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how do i get a job as a camera trainee?

industry starting employment help

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#1 jake powell

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 10:52 AM

Hi guys , 

 

first let me apologise for my first few posts probably to want to take more away from this wonderful community than i can give. 

I really would appreciate some help with understanding a few things about how and who i approach to get into this industry. 

I am a Final year Fine Art student at Central St Martins Art College , London. 
I have enjoyed my degree in art don't get me wrong its been helpful and I have learned a lot, but I also have discovered along the way that what really gets me going is Cinema, films and really more than anything Cinematography , the lighting the movement the creation of an atmosphere and mood, this amazing world i cannot describe how desperately i want to be part of that.

My conundrum, How do i become part of it? I have no direct contacts into the film industry as CSM doesn't run any film course. I also dont have a relevant degree (film ba or whatever its fine art). I have worked in the course making photographs which later developed into this passion and i know work almost exclusively with motion picture work shooting editing lighting and colouring myself , as i have tried to read watch absorb and learn as much as i can on my own. and now i want to try to take the first step up into the industry i see i have two options so far both of which im going to try and see how it works out.

Option 1 : try to get onto a Cinematography Masters at NFTS etc but honestly i don't know if i am anywhere near good enough yet having no training other than my own attempts to self teach. 

 

Option 2: try and become a camera trainee ...

im really comfortable with being at the bottom of the pile doing whatever those above me ask me to do , menial tasks , whatever i dont care i get its part of the process and honestly i would sell a kidney just to get there because what i honestly want is to learn from people who know what their doing to slog my guts out to absorb every minute bit of knowledge and begin this journey learning this amazing craft... but how??? 
who do i approach to get a role as this? do you need formal training before that i essentially lack ? 

do you approach production companys ?

or do you approach crews? where do you find these crews?

 

any feedback from people who are in the industry especially those who have worked their way up the ranks and can shed light on the process would be appreciated so much by me.

 

also just so im not winging for advice and not contributing anything heres a few shots from my art films .

 

thanks so much

 canarykatieshow_1.15.1.jpg

A13 small.jpg

exnihilo .jpg

canary_1.8.1.jpg

 


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:10 AM

I was going to suggest a couple of web sites, but they seem to be hijacked just at the moment. However, this one may be a good starting point http://www.creatives...ilm/index_1.asp


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 12:56 PM

Oh, god, another one. Can we have a sticky for this, called something like "UK film industry hopefuls"? It would save me a lot of typing.

 

Anyway. Sorry, but this is probably going to hurt.

 

Your stills are significantly above-average for the sort of stuff we see from recent UK graduates on this board. I'd like to see video too, but even if you are the best director of photography ever, unfortunately, that's not going to help you. Even in places where there's a working film industry, you'd be twenty years from actually shooting anything - which might be fine, of course, if your hard work was likely to get you somewhere - but the sad reality is that you are not in a place where there's a working film industry and your hard work will not get you anywhere. Much more likely you'll end up paying your own train fares into central London to work on some posh git's vanity film, which will be awful and get both you and him nowhere, for ten years.

 

Sad fact 1: The UK does not really have a film industry. We have a very small service industry which makes a handful - four, or five - films a year for American producers. Notice that as I type, people are entering the BAFTA awards ceremony to see if Gravity wins best British film, despite the fact that it was produced, directed, written and funded by Americans and Mexicans and and all of the money is being made in the USA by Warner Bros. No British company can fund a $100 million feature. The entire British film industry put together couldn't fund a $100 million feature.

 

Outside of those four or five huge shows, which are obviously inaccessible to mere mortals like us, it's extremely difficult to make a living doing only work that could be considered "real camerawork". Almost all the "real" crew I've ever met did other things on the side. There are a small number of commercials. Pretty much all music video is now unpaid, so that's not a career either. The unfortunate implication is that the UK really only needs five camera trainees at any one time. Yes, literally. Yes, for the whole country. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, it really is that bad, and yes, you really are that screwed. It's a one in ten or twelve million shot.

 

Sad fact 2: The situation in other countries is markedly different. Obviously the US is the filmmaking centre of the world and your chances are orders of magnitude better there. If you have any route to a US work permit, do so immediately and get out to Los Angeles. If you can speak French, go to France; they have legal protections on film exhibition which protects the domestic industry. But in the UK, where 98% plus of film shown in cinemas and on TV is American, your chances are honestly so near zero as to make no difference.

 

 

 

honestly i would sell a kidney just to get there

 

So would a lot of other people, who will almost certainly also fail.

 

In any case this is a bad attitude. This sort of thinking leads to your being exploited. Working on a film set is not a privilege - well - it is - but it's also a job, and one involving skills and long hours and rough conditions for which you should be paid. Do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, work for free. Ever. That's the only advice I can really give you. 

 

But if there's anything anywhere else in your soul that you could see yourself doing, do it.

 

P


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#4 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 01:37 PM

Unfortunately Phil's comments are probably true, but that doesn't mean you should be discouraged from trying! You certainly have passion which for me gets you half way there. Set your sights high but expect to be disappointed, if you love what you do you can still have a fulfilling career as a cameraman. But maybe not in the film industry! TV is a steady workhorse certainly saved me the last 2 years!


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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 01:41 PM

Sure, but that's a vastly different thing. Pedestal camerawork in a studio barely crosses over at all, personnel-wise, with film work.


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#6 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 02:08 PM

Jake,

Contrary to what others have posted here the UK film industry is thriving, and now is an excellent time to join wether that's as a camera trainee, grip trainee or trainee AD.

Last year was one of the busiest years for features, drama and commercials in recent history. There was a very high demand for crew. The vast majority of features shot in the uk are American studio pictures with multiple units which means multiple camera trainees needed. The vast majority of tv drama shooting here is uk funded, and likewise they'll almost always have a trainee. Commercials and music promos don't always require a camera trainee.

If you want to work as a camera trainee in features or drama there are a few basic things you can do.

First of all you need to understand that DP's and Camera operators aren't going to be the ones hiring you - they're way too busy dealing with other aspects of the shoot. You'll get hired either by the focus puller, clapper loader, the production manager or by recommendation by another camera trainee.

You need to introduce yourself to all of these people and then you need a little bit of luck and a lot of perseverance.

You should phone every focus puller/loader/pm in the country and introduce yourself. Set aside one day a month, every month, and call them. Most won't want to talk to you but eventually someone will. Be polite. Be honest about your lack of experience. Get a copy of the knowledge or one of the other trade books and get numbers from there. Get out to Panavision and meet the Panavision guys. Do the same with arri media and take 2 and all the other rental companies. Get yourself known. While you're at Panavision introduce yourself to the GBCT. Call the diary services that deal with camera crews and send them your cv. Then contact all their members and send them your cv. Something that can help is to offer to come out to help prep a job at the rental companies - that way you get to meet focus pullers who may need an extra hand prepping kit but who can't afford a trainee for the job. You also get to learn the gear. LEARN the kit. If you don't you're no good to anyone as an assistant. Keep your eyes peeled for the next intake of the camera trainee apprenticeship programme that the guild run.
Accept that there are certain times of the year when it will be quiet - now for instance - but with the large number of features kicking off in April/May you'll find it easier to get work. Meet other trainees if you can. Refer each other for work. If you're offered a job you aren't available for be sure to reccommend someone you know instead. That comes back around. Stick with it, persevere, and you'll break in. There's far too much misinformation on this forum about an apparent "lack" of jobs/industry in the uk - don't listen to it.

Best of luck.
S.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 02:29 PM

Stephen, I get two or three phone calls a week from hopefuls. Me. And I'm a complete nobody. I'm struggling to continue being polite to them.

 

Endlessly pestering people by phone will do nothing but make someone unpopular.

 

Oh, and - busiest in recent history may mean there were as many as six or eight films shot last year, none of which a total beginner will be getting anywhere near.

 

P


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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 02:59 PM

You should phone every focus puller/loader/pm in the country and introduce yourself. Set aside one day a month, every month, and call them. Most won't want to talk to you but eventually someone will. Be polite. Be honest about your lack of experience.

 

Actually I think that is probably really good advice. You might have to do it a few times over but that seems like potentially a workable plan to me. As Phil suggests you risk pissing off a fair few people but if they get pissed off they probably deserve it! It seems like a straightforward way to statistically increase your chances to me.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 16 February 2014 - 03:00 PM.

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#9 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 03:42 PM

Sure, but that's a vastly different thing. Pedestal camerawork in a studio barely crosses over at all, personnel-wise, with film work.

There's a lot more than pededstal camerawork in TV Phil! Many documentary / drama Dp's have crossed over into mainstream features. 


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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 04:40 PM

Many documentary / drama Dp's have crossed over into mainstream features.

 

It was always my impression that this was the major route into feature filmmaking in the UK, and that there was a fair bit of cross-pollination on a day to day basis.

 

But the fact remains that you really can't cross over into mainstream features in the UK because there are no mainstream features. There are no more than half a dozen properly funded, properly equipped productions with decent crews and proper facilities made per year in this country. No more than ten even on a really, really good year. We need perhaps six or eight crews. The entire UK needs half a dozen camera assistants. The entire UK needs seven really good directors of photography, if one of them is ill or on holiday. It is puerile to call this an industry.

 

The kind of television from which crossover is possible is either dead or dying. Television is increasingly a 24-hour vomit parade of fly-on-the-wall documentaries, reality shows, mindless gameshows, and soaps designed to appeal to the thoroughly stupid. Skilled crews work on them all, more's the pity, but that isn't really a world which has much to do with the sort of single-camera drama our correspondent seems to covet. And there is almost none of that at all.

 

Personally I am overjoyed every day I get to be paid to be behind a camera, but that's so rare these days I'm actually starting to get rusty. You can't even get a half-decent short or music video these days without paying your own train fare, and that I will not do. Edit: what the hell am I saying, you could never get a half-decent anything; the best you could hope for was that they would at least understand why you need someone to do the lights and that it's not a good idea for that person also to be the production manager...

 

P


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#11 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 03:26 PM

I've worked with a number of 1st a.c's over the years and one thing I noticed is that they all move up very fast.  It's like I'll find someone good and work with them for a little while and then suddenly they're in the union and on a show like Law and Order or Boardwalk Empire etc.  Like within a year of knowing them they become unaffordable and unavailable.   So if the option is open to you maybe nyc is a better bet for breaking in as a camera trainee.  


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#12 jake powell

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 07:43 PM

Hey guys , just checking back in , to let you all know that my story has a happy ending . I got in . I am now a camera trainee with lots to learn . But with decent employment , working in film in London . And in proper high end cinema too . No it wasn't easy , yes I am propably lucky . But to anyone out there thinking it's too difficult , I say , screw that , it's not . Have a lovely day guys thanks to everyone who offered kind words and advice.
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#13 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:09 PM

Congrats!
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#14 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:21 PM

In short - not easy, but after a year of effort, possible.

 

Well done Jake!


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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 05:42 AM

I would have to point out that as a camera trainee you are not in any sense in.

 

P


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#16 jake powell

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 12:24 PM

Phil , let me have my moment in the sun would you ? I'm under no delusions of how precarious my position is . But it's a step in the right direction and I wanted to give some hope to those who may currently be in the position I was at this time last year . Why the unwavering negativity ?
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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 12:30 PM

I'm trying to avoid you wasting a lot of time and money. The likelihood of the film industry in the UK offering anyone a worthwhile long-term career is so close to zero it makes no difference and I would prefer that people going into it knew that.

 

We barely have a film industry here. A lot of the work that is done in the UK is done by people working for either nothing or practically nothing, and I think it's profoundly wrong that people pretend we have thriving and profitable work going on when it would not exist if people were not willing to do it. Unfortunately, those people are part of the problem; enablers, if you will, of the status quo - and the status quo is terrible.

 

P


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#18 jake powell

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 01:06 PM

That's completely fair Phil . I'm not really opposing your veiw about the status quo , Im sure you know what your talking about . But I am being paid . It's fairly a list and seeing Leavesden studios so buzzing as last week while I tried out , I guess I just don't see it yet . Maybe I will in the future , until then , let me enjoy the small successes yeah ?
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#19 John Miguel King

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 06:44 AM

Guys, there's plenty of work going on if you eat some humble pie and start at the bottom like Jake has done. I know cos I'm "in" and I can assure the only "trick" is being the best you can at the role you're doing.

The thing is that jobs are not advertised anywhere. I mean, who in their sane mind would jeopardise daily budgets above 100k by hiring somebody on the strength of an application through a jobs' website?. Honestly, anybody believing the great opportunity will appear on Mandy's needs some psychiatric evaluation urgently.
 

It's either direct contact from the employer (focus puller calling loader, for example) or diary service/agent. One must earn the right, through hard bloody work and professionalism, to be part of the club. But, you know, it's not a club based on looks. It's a club based on never ever letting the team down. It's as simple and as difficult as this. Because, we actually take filmmaking seriously, and thanks to this UK crews are highly regarded worldwide.

And, as I'm sure Jake must have realised by now, the club is made up a lovely bunch of freaks who're always there when you need them. We are family, godamnit. We've all been to hell and back, together.

 

Strength and Honour! :P


Edited by John Miguel King, 01 March 2015 - 06:45 AM.

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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 07:00 AM

All that can be true, and the numbers are still overwhelming.

 

Nepotism matters. Being good at the role is almost completely irrelevant, which is why so much UK-produced stuff looks so incredibly bad. I should be clear: I'm no contender. But much as it's possible to criticise a pilot who flies a plane into a mountain without being a pilot, it's possible to look at a lot of our current output and recognise that it looks terrible. The idea that the UK has high-quality crew is largely historical, and becoming more so. With so little work going on, especially so little of any quality, there's very little experience to be gained. UK crew probably do have a good reputation, at least for the moment. But they don't actually deserve it anymore, and it won't last.

 

As for being a family, I think everyone knows the score. Other people are your competitors, not your friends. This is widely recognised and it does not lead to happiness and tender feelings. The difference in the USA is huge: it's hard to say that there's enough work for everyone, but there's certainly vastly, vastly more, and people feel a lot more comfortable.

 

Oh, and it's worth mentioning this - to some extent, it is a club based on looks. Most of the successful people I know who work in camera-related roles are better-than-average looking, have expensive haircuts, and more than a passing interest in brand-named clothing. Move into postproduction and it's practically a fashion show. When work is this rare, you might as well hire people who are good and pretty. I mean, look at your profile shot, John! Trying rather hard, isn't it?


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