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#1 Sam Divey

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:05 AM

I'm not really sure about the best way to start this, so I'm just going to jump right into it.

 

I studied film at university and graduated back in 2009. Ever since then I've known that I wanted to do something creative for a living and films felt like the best option. Having worked on a few amateur shorts (some while at uni, others since graduating), I know that the areas I'm most interested in are cinematography and screenwriting. Of the two, I think cinematography has more potential for offering a more stable income, so I'm hoping to build a career around it while carrying on with the writing as a hobby of sorts.

 

The trouble is it's now 2014, I'm 25 years old, and I have very little to show for it. I can count the number of jobs I've had in the past 4-5 years on my fingers. I don't really have any equipment of my own or the money to afford it. The only people I know who are interested in film-making are friends from uni, who are all at least a 1-2 hour drive away so as much as I'd love to spend all my free time making films and practicing the craft with them, it's not the most practical option due to petrol costs and my current lack of income.

 

I'm applying for every runner/production assistant/camera assistant/kit room trainee etc. job I can find, but in the rare cases that I do hear back from or get an interview with employers, I often end up as the "we wish we could have hired you both, but..." runner-up candidate. Something about my approach isn't working - I'm not getting the jobs, or the opportunities to learn and gain experience, that I want and need - and I don't know what the solution is.

 

My current thinking is this - I need some way of generating income so that I can afford to get some equipment together. Once I have a camera and some lights and everything else, I can start practicing in my own time and do something about my lack of experience and limited skill-set. With more knowledge under my belt, I stand a better chance at getting the kind of jobs that I want.

 

However, I need some advice on what kind of jobs to be looking for. I don't want to end up working somewhere that eats up all my time, keeping me from being able to jump on opportunities for film work as and when it comes up. I also don't want to get stuck somewhere where the only skills and experience I'm gaining are largely irrelevant to what I want to eventually do. I don't imagine that sitting in a cubicle, 9 to 5, punching numbers into a computer teaches you much about being a competent camera operator or DP.

 

I understand that some sacrifices will have to be made, but I don't want to make too many just to get something, only to later find out that all I've accomplished is wasting more time getting nowhere closer to my end goal.

 

I guess that's everything. I'm sorry that this turned into a bit of a rant, but as you can probably tell I find my current situation incredibly frustrating. I feel like I have all this potential, and it's going to waste because I don't know how to make use of it. I don't imagine I'm the only person in the world who feels like this, either.

 

Anyways, if you've read this far then thank you for taking an interest. Absolutely any advice that anybody can offer, even if it's something you don't think I'll want to hear, would be massively appreciated. I just need to figure out how to change things for the better.


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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 12:51 PM

The upside: you aren't alone.

 

The downside: it probably isn't you. Much as it's fashionable to claim otherwise, there is effectively no film industry in the UK; you may as well ask to be an astronaut in the nonexistent UK space program. There is so cripplingly little real production going on here, and hasn't been for a couple of decades, that your experience is entirely normal and expected. You could be the nicest guy in the world, and with lots of experience, and you could still end up where you are now if you didn't have luck or contacts. So yes, you could do what you're doing for the rest of your life and never get anywhere. It's entirely possible, if not likely.

 

Unfortunately, the only advice I can give you is that a lot of advice you'll get both here and elsewhere online will be from Americans and they will tell you that it's a lot easier. Which it is, for them, and quite often they'll be pretty insistent inasmuch as they're working on big movies in Los Angeles where there's probably more work going on than in the rest of the world (excluding India) combined, whereas you're working on no-money music videos. This makes them think they know better than you. Just remember that this spectacular success doesn't actually make full time American film crew knowledgeable about your actual situation. I made this mistake for years. This is to some extent an extension of the "don't compare yourself to other people" rule of thumb, which is very valid because you can always find a way to beat yourself up. If you get a few days a month by the time you're 30 working on "real" productions, you're doing very well.

 

Almost anywhere in the world is a better bet than the UK, anyway. There's a special combination of no film industry and a popular perception that one exists here which makes it especially difficult because lots more people get the idea that it's possible and try to do it. I know people who have gone to Thailand and done OK in their indigenous action movie industry. There is no perception that Bangkok (for instance) is particularly a filmmaking centre so there aren't a million people banging on the doors, so even though there may be less work overall, there's more per person.

 

If you speak a foreign language with sufficient fluency to go elsewhere, do so. If you have any familial connections in the US that you can use to get a work permit, then clearly, go for it. You can make a living doing low budget independent movies and music videos there in a way that is absolutely impossible here. But otherwise, if you're stuck here on this damp little island, as most native brits are, if it seems impossible... well, sorry, it very likely is. We have at least two forum members here who were in London and have gone to LA, and have done very well, but the paperwork is extremely difficult.

 

Unless, that is, you happen to be using a false name, and if your name is really Tristram Fellington-Smythehouseland or something, and you went to all the right parties growing up, and your mate Oliver at Cambridge was a member of the Footlights and is now directing comedy for the BBC. In that case, call Ollie at once. You'll be on set tomorrow.

 

P


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#3 Sam Divey

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 07:21 AM

Thank you for your reply, Phil. I was holding off before I came back here just in case anyone else had something else to day, but it doesn't look like it so far.

 

Leaving the country to find work isn't an option for me unfortunately, at least not in the foreseeable future. I think your evaluation of the industry here sounds a bit cynical, although I'm aware that the line between "being cynical" and "being realistic" can sometimes get blurry and maybe I just don't know any better. Regardless, I do appreciate you giving me your honest opinion. It's helped me realise that I need to take things more seriously than I used to.

 

I know that there are a lot of people in a similar situation to myself all competing for the same jobs, and that the odds are stacked against me. I've been trying to figure out if there's anything I can do to improve my chances, but besides trying to gain more experience I'm not sure what else I could do. Also, I don't know of any other good ways to get the experience and knowledge that people are looking for, other than from learning on the job (which I'm not getting in the first place). I've looked into training courses, but that involves having the money to pay for them, which leads me back to the "what kind of job is close enough to what I want to do that I can use to earn an income in the meantime?" question that I'm struggling to answer.

 

I could go back to bar work or working in retail just to get some money together. But if there's a different type of job I haven't considered that involves skills that are more transferable to the film/TV industry, I'd much rather look into something like that.


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#4 Matt Sezer

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 07:18 PM

I finished film school a little bit less than a year ago and I've mostly been doing wedding videos. I don't know what the wedding industry is like in the UK, but at least in the US there's a pretty huge market for videos and, at least on the higher end, the videos can use a lot of cinematic techniques. It also gets you really familiar with cameras and shooting in lots of different situations.

 

Another way you can make money is through corporate videos. Most companies have websites and there's definitely a market for creating high-quality video content for those websites.

 

Anyway, these are just a few, albeit not super-glamorous, ways to make money doing something film-related. Not having equiptment will be an issue. However, the good news is gear is now cheaper than ever. The bad news is that gear is cheaper than ever and everybody thinks they're a talented DP.


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#5 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 08:09 PM

Have you thought about creating the opportunities yourself rather than trying to get others to hire you.  Put simply, be your own boss.  Network like mad with everyone you know and find your own clients.  I mean for the corporate/industrial commercial stuff. Obviously for anything entertainment related you need to be hired unless you're self producing which costs money.  We're talking about earning it.  

 

 If it's just income you're after via shooting and cutting videos, shoot some freebees for everyone you know.  Then hit the pavement and produce videos for some shops, restaurants, whatever.  Knock on doors, build a reel, a website and chances are the clients you do free work for will pass your name to others when they see it and want to know who shot it.  That's when the phone calls will start coming in.

 

I did this years ago and landed a really good contract with a dance company.  I'm not much of a salesman either but you can't let that stop you.   I now have a regular client list that pays the bills but that will come in time.  No one will do this for you. You have to find them on your own.

 

The gold star clients are institutions like schools, universities, hospitals,  etc.  Places that aren't going to fold up and that always need AV work of some kind.  Landing a service contract with any of them will provide one with a lot of repeat business.  Something to think about.  But remember, no one will hire you if they don't know you and haven't heard of you.  You're only hope with people who don't know you, is to volunteer your services and do a great job.  Then, they'll be able to hire you in the future or recommend you to others.  Cold calling and knocking on doors rarely lands you paid contracts.  You have to prove yourself first.


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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 08:37 PM

I'm not much of a salesman either but you can't let that stop you.


You can, you know.
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#7 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 10:26 PM

Ha. Yeah but then you're only hope is working for others who have learned how to sell.   I recognize that it's a completely different skill set and you need the personality for it, which I definitely don't have.  There's creatives and there's the people who excel at the business end of things and unless you're good at both, you need to partner up with someone who's got the skills you're lacking.

 

One thing that's really pissed me off about the whole online video thing are these companies that have tried to franchise the industry and do national sales of b2b videos. They get content creators to sign up and then they try to pay them ridiculously low rates cause they're charging their customers pennies for commercials that should cost 10x or more.  So the freelancers doing all the work make obscenely low rates.

 

Demand Studios , Mopro and countless other online video companies like em are driving down the value by offering videos for a fraction of what businesses would normally pay a local production company to do them for.  One thing I'd definitely advise is to stay away from that kind of business model.  Fight back by finding your own way and getting your own clients and charging the actual fair market value that the work is worth.  Not the slave wages that ehow.com is offering.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 13 February 2014 - 10:27 PM.

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#8 Sam Divey

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 01:28 PM

Thanks for your input guys.

 

I've briefly considered attempting to start out on my own, but the thing that's made me reluctant to go through with it is that I'm not one of those "business" types of people. What I am is one of those "too nice for their own good" types - ask me for a favour and the only thing that goes through my mind is whether or not I think I can do it. How it works out for me and what I stand to gain later on are rarely even an afterthought. When I did used to work in a bar, I used to feel guilty receiving tips. So I know I'm not the kind of person that's naturally cut out to be their own boss.

 

But I suppose it's nothing I can't teach myself to get better at, and my current attitude certainly hasn't paid off so far. I'll definitely put more thought into that idea from now on.

 

As far as equipment goes (it's looking more and more like I'm just gonna have to get something and figure out the consequences later), does anyone have any recommendations on some good quality, reasonably priced entry level gear? From the research I've done I'm leaning towards the Nikon D3200, but if there are other video-capable cameras in that sort of price range that you think I should consider, I'd love to know. DSLRs are something I have no hands-on experience with and I think it's time I did something to change that.


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:33 PM

I think the Panasonic stuff is cruelly overlooked - what's more you can use a sensor-windowing mode that makes it suitable for both dramatic and documentary stuff with various lenses. I keep almost buying a GH3 just so I have, you know, something.

 

The problem is that buying gear rapidly sets you up for giving it away. I recently had a call (I'll post more about this separately as it was hilariously bad) to do a feature later in the year and received several emails from the producer almost berating me for not owning gear - because they wanted it for free. Bear this in mind before you splurge £20k. If you buy, buy cheap, buy something you can afford to give away.

 

I'm not a businessman either, it doesn't help and it is often not possible to learn to be really good at it. Often you can learn to be sort of OK at it. Base thing to remember is that casual acquaintances and friends often become clients and never ever to work for free, under any circumstances.

 

P


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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:33 PM

As far as equipment goes (it's looking more and more like I'm just gonna have to get something and figure out the consequences later), does anyone have any recommendations on some good quality, reasonably priced entry level gear? From the research I've done I'm leaning towards the Nikon D3200, but if there are other video-capable cameras in that sort of price range that you think I should consider, I'd love to know. DSLRs are something I have no hands-on experience with and I think it's time I did something to change that.

 

There's a new camera out every week so if you are just starting out, then I would recommend something like the Kodak ZX1.

 

It's a really rubbish little camera but on the upside it can be had for as little as £25 if you keep an eye out. The other upside is it shoots progressive video and it takes quite nice video! It also has the advantage that it shoots 720 60p, so you could use it for slowmotion shots in conjunction with another camera. Downside is that there is no 24p or 25p. It's 30p and 60p only (unless you are a whiz at hacking and can turn the 120fps mode back on!)

 

The big problem with it is that it is an auto everything camera. Although this might help you a little bit when starting out as you can concentrate on framing and lighting. It also doesn't really have a zoom or anything. It's more like having a prime lens. There is a digital zoom but you probably want to avoid it. You can pick up little magnetic wide angle lenses for it and the like. It is kind of like working with primes.

 

Also on the upside is that it's tiny so you can carry it anywhere. It takes rechargeable AA batteries that it usually comes with as well as a charger. It uses cheap SD cards. People always think it is a phone. Usually an iphone. This is usually the case even tho it looks nothing like an iphone and they may have an iphone themselves and be wondering how I fitted it on a tripod.

 

Which brings me to the other question... You don't have a phone with a video option?

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 14 February 2014 - 02:34 PM.

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#11 Freya Black

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:38 PM

I think the Panasonic stuff is cruelly overlooked - what's more you can use a sensor-windowing mode that makes it suitable for both dramatic and documentary stuff with various lenses. I keep almost buying a GH3 just so I have, you know, something.

 

 

 

 

Great idea! Panasonic GH1, can be had for as little as about £100 if you keep an eye on ebay. Can be hacked for decent bitrates. Uses SD cards. VERY good quality. You will have to buy lenses but you can use cheaper lenses as the M4/3 interface means you can attach almost anything via the right adaptor.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 14 February 2014 - 02:41 PM.

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#12 Freya Black

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:50 PM


I know that there are a lot of people in a similar situation to myself all competing for the same jobs, and that the odds are stacked against me. I've been trying to figure out if there's anything I can do to improve my chances, but besides trying to gain more experience I'm not sure what else I could do. Also, I don't know of any other good ways to get the experience and knowledge that people are looking for, other than from learning on the job (which I'm not getting in the first place). I've looked into training courses, but that involves having the money to pay for them, which leads me back to the "what kind of job is close enough to what I want to do that I can use to earn an income in the meantime?" question that I'm struggling to answer.

 

 

 

 

If you can get into Oxford university that might really help you.

 

Other than that qualifications and certificates and stuff aren't a lot of use, for anything really. That's just something they tell people at the bottom of the pile in the UK that it is all about qualifications. It's nonsense. Qualifications get you nowhere but it helps some people who can say to themselves "I wish I'd worked a little harder at school and got better qualifications and then I could have gone much further". What actually helps is who you know, and who you might meet at university etc. Collecting bits of paper just gets you debt.

 

You could maybe try and get work in a rental house which would take you closer to all the action and what's going on.

 

Freya


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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:51 PM

I'd look for a GH2 personally-- the hacks on that really were nice.


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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:55 PM

The problem with GH2 is very poor behaviour as regards audio. I'd buy GH3 just for that. GH4 apparently retains the windowed mode but is likely to be rather expensive.

 

Might pick up a 3 once the 4 has made them cheaper. I have Atomos recorders and could get the latch-on HDMI converter for proper recording.

 

Problem really is glass. A really good ENG zoom (to use with the windowed mode) is a lot of cash.

 

P


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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:59 PM

Aye that's true on the GH2 audio-- but I almost always ran double system.

 

Also you can get some cheap servo SD lenses-- and power them off of a D tap,as I did for awhile on my GH2. Then I pulled the servos off and use it just like a typical zoom now a days on the pocket. It would only cover the GH with the read 2x extender, but gave me a respectable 18mm equiv -- though with a 2 stop loss. Even on the pocket, it's no good below 40mm without the 2x, which is fine since primes cover me up to there.


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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 03:20 PM

I'd look for a GH2 personally-- the hacks on that really were nice.

 

In the UK the GH1 is a lot, lot, lot cheaper tho and has nice hacks too, albeit missing some very handy ones.

Dunno

 

Freya


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#17 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 03:21 PM

Aye. It's a tough call-- a tough call. Though even in the US the GH2 was a harder find. Hell I sold mine for a profit even after it was worked.


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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 03:36 PM

There is a lot to be said for second hand cameras generally I think! :)

 

Freya


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#19 Jason Outenreath

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 11:54 PM

I have a GH2 and a GH3, and they are both wonderful cameras. Incredible quality that's too often overlooked. They're also remarkably similar cameras. The only real difference is the GH3 is a touch screen, a more solid build in the camera body, and it can shoot 60p at 1920x1080. Other than the slow motion capability, they're very similar-- and great cameras.

 

A GH2 can be had for between 450-600 dollars, depending. Another option to consider is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, which can get some pretty amazing footage (shoots both ProRes and RAW). I think it's good to have some kind of camera as a filmmaker. Especially for documentary work, any of the above cameras will serve you very well. And if nothing else, a camera frees you to explore your own ideas visually. I agree with other comments about not splurging on the most expensive camera out there (who can afford it anyways?), but there is great value in owning a camera of some kind as a filmmaker.


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#20 David Peterson

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 02:30 AM

I agree with Phil Rodes and Freya Black, start out with something *cheap* and start learning with it! And even drumming up some of your own work with it.

 

However what "cheap" means to you depends a lot on your own personal circumstances. But I'm going to guess you fit broadly speaking into one of these three categories:

a) cheap as chips: Panasonic GH1

B) not quite so cheap, but still very affordadable: Panasonic G6, Nikon D5200, Sony A6000

c) awesomeness: Panasonic GH4, Sony A7s

 

The Panasonic GH1 is a fantastic starting out camera, *NOTHING* in its price range can match it (heck, I've used a Canon 5DmkII as well, and I prefer the GH1!). My first paid work (weddings) I used my GH1 on it.

 

If you have a bit more budget, I strongly recommend the Panasonic G6 (it is basically the updated GH2, and I'd prefer it over the GH2 or GH3. Yet it costs less!). The Nikon D5200/D5200/D7100 and Sony A6000 are also strong choices at about the same price. I use the Nikon D5200 quite a bit myself.

The GH4 and A7s are two quite different cameras, but similar in that they're basically top of the mountain when it comes to the "best" DSLR/MILC out there for filming with. And I'll be upgrading to them before the end of this year. (might just wait for the first price drop to happen, of say a couple of hundred bucks before jumping on one. No rush... I've got plenty of other cameras to use until then!)

 

There are other cameras out there, such as the Sony FS100 and the BMPCC which each got huge price drops recently, but they don't quite match the bang for buck *and* ease of use which the others have. Perhaps if you were not just starting out, you might consider them though.


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