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Tips for Meeting Directors

dp director tips

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#1 Matthew Greiner

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Posted 19 March 2015 - 01:32 PM

Hello, 

 

I'm an aspiring DP who is primarily working as a camera assistant in NYC. I re-located to the city from LA after college for reasons mostly pertaining to preference. In the past year (moved here June '14), I've slowly, but steadily re-established myself and am now working quite regularly; no complaints there. However, now that I am not scrambling as much financially, I want to re-focus on shooting more projects in order to one day fully transition into full time DP work.

 

When I lived in California, I had a lot of young director friends from college that I knew, but now that I am in a new city, it has proven to be a bit of a task finding collaborators. So, my question is, does anybody have any useful tips for meeting directors as a young DP? It seems that how much gear you have can play a role in getting work in the beginning, but beyond that, is there anything anybody would recommend? Ideally, I'd like to avoid shooting student projects. Thanks!

 

MG


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#2 Albion Hockney

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Posted 19 March 2015 - 04:09 PM

There is this great story written in the magazine "the beleiver" about an aspiring writer who lived next to gordon willis coincidentally. At somepoint he asks willis basically the same question...how do you get in. Willis basically just says "hang around"

 

This is the million dollar question, I talk about it all the time with other shooter friends as we struggle to get new work with talented directors. I think Willis is right though....almost all of my work has come from hanging around cool people that I like. I have even gotten projects out of cold emails to directors I like....sometimes when I see a project from a young director that shows potentional I will just email them and try to grab a beer and that has led to friendships and on one occasion work.

 

At the start you need to just get a decent reel together even if the projects arn't good, do good work or try to get something out of it for yourself.... even if they are student projects. Once you have something you can show people it helps I think. As an AC I would say friend all the DP's you work with as well and show them your work, Talented working DP's are busy and I know of more then one story of guy's who have gotten a lot of help from DP's who were a few steps ahead of them tossing them projects/refferals.

 

...and yes having a Red or Alexa package is a really nice thing to have in the back pocket. I think if you don't have that luxery its very important to find some owner/ops or rental houses that will help you out and give you a good deal with passion projects.


Edited by Albion Hockney, 19 March 2015 - 04:12 PM.

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#3 Matthew Greiner

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Posted 19 March 2015 - 05:55 PM

There is this great story written in the magazine "the beleiver" about an aspiring writer who lived next to gordon willis coincidentally. At somepoint he asks willis basically the same question...how do you get in. Willis basically just says "hang around"

 

This is the million dollar question, I talk about it all the time with other shooter friends as we struggle to get new work with talented directors. I think Willis is right though....almost all of my work has come from hanging around cool people that I like. I have even gotten projects out of cold emails to directors I like....sometimes when I see a project from a young director that shows potentional I will just email them and try to grab a beer and that has led to friendships and on one occasion work.

 

At the start you need to just get a decent reel together even if the projects arn't good, do good work or try to get something out of it for yourself.... even if they are student projects. Once you have something you can show people it helps I think. As an AC I would say friend all the DP's you work with as well and show them your work, Talented working DP's are busy and I know of more then one story of guy's who have gotten a lot of help from DP's who were a few steps ahead of them tossing them projects/refferals.

 

...and yes having a Red or Alexa package is a really nice thing to have in the back pocket. I think if you don't have that luxery its very important to find some owner/ops or rental houses that will help you out and give you a good deal with passion projects.

 

Thanks for the reply, Albion. I agree. Friending other DPs is a great idea and something that often happens naturally while I'm on set, but I've never thought of showing them my work much. I'll give that a shot.


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 12:40 AM

I wouldn't tell your DP clients that you are also a DP and plan to move up and take their jobs. At least, not until you're good friends and have worked together for a few years. They need to know that you respect the chain of command and are a team player first. Only show them your work if they ask.

Instead, I would make friends with other ACs, gaffers, grips, sound, art dept, rental house techs, and especially PAs. A lot of below the line people have their own passion projects, so ask them what they're working on and see if they need a DP. I also wouldn't rule out student films, especially grad thesis films as those tend to have better budgets and more experienced crew.

The bottom line is that you need to shoot whatever you can to build up your first reel. No reel, no work. It helps a lot if you don't step on any toes in the process, that reputation tends to stick. Early on while you are still building your skillset, your crew's respect and goodwill may be the only thing that ensures you do a good enough job to get a call for the next one. Be confident in your choices, but also humble enough to ask for help when you need it. Don't expect it to happen overnight, and don't give up. Best of luck!
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 03:11 AM

Also check out to see what networking events are around you. I can guarentee there are bars full of young up-comers there specifically to meet new people.

There also seem to be myriad facebook groups these days.

I am personally a bit down that every time I try to make it to a meet up something else comes a long which precludes me from it.


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#6 Matthew Greiner

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 08:32 AM

I wouldn't tell your DP clients that you are also a DP and plan to move up and take their jobs. At least, not until you're good friends and have worked together for a few years. They need to know that you respect the chain of command and are a team player first. Only show them your work if they ask.

Instead, I would make friends with other ACs, gaffers, grips, sound, art dept, rental house techs, and especially PAs. A lot of below the line people have their own passion projects, so ask them what they're working on and see if they need a DP. I also wouldn't rule out student films, especially grad thesis films as those tend to have better budgets and more experienced crew.

The bottom line is that you need to shoot whatever you can to build up your first reel. No reel, no work. It helps a lot if you don't step on any toes in the process, that reputation tends to stick. Early on while you are still building your skillset, your crew's respect and goodwill may be the only thing that ensures you do a good enough job to get a call for the next one. Be confident in your choices, but also humble enough to ask for help when you need it. Don't expect it to happen overnight, and don't give up. Best of luck!

 

The way I sort of imagined the scenario in which I would ever show a DP I'm working under my own work is if the conversation naturally evolved to a point where he/she asked me directly. I would never just arbitrarily discuss my side work since most of the time when I'm ACing I'm too busy anyway. But if a DP straight up asks me, I figure that would be safe.

 

Grad projects are a good call. Undergrad projects, I know because I once attended undergrad film school, can be silly, but I wouldn't hate working with older students with fluffier budgets. 

 

Thanks Satsuki! Good advice.


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#7 Matthew Greiner

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 08:33 AM

Also check out to see what networking events are around you. I can guarentee there are bars full of young up-comers there specifically to meet new people.

There also seem to be myriad facebook groups these days.

I am personally a bit down that every time I try to make it to a meet up something else comes a long which precludes me from it.

 

There are a few facebook groups every now and then that have discussed similar events/meet ups. I'll look into that. Thanks, Adrian.


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#8 Albion Hockney

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 12:21 PM

I have to say I kinda disagree with Satsuki in terms of the Competition element, I guess it depends on the person, but I wouldn't really ever be concerned about someone stealing my work. There are plenty of other DP's out there anyways.

 

Not that I am super far along and can even help peole out in anyway really, but an AC i have worked with a couple times talked to me about his own work and wanting to shoot and a Gaffer I work with as well. Honestly I just want to work with people who have similar taste and are interesting people.  Of course the first priority is how well they do the job, but after that I'd rather work with friends of course. I try to cut through any faux proffessionalism and get to know people. Then again I am a pretty liberal guy, some people take proffesionalism a lot more seriously then me.

 

At the end of the day I'd just say feel it out and hang around...put yourself out there as much as you can.


Edited by Albion Hockney, 20 March 2015 - 12:22 PM.

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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 03:33 PM

Underestimate the insecurity of a DP at your own peril, lol!

Plenty of DPs (good, bad, and mediocre) out there, that's the problem. Not nearly as many good clients to go around. If you are working on an entirely different budget level or already have an established relationship of trust and mutual respect, then there's no problem. Otherwise, watch out!
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#10 Matthew Greiner

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Posted 27 March 2015 - 08:20 AM

Underestimate the insecurity of a DP at your own peril, lol!

Plenty of DPs (good, bad, and mediocre) out there, that's the problem. Not nearly as many good clients to go around. If you are working on an entirely different budget level or already have an established relationship of trust and mutual respect, then there's no problem. Otherwise, watch out!

 

In an ideal world, this would not be an issue, but realistically, this is a good call. I think once you know someone well enough it can be OK and some relationships may even flourish on it, but in the beginning at least its best to keep your head down, smile, and do the job you were hired to.


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#11 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 27 March 2015 - 01:28 PM

Also try Film Interchange & Stage 32 for networking.


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