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What Makes a Good 2nd AC


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#1 Nathan McConnell

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:15 AM

I have been working as a 2nd AC for the past 5 years, and in that time I have encountered many 1st AC and Operators who have different views of what makes a good 2nd AC.

When I started out I felt to be a good 2nd I had to move quickly and work the hardest. Over time I began to realize moving quick was rushing, which lead to mistakes. When I learned to slow down I began to make less mistakes.

My question is to you what makes a good 2nd AC
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#2 Patrick Lavalley

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 01:00 PM

There are so many things that could make a good 2nd AC. Needless to say, this is a key position in the camera department, and requires a lot of organization, focus, and patience. Some of the best 2nds that I have worked with were great at staying calm, thinking ahead, and rolling with the punches. A good 2nd does a lot to make the 1st able to focus on their job, to take away the burden of the everyday operation of the department.

There's an old saying that goes something like "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" and I think that you can take a lot from it about not getting in a rush. True, often times the tasks that must be accomplished are "time sensitive", but it's definitely better to get things right the first time than to rush, or let other people get you in a rush and mess up. I've seen people in a hurry come crashing through set stomping around only to make themselves look ridiculous, or trip and fall, or knock something over or whatever else....
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#3 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 06:17 PM

I have been working as a 2nd AC for the past 5 years, and in that time I have encountered many 1st AC and Operators who have different views of what makes a good 2nd AC.

When I started out I felt to be a good 2nd I had to move quickly and work the hardest. Over time I began to realize moving quick was rushing, which lead to mistakes. When I learned to slow down I began to make less mistakes.

My question is to you what makes a good 2nd AC


What a broad question. I've enjoyed a wonderful 32 years as a First AC and have only had 3 full time 2nd ACs over that course of time. I would say that I look for loyalty to the team first, strength in management skills, complete knowledge of cinematography and the gear we use. Of course, he or she must have an organized system. The 2nd AC also must be user friendly but firm for what he/she needs from production. Diplomacy is a gifted skill that is mandatory in our jobs.

My current key 2nd AC and I have a simple deal: I get us the jobs, I keep us on the jobs and he runs the department.

Greg
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#4 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 07:26 PM

What a broad question. I've enjoyed a wonderful 32 years as a First AC and have only had 3 full time 2nd ACs over that course of time. I would say that I look for loyalty to the team first, strength in management skills, complete knowledge of cinematography and the gear we use. Of course, he or she must have an organized system. The 2nd AC also must be user friendly but firm for what he/she needs from production. Diplomacy is a gifted skill that is mandatory in our jobs.

My current key 2nd AC and I have a simple deal: I get us the jobs, I keep us on the jobs and he runs the department.

Greg


I should clarify tht those 3 2nd ACs have spanned over the entire 32 years without interupption. I truly thank them for their loyalty and talent.

Cheers,
G
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#5 Nathan McConnell

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 10:44 PM

I know it is a broad subject, but I really appreciate the comments. I am always looking for information on how I can get better. I have really seem a evolution over the past years. I have found it takes time to truly develop your skills, you are not going to be awesome out of the gate. I just finished a job a I know there are some things I need to work on.
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#6 Mark Dunn

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 04:18 AM

Listening to Mr. Irwin, I wonder if requirement no. 1 is 'don't wish you were a DP too often'.
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#7 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 10:58 AM

Listening to Mr. Irwin, I wonder if requirement no. 1 is 'don't wish you were a DP too often'.


Not everyone is meant to be a DP. I certainly am not. It was an early choice in my career to either be a starving artist or a successful motion picture employee. I wanted a career vs. an impoverished adventure!! Everyone's criteria for what they want out of this business is different. That's why you find career DPs and career operators and ACs. Personally, I have zero interest in even camera operating. I found my niche. I believe it's a better choice to be expert at one thing rather than be average at several things. That's why I appreciate Nathan's question on how to be better at his job. I've found that there is an overall lack of truly experienced 2nd ACs out there due to they want to move up before they have mastered their current position.

G
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#8 Nathan McConnell

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 03:36 PM

I have no desire to DP, Shoot or !st even. I enjoy my postion as a 2nd AC. My goal is to focus on the development of my skills, to truly become the best I can be. There is times I feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle and if I could figure it out, I soar in my chosen position. It blew me away the other day because I was told I am too focused and I work too hard. What??
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#9 Gregor Grieshaber

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:56 AM

It blew me away the other day because I was told I am too focused and I work too hard. What??


This might be quite a good advice. When I was a 2nd AC I started out working in TV Movies but always wanted to work in feature films. So I was always very concentrated and serious, thinking about how to improve on my job and stuff like that. It worked and I got the chance to work on feature films. I even got called in as B Camera 2nd AC on a big show. I was very excited because that was where I wanted to go. Then I thought I have to work as good as never before and maybe I even did. But I was so focused and determined on the work that I somehow lost the connection to the 1st AC. I felt that he somehow had a problem with me and I thought it was the quality of my work. So I tried to get even better. I got angry about myself when I did a small mistake wich made it even worse. But he didn´t have a problem with the quality of my work I was simply to focused and worked to hard :) that made me somehow inhibited. There was no easyness in my work. It was almost as if my personality was switched of.
My valuable lesson was that what you radiate during work is a big part in doing a good job. Don´t be over ambitious. You will just look like an idiot.

If someone tells you this take it as an advice. Maybe you sometimes go over the top. Maybe you are to strained during work. Who knows. I think to make a great job it is very important to have a certain easyness.
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#10 Nathan McConnell

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 10:31 AM

Thank you, that makes a lot of sense.
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#11 Tobias Marshall

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:03 PM

I worked as a 2nd for over 7 years. The more experience you have the better you get at the job, you see things happening before they happen. If you make mistakes dont beat yourself up, worrying about them will make you make others. Dont try to be good at your job, just do your job like a ninja
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#12 Stephen Lucas

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 10:48 PM

There are many technical duties and tricks to being an efficient 2nd AC, e.g. proper distance of the slate from the lens, clean and thorough camera reports/timecards, doing everything to insure the 1st AC doesn't have to leave the camera, being a ninja with actor/focus marks, a good courtesy tab on the tape rolls, etc. Most of this comes from just spending time on set.


But everyone previous has mentioned some important qualities that are less technical and more personable. Being a trustworthy, loyal, mature, sociable person goes a long way on the set.

Thinking ahead is invaluable. Being there before your colleague has a chance to make the request saves time and effort, and inherently helps you become a well oiled machine.
cheers~
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#13 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 11:35 AM

No one has mentioned how important it is to get something for the dolly grip when the sandwiches come around. :D
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#14 Marchese D Rasch Vignoni

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 08:17 PM

2nd is a great job. Maybe you're not the person who takes decisions, and the "artistic" contribute to the final product is nothing, but your job is to put several persons in the right condition to do their own job. The first key-word is "solve problems" and you're not supposed to run, but to know the future..a kind of "Nostradamus" on the set!

I mean, if a 1st a.c. needs to ask something to a second, the second is just late! Sometimes it's an hard challenge, but...we love the first line!


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#15 Jeremy Parsons

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 04:51 PM

If there's one thing I could add to the already great suggestions posted is this:

 

Pay very close attention to what the rest of your crew are doing and you'll find their rhythm of how they work and where you fit your tasks. When you do this, you will find how to best work with ANY crew no matter how they prefer to work. 

 

Some the DP's want monitors up first and placed very specifically in relation to camera. Some Operators always want an apple box at the ready for when they're shooting handheld. Some DPs want a tungsten (not LED) light on the slate when shooting at 3200K. If you're watching closely, you'll learn these things from observation and will do them without having to be told. The less you have to be told, the more efficient you can work without having to be "speedy".

 

Also, I would advise to LEAVE YOUR iPHONE IN YOUR BAG. You can't pay close attention with your head buried in facebook, even if the DP is doing it. It's then your job to alert him when someone needs him/her. :)


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#16 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 12:24 AM

Good notes!!

Between blocking, fixing lighting issues and trying to cover my arse by remembering the extra coverage I need, I'm always so frazzled that it's very easy to forget things I did just 10-20 minutes ago. My favourite 2nd ACs always save my butt by allowing me to review everything we've shot via their notes before we move on (and leave an essential cutaway behind!).

With a good 1st to look after the camera and a good 2nd to save me from myself, I'm able to focus on the things I do best and the production benefits from everyone's work.

So yeah, good notes make a good 2nd for me!
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#17 Bruce Greene

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 07:36 PM

Just wanted to also note the importance of keeping the smart phone out of your hands.

If the DP asks you to put it away, just say "sorry sir" and put it away!

Rant over :)
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#18 Douglas Johnson

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 10:49 PM

I worked pretty consistantly as a 2nd in the late 90's before changing careers into the A/V world.  Now that I've returned to working on set the whole cell phone thing has been quite a shock.  Sometimes I'll look around and everyone will be on their phones.  I'll admit, there have been some times where I pull it out to check my email (usually when there's a big lighting change) otherwise the only time I use it is to figure out a troubleshooting issue or use the calculator for something.  The problem I find is using the phone as a tool without it being mistaken for you slacking off on FB since many others are doing just that. 

 

That being said, the biggest asset a 2nd can have is awareness.  Regardless of anything else, if you're aware you'll know how the 1st likes to organize their kit, how they take their coffee, what lens or item is needed before it's called for, etc.  The other asset is organization.  The more organized you remain the easier it's going to be to do your job quickly and effectively. 


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