I moved to Los Angeles 1.5 years ago to attend film school so that I could become a DP. Like most people who do this, they discover that they want to do something else, perhaps more specific than what they first wanted. For me, I started drifting away from the camera side of things, and moved towards lighting. I now find myself out of film school and looking for work as an electric. Unfortunately, I didn't learn how to find work in school, just how to work. All I hear is 'work for free, meet people, they will call you for paying jobs later', or 'the people you meet in film school will call you when they get paying jobs'. Nobody is getting paying jobs. I am really beginning to doubt the economic feasibility of a career in the film industry. It seems like it is made of a bunch of cliques with no way in. So what I would like is your advice, especially if you recently got into the film industry. I would also like to know what you think I should do next. Should I continue taking free/almost free jobs with the hope that that will turn into paying work and connections? Or is it time to find a different industry?
Finding Work and Getting Started
Posted 10 June 2013 - 11:58 PM
My advice for first starting out is that you'll probably not work as an electric. Right out of film school, take any job you can get, a lot of it will be crap PA work, but you will meet people, and pay some bills. And build you network. It's not so much a clique as it is people who trust each other. When I'm shooting, I much prefer working with a crew whom I know and who knows me and what I need, how i work, than someone I've never worked with before.
You also just have to keep at it, and I mean really keep at it. In the beginning you may not be able to make this your only job. Hell I started working when I was 10, and this is still difficult for me to do and actually cover rent with. However, for me, it's all I could ever want.
You have to sell yourself a bit on social media it seems, and spend hours and hours scouring for the scraps which show up online-- most of it will be scraps when the networks of other people fall through. And you have to be ready to take any small chance you get to talk with working people. Most of all be humble, and honest about yourself and what you can and cannot do. Never oversell yourself. I just recently, much to the astonishment of my friends, turned down a very well paid shoot which I really need because I knew that I wouldn't be right for it, for them, and that I'd not be able to deliver what they needed. But I'd rather do that then show up and make a fool of myself and upset people.
As to where to find work, if you're looking for a simple listing of websites, I haven't got anything more than to say, mandy, craigslist, staffmeup, stage32 (still iffy on this one, but I did get offered a few paying shoots on it which didn't pan out for scheduling reasons), and hop on every film people group on facebook and there seem to be quite a few. Most of them have a lot of noise and want-to-bes, but some have some good people (grip and electric LA, for example, seems pretty good. I'd probably put out a feeler there if i ever needed a swing or a spark).
As for the people you met in film school, yes, they will get you work, eventually. You'll all be at the same rung, but they can recommend you, and try to sneak you on. Granted, most of the people with whom I went to film school have not hired me to DoP for them, say for a few very good friends whom i really respect and enjoy working with-- though I personally find it very hard to take money from them.
Also, best advice i ever got about working and finding work (in the future) is when you are working, Dummy the ____ up! My dad told me that day one on set when I was 10 and saddled with a betacam deck on some car-lot commercial. Nothing can get you out of getting paid in the future like stepping on the ego or toes of those around you. It's stupid, very stupid most of the time, but it happens more often than not. I'm positive I've lost a good deal of work for such reasons-- though I try not to let that bother me.
Hmm.. what else? Did I mention networking? Well network. That'll be, in the end, that by which you sink or swim, with a healthy bit of grit, determination, know how, and pure, dumb, beautiful luck.
Keep your head up, stay in the fold, as best you can, and things will pan out over time. All things worth happening happen, primarily, in time.
Posted 11 June 2013 - 12:20 AM
If you started film school only 1.5 years ago, how long has it been since you graduated? If it was a year-long program, that means you've only been on the market now for 6 months?
It took nearly a decade for me to get established in the industry...
Electrics get work through connections with other electrics, best boys, and gaffers so those are the people who need to know your name and think of you when there is work and they need a day player to fill in.
Hopefully things will pick up in Los Angeles, you picked one of the slowest times to enter the industry.
Posted 11 June 2013 - 12:21 AM
David, I'm glad you mentioned that, I was unsure if this was "slow" now or "normalish." Good to know it's slow-ish I suppose.