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Relocating to the USA


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#1 Jacob Lee Dean

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 12:48 PM

Greetings All.

I currently live and work in Johannesburg, South Africa as a 1st AC and occasionally operate. I have worked on commercials, documentaries, corporates, music videos, short film, TV and some independent features. It has mostly been local content but I have had the opportunity on working on some international TV and doccies, mostly UK stuff.

After living here in South Africa for the past 10 years, my wife and I have made the decision to move to the States. Having had a child 3 years ago, we decided that we would prefer to raise him in the US rather than here. I love South Africa but the crime and other concerns have become too much.

Though I am originally from the States I have not worked in the film industry there. It was after arriving here that I fell into it, fell in love with it and now don't want to leave it. I know that the industry here is quite different from its American counterpart. We have no unions and even though I am mainly a 1st AC, I have an agent that finds a lot of my work for me. I would say about 80% of working professionals here in South Africa utilize agents and crew houses to find work for them. Although about 40-50% of my personal work comes from the contacts that I have established, my agent is very helpful in resolving issues with production, getting me good rates and finding me quality work.

Our decision to move to the States has raised a lot of questions for me. I can't imagine doing any other job, ever. In the short time that I have been in the industry I have made a lot of progress and I believe that comes from the love that I have for what I do. I am expecting to have to start over when I arrive there; I doubt that opportunities to pull on TV show will crop up when I land at the airport.

Below are my long winded questions. I thank you all in advance for taking the time to read them, I know it can be painful.

1. Has anyone had a similar experience moving from a somewhat isolated region of the film industry to the states? If so and there is any advice to share please do.

2. Unions. We don't have them here, at least not in the film industry, so the rules and regulations seem a bit foreign to me. Any resources to help me navigate this would be helpful. I know that this forum is one of them but others could be useful as well. Mostly, how do I join?

3. Busy regions. Though it would be great to work on a big Hollywood production or TV series, that is not my main motivation. My main motivation is my desire to get better at what I do and I believe that can be achieved by working in a variety of situations, various styles of production and formats and working with other talented and committed crew. But to do this I need to be busy. I'm never against travel but it would be helpful if I lived in an area that has a variety of opportunities and somewhat steady flow of productions happening on various levels. I've thought about Chicago (because I once lived there and enjoyed the city), Louisiana, and of course New York or Southern California. Any advice on these areas or others that I have yet to consider would be greatly appreciated.

4. What are the best resources for work? Having an agent and working in a small area with a lot of productions usually means that the work kind of lands on my lap. I have a couple of handfuls of local DPs that I work with on a regular basis and they keep me quite busy throughout the year. I know that networking is a huge part of it here and I presume that it is on that side of the world too. That being said, I work with a lot of DPs that I have never met in my life and those usually come from production companies calling my agent and requesting a puller. I have seen some websites that allow you to post your resume and browse for jobs but they never seem to be that active; unless production companies simply go online and browse through the postings and call people direct.

5. What are the chances that Mitt Romney is actually going to become president?

Thanks again for any advice.

Jacob Dean
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 02:26 PM

I notice that you don't mention immigration paperwork or visas at any point.

Unless you have a familial connection to the US (an American parent or spouse, or a very few other things) you will need special paperwork to allow you to work in the US. The US immigration authorities do not generally issue this paperwork to people in order for them to work freelance, unless they can prove they have very high level skills, which would imply a lot of high end work and very wide experience, lots of mentions in press articles, and so on. It is often possible for actors to do this as they tend to get a lot of press, but crew don't, and especially people who aren't heads of department or a highly qualified worker in some tricky discipline.

That being the case, you aren't going to the US. Many of us would if we could.

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#3 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 02:45 PM

Jacob seems to be a US citizen, Phil.
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#4 Jacob Lee Dean

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 08:05 AM

That is correct Dirk, I am a US citizen. Forgot to mention that part. Still have my passport and I am legal to reside and work in the US.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:18 AM

Actually you didn't fail to mention it, I simply failed to read closely enough!

In which case, go enjoy yourself!

More or less every time I go to LA I get offered work I can't take, which is immensely frustrating, so I can't imagine you'll have too many problems.

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#6 Victor Nguyen

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 03:20 AM

what country are you from Phil? I guess I'm lucky to be living in the U.S then
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Metropolis Post

Glidecam

CineLab

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera

The Slider

Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies

Tai Audio

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Paralinx LLC