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Working in a Rental House?


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#1 ben goldberg

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 08:26 PM

Hello-

I am trying to get into camera assisting, I have done it a few times on features and shorts. The only thing is that I feel limited because of the equipment I know. I know the job but need more experience and of course, being new to LA, more contacts!

have any of you worked in a camera rental house for experience?

If so, do you need to have tons of experience in order to get a job at one?

and was it worth it?

Thanks
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#2 Alan Certeza

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:26 AM

Hello-

I am trying to get into camera assisting, I have done it a few times on features and shorts. The only thing is that I feel limited because of the equipment I know. I know the job but need more experience and of course, being new to LA, more contacts!

have any of you worked in a camera rental house for experience?

If so, do you need to have tons of experience in order to get a job at one?

and was it worth it?

Thanks



Not speaking from experience but I know of many AC's in Seattle who I have talked to and many of them spent a great amount of time working at a rental house. The greatest thing I hear from AC's which I am striving to be, is that they would get an 35mm motion camera and load dummy or exposed film. They have all told me, "Because of that I was able to get on a show as a 2nd 2nd and load."

I do not plan on going that route of applying to a rental house because being new to Seattle, I can't afford to turn down freelance gigs because I have to go to work from mon-fri.

love to hear more on this topic.
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#3 James Malamatinas

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 06:12 PM

I am in a similar same position to you Ben. I'm currently talking with rental houses in London to try and find an opportunity to pop in during quiet periods and get some hands on experience handling film cameras and magazines. I realised having done a few months of camera assisting that I have a very large limitation with not being able to work on film and with it realised that the chance of getting to learn about film and film cameras on set, where mishandling film has enormous potential for damage, is extremely slim.

Most of the people with film experience I have met were either; taught in Film School, through a friend with film equipment or, the lucky ones, by having been a camera trainee. If you don't have one of those options open to you I think Rental Houses are extremely valuable. You also have the benefit of starting to meet the people that work in them which becomes useful when you eventually need to hire kit for yourself or for a project for which you are hired.
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#4 Tom Jensen

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 08:09 PM

I started at a rental house named Armistead Camera. It was a small place that did few jobs. I then went to Otto Nemenz where the business was brisk and I worked as a driver for 6 months. So all you need to start is a driver's license. This helped me learn the city and where much of the film work was actually shot. It was pretty exciting for a newbie because I would often go to sets and locations where I would see actors and musicians, not to mention cool sets. I moved into check in. This was the area where trucks unloaded after production wrapped. It also doubled as the loading area when jobs went out. I was always miffed why things came back in cases where they didn't belong until I went out and worked in the field. But, check in taught me what the equipment was and how to inventory it. After a few months of check in, I became a prep tech where I learned how to prep cameras for shoots. I was trained by Dan Wood, Ed Falk,Reinhardt Lichter, and Steve Hamerski taught me how to service lenses. This training was very valuable. I learned basically everything about the camera and how it went together. I learned how to fix broken parts and pieces and make everything work. Once the equipment was prepped, the assistant on the job would come in and test everything to make sure the camera was up to their specifications. There would be changes and fixes and exchanges so you had to be on your toes and willing to make things right for the ac. It was a great way to meet people who were actually working. I often got jobs as a loader for music videos because I was available most weekends. After a few years, I went out and started working as a loader. I stayed pretty busy because I understood something very important. Working in a rental house does not prepare you to be an AC. It is a completely different world. Many rental house employees have a hard time making the transition and for that reason, many don't get hired for jobs. When you leave the rental house, you are starting fresh. But, you are armed with knowledge. Sometimes it can hurt you. Don't spend time trying to fix something that can easily be sent back to the rental house and exchanged. Your job isn't to fix things, it's to assist those that hired you. He may want you to try and fix something. A few years ago I was in Fiji operating on TV movie when the Arri Head tilt broke. It would have taken over a week to send back and replace. I took the head apart with two Aussie grips, Dave Cross and Magic Mark Hennesye looking over my shoulder. We talked about how the thing worked mechanically, we looked at how it was constructed, we found the problem, Mark found a machinist and we put the thing back together. It worked fine. It was my experience from working in rental houses that got me through this. Not to mention the aid of two very smart, mechanically inclined grips.

Anyway, I worked my way up the ladder and when times were lean i would work at various rental houses when help was needed to supplement my income. Let's see, I worked at Birns & Sawyer, Ultravision, and Keslow Camera. I was the head lens tech at The Camera House for a few years which is a boutique, commercial rental house. I was the lens tech at Camtec. I created the Lens List for the American Society of Cinematographer's Field Manual 10th Addition. I rewrote the and updated the camera and camera support section of the manual. So, working at the rental houses opened a lot of doors for me and gave me the opportunity to work with some great assistants, DP's and directors as well as great actors.

If I had to do it all over and I was young and strong, I would have been an electrician and then a gaffer where you learn to light. I feel that I got pigeon holed and became too useful as an assistant. Every time I moved up, I got less and less work. But, lighting is the key to being a good DP. If you want to be a career assistant, go work at a rental house. If you want to be a DP, learn to light. The drawback is that the hardest job on the set is the electrician. It is dirty, back breaking work. The one thing I did learn early on and I mean while I was still at Otto's was how to operate a geared head. That has helped me on more than one occasion. I hope this helps.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 17 November 2010 - 08:13 PM.

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#5 Gabe Medina

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 12:17 PM

I currently work for a rental house in Seattle. The experience you get is valuable. Of course it's not the only way to learn equipment, but it is an excellent way. You learn about the equipment but also what ACs want and need. I've had a lot of ACs come through that got their start that way. Great option I'd say.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 03:07 PM

I'm currently talking with rental houses in London to try and find an opportunity to pop in during quiet periods and get some hands on experience handling film cameras and magazines.


Smart rental houses are always happy to teach you when they have the time -- it costs them a lot less than fixing stuff that gets rented to people who don't know what they're doing.




-- J.S.
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#7 Dan Collins

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 09:38 PM

I worked at a rental house years ago and learned a lot, even thoough I got little to no time hands on with gear because I was an agent taking orders. Still, it was great and very valuable training on how to compile and prep a complete order. A few people I've worked for have told me that they valued that I have the rental house experience. I got one job merely because of that experience. The last AC they had said he knew about equipment but did a poor job checking it out so they ran into problems when on set.


I have made very few connections directly from working there. I only worked there for 6 months and the manager who worked for years eventually went freelance and had a lot more connections after years of getting to know people, but my goal was to make a steady paycheck for a little while and learn equipment. If my networking skills were better, maybe I could have made more of it.

If you have connections already to working in bigger budget productions where, as a 2nd AC or loader, you can attend a prep done by an experienced 1st, you can learn how it's done. If you're like me and are starting from low budget productions, often you'll be in video and the only ac. The DP made the order, but production would rather pay an AC rate for prep than the DP's rate, or the DP is not available. Then you are going to be thrown into preping on your own and that's where the experience comes in. I've picked up orders at pretty pathetic indie rental houses that leave out important items, like specific items asked for, correct cables, spare cables or batteries that hold a charge, etc. How can you trust their advice on what you might need if they didn't do it right in the first place? You need to know how to prep even if you're order is put together by an idiot.

Edited by Dan Collins, 01 March 2011 - 09:40 PM.

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#8 Scott Weatherford

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 01:44 PM

great advice, guys. hearing the stories from guys like dan collins and tom jensen makes me so eager to get more work! ive been acing for a few years now, started in o5 in austin, an came back to dallas after some health problems kept me out of work for about a year. then another year gaining my strength and some contacts here, and trying to get back a bit of confidence as well. ive had 3 ac gigs on low bugd shows since october, and have appreciated being back on set (even tho 2 of them were shot on a 7d and 5d... uck.)

when i was in school i got pigeon-holed as an ac as well, since i sort of started doing it before any classmates. as an undergrad, i found myself 1sting on almost 75% of all the grad student pre-thesis and thesis shorts. and they all rented the same bl3 (or was it a bl4...) from this house in dallas. so i got to know the camera dept guys pretty well. since school ive been calling them every few months for 4 years now to see if they needed hired help, or if they had a new piece of gear i could come play with.

well, tomorrow, i finally have a chance to go work for them officially, even tho its in hte g&e department. but i still want to do it bc my knowledge of that world SHOULD be more advanced than what it is currently. plus, i imagine ill be sneaking over to the camera dept here and there to see whats up, knock wood that is.

ever since i interned on a show with a 1st from la who worked at woodland hills panavision (i think thats the name of the location, woodland hills, yes?), i have wanted to work at a panavision house. his knowledge and comfort levels with a pana gear was astounding, a master at work. ive also had an increasing desire, recently, to go work for a lens company, cooke or zeiss or someone, and really learn all the ins and outs of their lenses, see how their made and the decisions behind new products, etc etc. or at kodak or canon or arri. ah to dream.
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