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can you make a living as a DOP?


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#1 Lee Tamer

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 12:45 PM

I graduated film school in May of this year, and I have networked with some fellow classmates and have gotten some paid gigs, but not enough for steady income. I have my third interview this week for another possible production assistant job that may or may not pay.

Here is my question, am i looking in the wrong places, or is this industry truly about who you know? I know several classmates who are getting steady work and can support themselves, just 1-2 years out of college.

I love film and film making, and really hope I can do it for a living.
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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 05:34 PM

Im not a DoP but one thing I will tell you from the standpoint of a Director who sometimes works with them is that if you want to succeed, you need to make contacts and keep them. The old saying "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is very true in this case. I have worked with a few DPs in the past and they have been rude and immature punks frankly and I would never hire them again or recommend them. Quality is part of the equation but attitude has much more to do with it.

Think of it this way...someone is willing to actually pay you and more importantly trust you with executing their vision. Dont be a jerk or assert yourself too much because they can easily ask you to leave. And as far as "who you know" its more of an issue of "who gives you a chance" and "dont blow it." Hope this helps.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 08:16 PM

Theoretically yes - people clearly do.

As a practical matter, unless you happen to be the right person's nephew, it's tricky at best.

P
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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 08:43 AM

I think it depends on where you are based a fair bit too. Different society's have slightly different ways of doing things.

Here in the UK I had an interesting experience recently to find myself in a room with 3 different D.P.'s. They were all having success to a certain extent. One of them had got where they are through family connections etc, one of them had bought themselves a very expensive camera, and the last person was working hard to make a living based largely on their talent and skill (which in my opinion they have a LOT of!)

Of the 3 the one who seemed to be doing the best and was quite frankly having a meteoric rise at a very young age was the one with the family connections. The one with the expensive camera was doing really quite well considering they hadn't been working at it all that long really, maybe not quite as well as the others but hey... The one who had got there largely on skill and talent, had everybody's respect to a far greater extent, however they had been working hard for many years and still hadn't achieved anywhere near the things that the fellow with the family connections had achieved in a very short space of time. He IS doing very well, but he is a FANTASTIC cinematographer and he has been working at it for many years. I'd actually go as far as to say he is one of the best cinematographers in the country who isn't working on major feature films or TV dramas in this country.

I found it really interesting to see that situation laid out so plainly for me to see.

Of course in other country's, issues of class or family connections may have less of a strong effect, but it shows that a lot of things come into play, and sadly these things may not connect with our feelings of justice or our ideas of meritocracy. I'm aware of all this but I do get a little wound up by people at large trade shows getting a little too high on their own supply, which seems to be a regular thing. Sometimes these people giving talks do produce quite nice work, but they do always seem to get a bit carried away! Maybe it's some kind of reverse Neuremberg effect?

Obviously you may not be able to afford to buy your own Alexa or have strong family connections, in which case the most important thing is probably your interactions and relationships with the people you do meet, and/or work with, and of course, if you can express your skill and talent in some ways, and develop those, that will also help, it's just not anywhere near the primary factor.

love

Freya
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#5 Lee Tamer

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 04:29 PM

Im fortunate to have parents that are supportive, but I really don't want to have to find a "back up career". Maybe finding work is something students should be taught in college?
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Metropolis Post

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CineLab

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Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Opal

Abel Cine

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

Glidecam

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Visual Products