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Shoot an indie feature, or stay in school?


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#1 Grant MacAllister

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 12:43 PM

Hey all,

A few days ago I got a call from a director who's shooting a low budget indie feature back where I'm from. I'm currently at school in Chicago as a Cinematography major, and I've shot several shorts and have a fairly decent reel at this point. Shooting for the feature is speculated to take place in February or March. He'd gotten my number from one of my AC's on a short I shot over the summer, and said he was looking for "a shooter", I don't know if this means DP work, or Cam Op, or what? Also the financial situation seems a little odd, it's low budget, and he says "all principles get a percentage of the pie. So, it will only kick, if the participants seed the project and view it as a mutual investment for return." So I'm uncertain to whether its a deferred payment deal or not? He says he has strong cast in place and that it would be a highly commercial project. He worked with some, now bigger names on his last film, several of them went to work on the TV show Leverage.

So I wonder if I should take a semester off to help build my resume and reel, or just continue on in school to where I have a better understanding of Cinematography?

Any feedback is appreciated!

Thanks,
-G
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 12:46 PM

I wouldn't do it for free... but if you can take a semester off and get paid for it, then you should consider it. And/or if it's on a format that you've been dying to work with (IMAX or the like).
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#3 Grant MacAllister

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 12:50 PM

And/or if it's on a format that you've been dying to work with (IMAX or the like).


I'm fairly sure its shooting on DSLR, as he asked if I had my own gear. I own a 60D, but I'll have to wait til I meet with him in December to get more specifics on format. I'm presuming that since its a low budget, it's on HD format, which I'm more familiar with.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 12:53 PM

Well you gotta ask yourself, honestly, can you afford the shoot? Can you afford to miss the shoot? Once you know that for you, you'll know. I was in a similar position a ways back and I picked shooting, primarily because it was on S16mm and I was itching to try out some new lenses and stocks, and they were paying enough to cover my bills (so it wasn't costing me anything).
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 01:01 PM

Adrian is right, skip this one, stay in school. This unpaid DSLR shoot won't do a thing for you.

R,
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#6 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 03:43 PM

Agree with the advice given and just so you know, "deferred payment" is nothing more than a cliched phrase that means "free"; a term mostly propagated by the myriad of stupid filmmaking books and inexperienced film teachers out there. Indie films do not make "profits" and even if one did somehow, it would never, and I do mean never, pay you anything.

Also if it had a strong cast and was going to be "highly commercial" he wouldn't ask you to do it for free, nor would he be talking to students to shoot it, nor would he use the term "shooter".

Getting onto a feature set for the sake of experience is a different story but it has to be looked at in that way, although from the sound of it this might not be worth even that. A good test to see if a small film is worthwhile can start with knowing two things: Is there a somewhat experienced AD on it? Will you be able to have an AC? If you don't have those two things, crew wise, then you do not have a set, thus no movie worth working on.
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 04:04 PM

This one sounds like it's too low end to be worth the bother. Deferred payments almost never pay off. But a better feature gig where you get paid and learn something, instead of paying a school, would be worth dropping the school for. In this business, experience counts for more than education.



-- J.S.
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#8 Roland Zagonyi

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 05:42 AM

I'm agreeing with the others, stay in school.

It's not always a bad thing to accept free work as a student, but you have to pick your battles.

If they delay the project until the summer, and you find of that he meant to say "cinematographer" instead of "a shooter" (which is a bit of a red flag already), then read the script, chances are it won't be amazing, but there's always the chance that it could be.

In the case that "a shooter" means "camera operator", find out who the cinematographer is, look at some of his work, if he's more experienced and/or talented than you, then you might learn something from him, but don't take a semester off in order to do it.
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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:25 PM

Ask yourself, would you be doing this for the experience or just to have another clip on your reel? If it's the latter, I'd skip this gig. What's so sexy about another garden variety DSLR shoot? (no offense, gang.)

It also sounds fishy to me (as in you won't see any money.) If this guy's credentials are so great, why do you have to provide the camera package? He should at least have a rental house standing by that he has a good working relationship with.

STAY IN SCHOOL.
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#10 Grant MacAllister

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 12:18 AM

Thanks for your advice everyone! I plan on meeting with the director when I go back, just to see what exactly he's offering. If the shoot can be pushed until I return from school in the summer I might do it just for the experience and reel footage. But I plan on staying in school and honing my skills.
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#11 K Borowski

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:01 AM

Don't show up. "Seed" means he wants you to put YOUR money in. What about wear-and-tear and depreciation to YOUR camera?
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