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Starting up as a shooter on another coast...


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#1 M Joel W

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 09:56 PM

Hi, I'm moving to the west coast within the next few months to begin pursuing a career as a DP, which has been something I've wanted to do for years but never thought to actually try. :)

 

What I'm not asking for is anything EXCEPT help with logistics for supporting oneself in the meantime and tips for networking. I do have a pretty big network out there already, but I'd like to know how to rise up the ranks and also how to support oneself. I have a LOT of knowledge about post and have color graded a number of reasonably successful made-for-tv features and done compositing, often all the compositing, for them. This is my day job currently.

 

How does one rise up the ranks in a totally new community? My goal is to be a commercial DP primarily, but I'll always love narrative of course.

 

Try to shoot student shorts at major schools and see where they go?

 

Work as a first or a second? In which case… how does one learn to first or second better? I have done both just a tiny bit, but am not experienced at either yet. Start again as a trainee?

 

Shoot when you can and support yourself with other work? My day job is compositing and color, but I want to switch to camera. 

 

While I'm just trying to get by... work for central casting/the black list/or get a job at a local post house? I don't want to regress too far... I am giving up a good post job to do this, but it is my dream.

 

Any tips? I do have friends out there with whom I hope to shoot, but no one terribly established yet, and I do know some DPs there with whom I hope to meet up shortly after the move. Thanks all. I shot a few features a while ago, but have mostly been doing shorts and spec stuff (because my schedule is too hectic) also second unit on a few features. Thanks!


Edited by M Joel W, 02 November 2013 - 09:57 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 12:10 AM

Save up a lot of money so you can afford not to work for awhile; and then just take the jobs you can get shooting. The money will suck, but if the talent is there you'll move up. Hell I got here in February and I'm shooting my 3rd feature this year right now. The money isn't great, and I've been around for awhile shooting things, but I had no network with producers ect out here in LA.

I will say, sadly, that often on the low budget stuff they are renting a camera with DoP included many times-- so having a system which is desirable can really help you get one on gigs-- though generally the smaller stuff.

I personally think the only way to get better at something is by doing it-- a lot. This will probably mean doing some school stuff, some low-budget stuff, and some stuff on your own, but the practice makes perfect.

 

I haven't yet needed a second job; but it is tight, very tight, living here currently. But, I'm making it, I suppose.

 

Networking-- Dunno, i'm probably not good at that as I'd much rather sit home and watch educational programs, or cook, or make coffee-- but generally just be yourself, don't talk out of your A** too much, and always offer to buy a round should get you pretty far in networking I suppose.

 

Also, be prepared to spend a lot of time in traffic and find a place to live you like. I lucked out that I can walk most places I need to go to get things for living-- or can take a train to the others. Else wise I'd go mad.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:17 AM

Adrian, you're networking right now...

 

I think Adrian's advice is spot-on, you just have to take everything that comes along at first just to meet people.

 

My experience post-graduation was that it was a slow snowball rolling downhill, one job led to two, two lead to four, etc. but it wasn't fast.


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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:22 AM

Quite true David, quite true.


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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 11:29 AM

I think there's this idea spread about that networking is something special and requires unique skills of some kind but it's basically just a fancy name for getting out and meeting people in some form and getting to know them a bit. If you meet a lot of people you are sure to meet people you hit it off in some way with or who are the right people to work with.

 

If you find you don't get on with some people, that's also just fine. You then know that those aren't the right people for you. This is really good information to learn. You can waste a lot of time working with the wrong people when you could have been working with the people who were right for you.

 

Even working with other people on set is an opportunity to meet others and work out who you like and erm, who you don't, or for that matter, who likes you and who doesn't.

 

That's all there is to it really but by sticking a label on it, it has become a difficult thing in some peoples minds.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 03 November 2013 - 11:30 AM.

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#6 M Joel W

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 03:54 PM

Thanks! I am a C100 owner/op (and own a fair amount of lighting and G&E gear)... I am told that this makes me look "low end," but at the same time I get more of a fee for a wet rental than a dry rental. 

 

How different is the owner/op market from the straight DP market? Can I use the camera to get extra work? I like corporate/ads a lot because they are short-term with decent rates.

 

As for networking, it's difficult where I live now as there is no industry here. But I do have friends on the opposite coast already. :)


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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 04:09 PM

Who cares if you look "low end." I don't even know what that means? Hell if you're getting work with the C100 then you're getting work. And yes, I would say for industrials, owning a camera is much more beneficial as they don't much car about what camera it's on so long as it works and that can help to keep your rates a little lower in what is a very saturated market.

 

I would say these days most low end stuff owner/op=Dop. Then as you move up it's less important. That said, since I too own things, there isn't a shoot I go onto where I don't have some stuff in the back of my truck which I either know I'll use, or like to use and might as well just bring it even if I don't get a kit fee for it, though this is normally filters, or some lighting units like PAR64s which I can almost always find some use for somewhere for something (and store easier in my truck than in my apartment).


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#8 M Joel W

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:17 PM

Thanks, I have my AC and grip bags I always bring with me anyway, and cuts of my favorite gels. Know how that is. I usually just wet hire at a specific rate and bring what's necessary, but right now it's not my "day job" so I'm not as careful with pricing as I should be on some stuff. Particularly narrative.  :unsure:

 

Out of curiosity... I haven't shot a feature in years and nothing too "big" ever, as shooting has not been my career. I wasn't able to support myself right out of school as a DP so I did post. How much would it matter adding a $500,000 made-for-tv movie to one's credits if one's reel is already strong enough without it, but one's resume is lacking in recent feature credits? I do have recent second unit credits on movies of that size or larger, a perquisite provided to me by my job, and they have hinted that if they find low end enough work they might toss me a feature credit, but it's something they've hinted at before and failed to deliver on... If a credit of that size is worth it, maybe I can stick around the year in distant hope. The contract isn't even written up yet for them to produce a lower-budget feature, let alone hire me to shoot it. I don't know why I'd bother, but it's the one thing other than saving up some money that is keeping me at my current job and in the long run I would suck it up if it gave me a better shot as a shooter later.


Edited by M Joel W, 03 November 2013 - 05:19 PM.

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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:25 PM

I think every credit is "worth it" in some way or the other; and honestly I'll never turn down paid work (even crap paid work) or cancel a crap paid shoot for something bigger-- but that's just me.  I think you'd have to answer that question for just you, yourself, and there probably would be some bit of extras on it which'll sway your choice-- like the script, the format, the director or the talent, ya know.


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#10 M Joel W

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:32 PM

Thanks! You're right... I will need to decide for myself.

 

I owe you a beer when I get out there, btw. I hear they have Pliny in LA?


Edited by M Joel W, 03 November 2013 - 05:32 PM.

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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:37 PM

A beer will be most most welcomed. And I haven't seen it 'round. But then again I pretty much only grab beer from the CVS or the Trader Joes since they're literally on my corner. I'll check the BevMo next time i'm there (i'm hankering, personally, for a Innis and Gunn.. but no such luck yet)


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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:25 PM

Ugggh, networking.

 

I have a face like a bunch of grapes wrapped in a wet dishcloth, and casual conversation dribbles unconvincingly out of my mouth as if I'm frantically feeding small change into some sort of small-talk generating machine, and it's rejecting every third coin.

 

I hate networking. I hate facebook. I hate twitter. For all these reasons.

 

Possibly I'm in the wrong job.


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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:58 PM

I think you should look into some kind of religious organization with a vow of silence, Phil. It really is the only option.


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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 03:06 PM

Possibly I'm in the wrong job.

 

No question about that, but I digress.

 

Seriously want to build up a film network in LA, rent some kids and put them into soccer.  Next stand on the side-lines and talk to the other parents there.  Probably half of them will be connected to the film and TV industry in some way, shape, or form.  You strike up a conversation, and next thing you know you have the business card from the head of production at XYZ Productions.

 

I know people in LA that have got just loads of connections in LA via kid's sports.

 

R,


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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 03:07 PM

More digression sorry, what exactly is it that you do Phil? Your chief job description would be what?

 

R,


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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 05:08 PM

That's kind of a long story. It's difficult to specialise in London, but I don't want to drag the thread offtopic.


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#17 Darryl Shaun Palapuz

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 12:17 AM

I too agree with Adrian. It's not much about the camera, but the quality of the work you put in.

 

Try to do some work in the community as a DP, get your name and your work out there in public. Prepare some business cards because that will help you in the long run. While school was basically taking time away from me and my crew to film sketches, I figured I'd offer to the community and film some events for free, just to get my name out there. I had a free time last May because I just finished a semester. I heard a recording artist was in town and I got offered to document her gigs in the city within 3-4 days, got honorarium pay even though I didn't ask for it. That's just few of the things that got me started. Of course this doesn't happen often, and I always wanted to shoot weddings, so I asked a few friends if I could be their second shooter, again for free. Just to learn the basics, the workflow, and all that. That's basically what I need to get started. Luckily I was able to shoot my first wedding with a friend as the 2nd shooter and every thing paid off. A few issues here and there but nothing that can't be fixed.

 

I always strived to better myself, my craft. So when I'm not doing anything, I watch wedding reels, music videos, on how I can get better as a DP, editor, and as a colorist of my own work. I can tell you one thing, that you are off to a great start already if you stick with the same people who does the same job as you. And since then, I've always kept on thinking that "my new work needs to be better than my last". It's a challenge to myself, so that I am always looking for something to improve in. From what I've heard, there's always more than enough work need to be done in West Coast, so get to know others so they can help you get started. Networking is big specially when you want to land gigs. Settling as a second option for a gig when the first few guys are fully booked for the year doesn't sound too good, but it does get better. I did a 7th Birthday for a friend of a friend last May, and since then I've done my 4th Birthday gig from the same group of friends by word of mouth.

 

Be prepared to settle for small payment gigs at first in a saturdated market. But once you think that you work is getting better and you are being booked more often, then start charging accordingly. I also never had to cancel or deny a small pay gig as long as I'm available to shoot.


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