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How do you choose your work


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 11:35 AM

As a young up and (hope to be) comer, I could use some advice when it comes to taking gigs, namely, non-paying ones.

I see an important part for non-paid work...it offers new challenges not yet encountered, offers a chance to add to the demo reel, and most of all, is an opportunity that could open doors to new professional relationships and paid work in the future.

And it's that last part that gets me. I'm hyperaware of the fact that any one project could be THE ONE that gets your name out there, that launches your career (or at least primes it). I wonder if that next project, be it a short or feature, could do for me what "Memento" did for Pfister, or "Slacker" for Lee Daniel, or "A Matter of Life and Death" for Jack Cardiff.

Of course, that is also a big, big what if. Odds are far more likely that the gig will be just that...another gig, another baby step forward, if at all. And for every decent filmmaker who has everything EXCEPT money, there are five or ten more who are total deadbeats looking for handouts.

I wanna take every opportunity that comes my way, but I know I can't, both because I can't do all my work for free, and because there are a lotta deadbeats out there who just want to use you for free to make a product that comes out crummy due to bad acting, script, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So for both young DPs and experienced ones, how did you decide which non-paying projects did you accept and which do you reject? Do you have a criteria, or informal rule when it comes to someone needing a DP, but can't pay? Or do you just straight up refuse it? What is the balance between the need for thinking in the short term (i.e., work to keep the lights on and cover the rent) and the long term (the project that might not pay now, but could pay in the FUTURE)?

As always, your advice is most appreciated!

Best,
BR
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 11:49 AM

You know, it's personal. For me, I'm much more inclined to work for free with someone who is honest, passionate, professional, and trying-- even if the script isn't that great, and with/for friends of mine, or those who come to me through friends, but only when I can afford it. On those sight-unseen issues, it comes down to whether or not I'll get something worth-while out of it-- a chance to shoot in another country, a new format, or a different way, or perhaps a story which really touches me.
In truth, most of these projects will go nowhere, but when I've nothing else to do, and enough money to fill the belly and build the roof, I might as well consider doing something. That's how I take it, of course.
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#3 Brian Rose

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:06 PM

Yeah, that's where I'm stumped. I asked because I got a call from a fellow who found my name through the local film commission. He wants to shoot a commercial for a contest being held by Doritos. He's convinced he can win it (100K first prize) and has offered to split it with me 50/50.

The obvious problems with this aside, I'm just wondering what he seriously hopes to accomplish if I'm the only other person working the film (at least, the one he's willing to divy up the phantom dough with). And in exchange he needs the usual: me to supply the gear, work on it, etc., etc., it's an opportunity, and I'll be asking others, so let me know soon if you want in.

Really, every warning bell is going off in my head. But it IS an opportunity, and EVERY director has a bit of that mad ambition in him. It's sorting out the 20 deluded ones from the one who has legitimate vision, y'know?

When I last spoke with him, I left the door open, but I doubt I'll be doing it.

BR
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#4 Ben Brahem Ziryab

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:08 PM

I'll just take whatever pays the most!
Nah, most short films project tends to be unpaid, so you will do it because you want to help your friends or if the script has the right emotional components. But the truth is, that you're not going to have an experienced DP doing his/hers profession for free. Film industry is hard, and we all have to make a living. For now, I'll take all the projects in the world, if I happen to like the script or director, but most of the times I agree because I need the experience or I'll do it for the portfolio. But all this is most likely to change in my future professional career.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:12 PM

Personally, no matter where I get in this profession, when someone comes to me and honestly needs help shooting, and I'm not hurting myself in any way, I'll do it. That's just me though, perhaps.

As for the Doritos thing, I've been offered those before, they're almost all b/s. You may want to just explain to the director that to accomplish this you'll need X gear and give him a quote for rentals, and also bring up insurance. it might be enough to dissuade him/her from it, and/or perhaps be enough to get him/her to get some budget together.
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#6 Brian Rose

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:20 PM

Personally, no matter where I get in this profession, when someone comes to me and honestly needs help shooting, and I'm not hurting myself in any way, I'll do it. That's just me though, perhaps.

As for the Doritos thing, I've been offered those before, they're almost all b/s. You may want to just explain to the director that to accomplish this you'll need X gear and give him a quote for rentals, and also bring up insurance. it might be enough to dissuade him/her from it, and/or perhaps be enough to get him/her to get some budget together.


Adrian,

That's how I played it. I said he really needed to shoot in high def, which I don't own at the time, but I left the door open by offering grip/glidecam gear if he could find an HD camera. So we'll see if I hear back.

BR
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:21 PM

I have a Droid, it shoots 720p, let's go!

I think you handled things well. See what happens, and try not to burn bridges; though Lord knows I have before.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:22 PM

You weigh lots of factors. I tend to think of it from a number of perspectives, one of which is the question "do they need ME?" as opposed to any competent camera person to push the button. In other words, are my particular talents needed for this project. This ties into another issue, which is whether it presents a good challenge as a cinematographer. Another factor is whether it will be seen. And finally there is the matter of whether I want to form this contact with the director and/or producer.
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Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

CineLab

Technodolly