what I used to do would be pro-rate my rent per day and say to people, look, I need to pay rent, it's this much per day for me, can you match it? If you can I'll make sure you don't regret it!)
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 05:23 PM

Don't room with film-people. Room with accountants (steady-er income!)


If you guys keep following this line of logic why don't you just tell him to move in with Steven Spielberg?

R,
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 02:07 AM

Hell if you could ;)

Hell if you could ;) <br><br><br>
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#11 Chris Durham

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 04:59 PM

Thanks guys. Yeah, Adrian, I think the liability of staying with other filmmakers is rough. Hell, it's already a liability living with my girlfriend, an actor (thankfully she's getting background work here and has made more money in 3 months in NYC than in 2 years in Dallas). I've been taking the opportunities I can to make acquaintances with other filmmakers. I'm going to start visiting camera shops and rental houses just to network and whatnot, and I'll also be contacting Local 600 to figure out my best path into the union and what skills I need to be cultivating in the meantime. I'd rather start off as a loader or 2nd and learn the discipline and work my way up than become one of the endless ocean of "DPs" freelancing with a 5D and Zacuto kit. I mean, I'll probably do that kind of freelancing on the side, but I really want to learn cinematography.
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Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

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Rig Wheels Passport

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Willys Widgets

Opal

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC