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#1 Gregory Earls

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:09 PM

Hey,

Looking for some advice. I attended the American Film Institute as a cinematography fellow at age 22, back in 1989. After graduation, I got a full time job at 20th Century Fox, with a nice steady pay check. So the life of looking for the next gig went by the way side. Well, now at age 45 and married, I really miss cinematography and I day dream about getting back into it. I even wrote a fiction novel loosely based on my days at AFI, hoping it would fill the void a bit. Anyway, I know I'd have to start all over again as an assistant, which seems daunting.

So I have a bunch of questions... Has anybody every worked with a 2nd AC at this age? If you are one around that age, how do you handle the physical demands (late nights) and most importantly, how's the pay these days? :-) Is there any work these days? I know the studio sends a lot of work up to Vancouver, Louisiana, etc.

Anyway, any advice would be really appreciated.

Thanks, all.

Edited by Gregory Earls, 05 May 2012 - 05:10 PM.

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#2 Michele Peterson

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 04:58 PM

As for age, when you get into large studio productions, many people will be around your age. It takes experience to get to that level. Plus many have spent careers as 1st, 2nd or loaders because the are content and satisfied in their craft and have no desire to move up and take on what that entails. Small, low budget shoots are more often younger crews who are gaining experience and working up to bigger productions.

As with anyone starting, or starting over, it all depends on who you know as far as getting work. How easy it is to find a job is crucial dependent upon your network. Do the people you know follow the work or stay local? Do you know people who can hire you?

What the pay will be depends on what you are working on. Union rates can provide a decent middle-class level. Low budget and indie stuff can be decent at a $400 a day or it can be down right insulting for ultra low budget stuff where they want to hire you as an independent contractor and pay below minimum wage with no overtime or worker's comp.


My advice would be to start reaching out to people you know that might help you before you leave your current job. Get back in touch with people if you need to. Get a feel for who is in a position to hire you. Find out what they are working on and how much it makes. Let people get a feel for you and you for them, then you can make a better decision.
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#3 Gregory Earls

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 02:29 PM

Michele,

This is great advice. I will test the water first and get a feel for everything. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Wish me luck.

Greg



As for age, when you get into large studio productions, many people will be around your age. It takes experience to get to that level. Plus many have spent careers as 1st, 2nd or loaders because the are content and satisfied in their craft and have no desire to move up and take on what that entails. Small, low budget shoots are more often younger crews who are gaining experience and working up to bigger productions.

As with anyone starting, or starting over, it all depends on who you know as far as getting work. How easy it is to find a job is crucial dependent upon your network. Do the people you know follow the work or stay local? Do you know people who can hire you?

What the pay will be depends on what you are working on. Union rates can provide a decent middle-class level. Low budget and indie stuff can be decent at a $400 a day or it can be down right insulting for ultra low budget stuff where they want to hire you as an independent contractor and pay below minimum wage with no overtime or worker's comp.


My advice would be to start reaching out to people you know that might help you before you leave your current job. Get back in touch with people if you need to. Get a feel for who is in a position to hire you. Find out what they are working on and how much it makes. Let people get a feel for you and you for them, then you can make a better decision.


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#4 John Waterman

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:28 PM

My question for you is, do you want to be a camera assistant (a technician), or a cinematographer (an artist). If you want to shoot, then go shoot. Work for free on weekends on craigslist shorts. Build up a reel. Do a spec shoot and rent a phantom and shoot some food. Build your reel and your contacts. I know many DPs that came up this way. Remember that people will most likely hire you for the same job that they hired you last for, so you end up working in one position. I love being an AC. I love everything technical about photography, cameras, and the process of making pictures. If AC work does not satisfy you in this way then you should not be an AC. Just my 2 cents.
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#5 Gregory Earls

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 06:28 PM

Good point. Other friends I've spoken to have suggested the same thing. I have to admit that I'd rather be a cinematographer. There's a part of me that is too linear in thought, get a hold of the technology, the tools, then move on to the art.

This is all great food for thought. Thanks so much, man.

G.


My question for you is, do you want to be a camera assistant (a technician), or a cinematographer (an artist). If you want to shoot, then go shoot. Work for free on weekends on craigslist shorts. Build up a reel. Do a spec shoot and rent a phantom and shoot some food. Build your reel and your contacts. I know many DPs that came up this way. Remember that people will most likely hire you for the same job that they hired you last for, so you end up working in one position. I love being an AC. I love everything technical about photography, cameras, and the process of making pictures. If AC work does not satisfy you in this way then you should not be an AC. Just my 2 cents.


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#6 John Waterman

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 11:34 PM

As a DP, you should feel free to lean on your 1st AC to deal with all of the technical setup of the camera equipment. Your ACs will do all of that for you so that you can concentrate on lighting, blocking, camera movement, framing... If you want to be an artist then be an artist, your crew is behind you to make your visions come to life.
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#7 stephen taylorwehr

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 11:27 PM

yeah, just go shoot stuff to put it simply :-)
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#8 Abhilash

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 01:18 PM

Hi Greg :

 

May I know how it is progressing in your career front. Am planning to learn cinematography quitting my IT career .. :) Am not sure what  risk am about to take..

 

Regards

Abhi


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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 11:22 AM

You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.


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#10 Dwight Hartnett

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 02:17 PM

As a 2AC I worked with one 1AC (since retired) who was a very accomplished 1AC in what was then Czechoslovakia.  He was a very calm and personable man with that intuitive skill with focus I that some lucky ones possess.  When he arrived in Canada in his early 50s (if I am remembering the story correctly) no one would give him a shot (he didn't know anyone) so he finally joined the union as a Camera Trainee and worked back up to 1AC.  He did rise pretty fast because once he had his foot in the door it was pretty clear he had the stuff.

 

And that's one of the things I love about the Film Industry in general and the Camera Department in particular.  If you can do the job and stay hungry sooner or later (usually sooner and in an unexpected way) someone will give you a shot at it.  Do a good job and you'll keep progressing along the path you set yourself.  Try to fake it or if you simply don't have the stuff you won't stay in that position very long.  Your career is as fluid as you want to make it.*

 

 

*The trade off of course is no job security and stressful nights wondering how you're going to make that mortgage payment but one cannot have everything.


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#11 Abhilash

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 03:00 AM

You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.

Sure.. Thanks for that info..

 

Abhilash 


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#12 Sabyasachi Patra

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 08:47 AM

Abhilash,

Some nice advice already given here. I am not sure about what you do in IT. However, the important thing is to do what you love most. Money, fame are by products. I realised this after working 20 years in senior positions in the corporate world. The last two positions were Head-Govt. relations of Nokia and Executive Director at Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology in India. Ofcourse, I didn't jump after waking up one fine day. I have been preparing for this. However, no amount of preparation can be enough for a smooth transition. 

 

You should also see if you are attracted towards this because of glamour. If so, nothing can be far from the truth. In India, no common man hears about cinematographers. The actors, directors hog the limelight. All the best. 


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#13 Abhilash

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 04:31 AM

Hi :

 

Thanks for those kind genuine words.  Am not sure why am being hooked "back" to this after a gap of 15 years, once was the dream to join FTII and failed miserably.  Like any other "middle class" family's paradox - I started a career for surviving ..IT was the best.  

 

Am now,at the age of early 40s,  I feel like to start from scratch  - probably to undertake a good course from reputed institute either from here or abroad.My search is on for best schools abroad - zeroing in Canada or US probably - not sure -as usual !

 

Let me "live" for the rest of the life than survive .. 

 

Regards

 

Abhilash

 

 

Abhilash,

Some nice advice already given here. I am not sure about what you do in IT. However, the important thing is to do what you love most. Money, fame are by products. I realised this after working 20 years in senior positions in the corporate world. The last two positions were Head-Govt. relations of Nokia and Executive Director at Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology in India. Ofcourse, I didn't jump after waking up one fine day. I have been preparing for this. However, no amount of preparation can be enough for a smooth transition. 

 

You should also see if you are attracted towards this because of glamour. If so, nothing can be far from the truth. In India, no common man hears about cinematographers. The actors, directors hog the limelight. All the best. 


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#14 Jason Outenreath

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 12:33 PM

You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.

 

Many people in India and the Middle East use only one name Brian.


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