Jump to content


Photo

Graduation approaching, career advice?


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Ian Blewitt

Ian Blewitt
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Posted 13 December 2010 - 08:28 PM

Hey everyone,
I am nearing graduation from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics. Throughout school I found that I preferred being on set, so I focused on learning everything I could about shooting, cameras, lenses and general gripping throughout my college career. I am planning to relocate to Los Angeles after I graduate, and was wondering if any of the experienced people could give me some advice on finding jobs as a Grip or an AC.

Inevitably I would like to become a Cinematographer on feature films, and I know that is a long way away, but I feel starting as a Grip or AC would be the logical next step. I am in the process of cutting a reel with my camera work, would a show reel be necessary for these types of positions?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Ian
  • 0

#2 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 10:21 AM

Hey everyone,
I am nearing graduation from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics. Throughout school I found that I preferred being on set, so I focused on learning everything I could about shooting, cameras, lenses and general gripping throughout my college career. I am planning to relocate to Los Angeles after I graduate, and was wondering if any of the experienced people could give me some advice on finding jobs as a Grip or an AC.

Inevitably I would like to become a Cinematographer on feature films, and I know that is a long way away, but I feel starting as a Grip or AC would be the logical next step. I am in the process of cutting a reel with my camera work, would a show reel be necessary for these types of positions?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Ian


If your initial goal is to start as a Grip or AC, a reel of things you've shot won't help at all. The way in at that level is to begin working for free or for very little on student or low-budget productions. How do you get on those? Calling everyone you know, calling their friends, visit film schools to find productions in need of help, look in resources like Backstage http://www.backstage.com/bso/index.jsp for productions....

I urge you to take a look at the book, "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood" which goes into detail about the Camera Department, and Grip, and Electric and what it takes to rise up through the ranks.

Good luck!
  • 0

#3 Ian Blewitt

Ian Blewitt
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 11:15 AM

If your initial goal is to start as a Grip or AC, a reel of things you've shot won't help at all. The way in at that level is to begin working for free or for very little on student or low-budget productions. How do you get on those? Calling everyone you know, calling their friends, visit film schools to find productions in need of help, look in resources like Backstage http://www.backstage.com/bso/index.jsp for productions....

I urge you to take a look at the book, "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood" which goes into detail about the Camera Department, and Grip, and Electric and what it takes to rise up through the ranks.

Good luck!


Thanks Brian!
I have worked on several shorts and an independent feature, as well as tons of student films. I actually had an opportunity to travel to Australia to work on a set there. That was all free work, so I have experience in doing it, but I guess my question would be if there were any advice for someone relocating trying to get paid work, what would that be? Is it necessary to join IATSE to find good paying work?

I am definitely going to pick up that book, too!

Thanks again!
  • 0

#4 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 12:36 PM

Thanks Brian!
I have worked on several shorts and an independent feature, as well as tons of student films. I actually had an opportunity to travel to Australia to work on a set there. That was all free work, so I have experience in doing it, but I guess my question would be if there were any advice for someone relocating trying to get paid work, what would that be? Is it necessary to join IATSE to find good paying work?

I am definitely going to pick up that book, too!

Thanks again!



Well, I guess that's what your definition of "good paying work" is. :)

More or less, yes, you will generally get better pay and benefits and work on "better" productions if they are working on an IATSE contract. Of course, if they are working under contract, that means that you would have to be an IA member too. The unfortunate part is that you can't just join. You have to qualify per the current requirements. You can find information about this at http://www.csatf.org/ and https://cameraguild.com/Home.aspx. Suffice it to say that you'll have to work quite a number of non-union jobs in a paid position with some type of proof that you did that work in that position that you wish to join the union as.

Or you could manage to land yourself on a non-union job that turns union at some point.

The good news is that there seems to always be some kind of non-union work out there where you could accumulate those hours. Music videos, some movies, some commercials... those types of things usually mean long hours and low pay, but if you're working toward a goal of IATSE membership, then that can help you through the dark times.

But, as you'll read in the book, you might consider bypassing all of that and just putting yourself out there as a Director of Photography. You'll start in the same low-budget world as you would as an aspiring AC or Grip but you'd be starting at the top. There's no guarantee that you'd ever reach the big-budget arena as a DP, but there's likely even LESS likelihood that you'd get there going the long way around as an AC or Grip. Naturally, you'd have some on-the-job learning to do, but if you start on small productions, you'll have lots of opportunity to learn as you go without getting too far into your head. Plus, you could use your VFX "experience" to your advantage by advertising yourself to low-budget productions as a kind of "specialist" for the myriad of low-budget productions that want to use VFX or rely on them.

Food for thought. :)
  • 0

#5 Ian Blewitt

Ian Blewitt
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 02:17 PM

Well, I guess that's what your definition of "good paying work" is. :)

More or less, yes, you will generally get better pay and benefits and work on "better" productions if they are working on an IATSE contract. Of course, if they are working under contract, that means that you would have to be an IA member too. The unfortunate part is that you can't just join. You have to qualify per the current requirements. You can find information about this at http://www.csatf.org/ and https://cameraguild.com/Home.aspx. Suffice it to say that you'll have to work quite a number of non-union jobs in a paid position with some type of proof that you did that work in that position that you wish to join the union as.

Or you could manage to land yourself on a non-union job that turns union at some point.

The good news is that there seems to always be some kind of non-union work out there where you could accumulate those hours. Music videos, some movies, some commercials... those types of things usually mean long hours and low pay, but if you're working toward a goal of IATSE membership, then that can help you through the dark times.

But, as you'll read in the book, you might consider bypassing all of that and just putting yourself out there as a Director of Photography. You'll start in the same low-budget world as you would as an aspiring AC or Grip but you'd be starting at the top. There's no guarantee that you'd ever reach the big-budget arena as a DP, but there's likely even LESS likelihood that you'd get there going the long way around as an AC or Grip. Naturally, you'd have some on-the-job learning to do, but if you start on small productions, you'll have lots of opportunity to learn as you go without getting too far into your head. Plus, you could use your VFX "experience" to your advantage by advertising yourself to low-budget productions as a kind of "specialist" for the myriad of low-budget productions that want to use VFX or rely on them.

Food for thought. :)



Haha, "good paying" is enough to pay bills and my student loans without needing to work at Starbucks too. :P

That is a good thought though to do lower budget and DP. You're absolutely right about the VFX thing, because I know a lot of people in the actual media production major at AI can't light for chromakey or any of the specialty stuff really well. I am thinking this will probably be the route I take, as it is likely the best way to achieve my goal.

Another question I had is does it really matter if you put "Cinematographer" or "Director of Photography" as say a title on a business card? People at my school have it drilled in their heads that you can't just say you're a cinematographer, you have to "earn" it. By definition a cinematographer is a movie photographer so the logic behind it doesn't make sense to me. I just don't wanna give off the wrong impression on business cards and such.


Again thank you so much Brian for your thoughts and advice.
  • 0

#6 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 04:05 PM

Haha, "good paying" is enough to pay bills and my student loans without needing to work at Starbucks too. :P

That is a good thought though to do lower budget and DP. You're absolutely right about the VFX thing, because I know a lot of people in the actual media production major at AI can't light for chromakey or any of the specialty stuff really well. I am thinking this will probably be the route I take, as it is likely the best way to achieve my goal.

Another question I had is does it really matter if you put "Cinematographer" or "Director of Photography" as say a title on a business card? People at my school have it drilled in their heads that you can't just say you're a cinematographer, you have to "earn" it. By definition a cinematographer is a movie photographer so the logic behind it doesn't make sense to me. I just don't wanna give off the wrong impression on business cards and such.


Again thank you so much Brian for your thoughts and advice.



The topic of titles is one where you'll find many opinions. Do a search in this forum for some of them. :)

The reality is this: What you DO means more than the title you assign to yourself. The only really important title that you want people to remember is your own name.

The problem with titles is that if you go too big, you might feel like you don't deserve it and others in your profession may think you're being a bit pretentious. On the other hand, titles are a part of the marketing process for yourself to tell others what you do and what you can do for them.

For instance, a guy who shoots wedding videos is indeed a cameraman, so most people would laugh at him if he put the title "Director of Photography" on his business card. But what if he happens to shoot high-end weddings, with multiple cameras and a lighting crew? The subject matter isn't narrative storytelling, but that person IS in fact "directing" the photography of a project. So, what's a guy like that to do if he wishes to A) accurately describe what he does and B ) wishes to market his skills so that he can continue to get those types of jobs? Would he be pretentious to say that he is the "Director of Photography for Weddings" or would he be short-selling himself by simply saying "Wedding Videographer" even though he does more than that?

Then one needs to look at those who would "laugh" at a person who chooses a "lofty" title. What is their motivation? Are they laughing at someone like our hypothetical cameraman above because they are merely trying to protect their own turf, as if "Director of Photography" ONLY describes those Cameramen who shoot narrative "movies"? Or is there truly a very objective hard and fast definition of "Director of Photography" that means that truly ONLY narrative Cameramen can use that title accurately?

So, the bottom line is, use whatever title that YOU feel most comfortable with. Whatever you market yourself as, you'd best be able to do that job to the point where those who hired you aren't wondering why you're not living up to their expectations. It's really your body of work which informs others about what you can do and whether they'll hire you. Not the title on your card. Don't shortsell yourself because you think that maybe you're not good enough to shoot Batman 3. Maybe you aren't ready for that yet, but maybe you ARE capable of a single camera short film or music video or commercial. That doesn't make you any less of a DP. It just means that you are at a different level and have a different skill set than some of the big-time DPs do.


That's all the generic stuff. My personal opinion...PURELY my own opinion, so take it or leave it... is that the term "Cinematographer" tends to be used by Cameramen who wish to appear that they are shooting "important" things. The term is a bit pretentious to me and is very general whereas "Director of Photography" tends to IMPLY that the Cameraman is one who shoots feature films. There are inescapable connotations that aren't always entirely accurate that we have to contend with. I don't consider myself to be a "Director of Photography" on most things I shoot primarily because I'm not really "directing" anyone or anything else beyond myself. The title implies a lot more than my usual gig. This isn't to say that I couldn't do a job with multiple cameras and a crew to direct (which I can and have done)... it just isn't my norm so advertising myself as that kind of professional isn't appropriate in my eyes. But that's just my own bias and opinion. :)
  • 0

#7 Ian Blewitt

Ian Blewitt
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Posted 14 December 2010 - 08:49 PM

The topic of titles is one where you'll find many opinions. Do a search in this forum for some of them. :)

The reality is this: What you DO means more than the title you assign to yourself. The only really important title that you want people to remember is your own name.

The problem with titles is that if you go too big, you might feel like you don't deserve it and others in your profession may think you're being a bit pretentious. On the other hand, titles are a part of the marketing process for yourself to tell others what you do and what you can do for them.


Thank you again for the advice.

I'm working on my website now, and I had another opinion-type question for anyone here:
I have a domain credit, and I wear several different hats and have multiple sites with portfolios up all branched off from www.ianblewitt.com. As of right now I do the most Photography work, but I intend to do more video work after graduation. Do you think it would be more beneficial to get ianblewittfilm.com or ianblewittcinema.com, or should I get ianblewittphotography.com? I eventually intend to get all of them, but I have a credit on my account right now.
  • 0


Aerial Filmworks

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly

Visual Products

CineTape

Opal

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies

CineLab

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Metropolis Post

The Slider

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Visual Products

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Opal

Wooden Camera