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Little luck getting jobs (or how to building a damn network)


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#1 Mr. Macgregor

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 07:59 PM

Hello everyone, old-time member here.
 
I'm finding a hard time landing jobs and it'd be great to hear any usable advice on the matter. I've been in the film industry for 15+ years as DOP and director. I've shot a few shorts that have won a bunch of awards (not trying to come off as arrogant just explaining my background) and I even got hired by a major studio to direct a feature.
 
I feel I'm a bit stuck at the moment. Most of my friends and network make low budget commercials or indie films or they are professionals that work in the film industry but don't work on projects to the degree of expertise that I do, so very rarely I get asked to work for them. Of course I'm not in any union at the moment, don't have an agent, nada.
On top of that over the last years I've been changing country of residence every 2 years which of course does not help when building a network.
 
So I feel that while I do have enough experience and a decent reel, I'm really constrained by my network and a city that is highly competitive and hard to break in. What are your opinions on the best way to move forward from my current situation.
 
My commercial reel in case anyone is curious:

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 08:15 PM

Not sure why you'd have any trouble finding work -- or an agent -- with a reel like that.
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 10:21 PM

Indeed, I agree with David, top quality work.

 

This industry is tough to figure out to say the least, it took Steven Spielberg 10 years to get Lincoln made, ten years and he's Steven Spielberg!!!

 

Personally, no one has ever "hired" me.  I produce my own work, deal direct with the banks and distributors, raise a budget and hire myself as director.  Guess what, there are no challengers in this scenario, and oddly.....I've never been fired from a shoot.  :D

 

David would have better insights with regard to how DOPs get hired, and even David will explain he's had long periods of drought before.  When you're freelance there is no guarantee of what the following year will bring.  Nature of the beast.

 

R,


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#4 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:18 PM

Judging by the calibre of the work.. I can only think the constant moving countries is not doing you any favors .. out of site and out of mind... I guess its why even the top end people have to live near the big work cities.. LA.. London.. NY..  etc and not a small village in the Dordogne.. even if they might really want to and could buy a chateaux  ..


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#5 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:29 PM

Don't have anything to contribute, but just wanted to say nice reel. I think it just goes to show that work don't always go to the most talented people, a lot of it is about who you know, not what you know. Then again, like Richard, I do my own stuff for the most part - though I do freelance for commercial clients, photography, and post-production services on occasion. 


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 01:58 AM

Yea I mean, it can take a decade to build a strong foundation in a single location. It's great to love traveling, that's a HUGE added bonus. However, being around, hanging out and getting to know people over time in one place, is super important.

Your work is great, but it appears to have a very "commercial" look. Nothing bad about that, but I know a dozen people living in L.A. who do the same thing. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the hubs for commercial work like that, mostly because the big agencies are there and they like to keep the production companies close. Those big agencies use the same guys over and over again. Once they like a look, they ask for that same DP or his "crew" time and time again. So it's nearly impossible to break into that arena unless you already have an inside track. I work for a commercial/industrial company and they hire the same DP's for every shoot. I was only able to show off my skills when one of the cinematographers couldn't make it for re-shoots and it was handed off to me. I was in the right place at the right time and it worked out, that's kind what you need to do in order to work your way up.

The big catch 22 here in Los Angeles is; whatever you haven't shot, that will be your biggest weakness. Looks like you haven't made a feature yet, so that's a big issue if you want to grow/expand your career. You may have to get on some super, ultra low budget feature shows, just to get some IMDB credits.

I agree with David, I think you should have no problem finding a good agent. However, I don't know how much work will come from it. Most of my DP and Director friends, don't get calls from their agents. Most of their work is through their immediate/close network.

So what's the answer? Well, there really isn't one. If you didn't have talent and didn't have a decent reel, it would be a lot easier to give you a course of direction. However, you have a great reel and seem plenty talented enough. So the only issue you have is meeting the right people and getting work. Those two things are the most difficult part and honestly, the only way I know how to meet those people is through other people, which takes time and a lot of effort.
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#7 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 03:01 AM

I agree with David, I think you should have no problem finding a good agent. However, I don't know how much work will come from it. Most of my DP and Director friends, don't get calls from their agents. Most of their work is through their immediate/close network.

 

The important thing to remember about agents: They do not get you a job.

 

Like in the literary world, an agent should be your connection point to the producers and/or people who get things done. You go to THEM when you need something, and they make that happen. Want a meeting with the Lions Gate development team? Your agent should be setting that up for you. Your agent should also be on the lookout for job openings, and actively submitting your name for consideration. True, your agent will not hand you a job offer, but one of their primary jobs is to get you in the door.

 

If your agent is not doing this, it means he or she is not a good agent.  If you just want someone to negotiate rates and contracts, you're better off with a manager and/or attorney for a lesser fee.


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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 03:27 AM

I guess the grim reality that's highlighted here is that, as I may have said before, competence is not really very relevant.

 

All kinds of things matter - your connections, your conventional facial attractiveness, your interest in fashion. Ability is, at best, well down the list.


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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 07:07 AM

It always was a case of not what you know, but who you know.

 

It takes time to build up a network, I suspect five years may be a a rough time scale in a location to get a good base going, unless you've got some unique selling point. So called overnight successes have often been beavering away for years.


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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 11:20 AM

The one time in my life I did need to hire a DOP via an agency they sent me a box load of VHS tapes, and said, here watch these.  Well they were all, "good." Otherwise they would not have been with this agency.  I needed the best table top food guy, which I found with them and hired for one day.  If I saw your reel, with all the car work I would not have hired you.  If I was doing a car spot, you would be my first choice.

 

And therein is a big problem with having an agent, they don't care which person they rep you hire, so long as you hire someone.  The industry has become so "specific."  There's no such thing as just a DOP, an ad agency wants the best, "car guy", "food guy", "diaper guy," the list goes on.

 

And same for directors, unlikely Disney will pick Wes Craven to helm a family film.   Even though with his base of directing skills, I'm sure he would do a good job.

 

R,


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#11 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 05:41 AM

Jesus Miguel... seriously?

If you're struggling, I don't know what kind of chance the rest of us have. :/


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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 05:56 AM

Hang on - That MacGregor?

 

 

P


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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 06:26 PM

Do you work with Ruairi?

 

R,

 

 
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#14 Justin Hayward

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 06:48 PM

I just saw that first Pennzoil spot on TV yesterday and thought, that's gotta be one of the directors of "Fast and Furious".  The energy is sick.  Freaking awesome.

 

I was about to post a "recent work" topic and show the hand full of jobs I've had in the last few months.  Not now ;)  Awesome stuff. 


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#15 Brenton Lee

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 09:13 PM

I give up. 


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#16 Jan Tore Soerensen

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 01:07 AM

I'll tell you why you and so many people aren't getting the amount of work you want. Because you are not very good at marketing and selling yourself. It is extremely easy to think that once one is at a certain level of skill, work will come by itself. That's how you die in the business.

 

Fantastic reel by the way.


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#17 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 01:35 PM

You have a very good reel and great action stuff, but I think the problem might be here:

 

"I've been in the film industry for 15+ years as DOP and director"

 

Unfortunately, directors do not like to hire other directors as DP's. I can't tell you how many DP's I know that have gone over from very successful DP careers to directing and struggled. That leaves the niche of Director/DP market - and it's a pretty substantial market - but it doesn't always transform well into narrative stuff. Most of that work is visual and action driven. If you could re-brand yourself as one or the other, I think you might open up some options.

 

But you're stuff is good, so in long run I'm not terribly worried about it -  you'll do fine!   :)


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#18 Mr. Macgregor

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 08:02 PM

Thanks for the comments gentlemen.

I'm aware of most of the advices that I read here. Totally valid things such as the industry forces us to focus on one field etc. I'd be OK focusing on just working car commercials for now, as most of my reel revolves around cars The pay is alright and they're fun to shoot.

 

My question was more towards how would you guys would build your network given that I'm not starting from scratch.

I feel that if I was a student in my early 20s it'd be much easier to start meeting people and shooting projects, mostly for free or little money, which would slowly help me build friend relationships and a job network. But since I'm not quite in that position, that's why I wanted to hear your thoughts.

 

Thanks again, I really appreciate this community.


Edited by Mr. Macgregor, 02 October 2016 - 08:03 PM.

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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 08:35 PM

It's really about putting yourself out there and interviewing, but to get that opportunity, it may help to have an agent who sees that you have talent and wants to help you make that transition to narrative.  Maybe talk to your commercial directors to see which ones want to move into narrative or know someone who does.


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#20 Mr. Macgregor

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 01:06 AM

Wait wait, why do you guys think I want to transition to narrative?


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