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buying gear to get to the "next level"?

carreer buying gear

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#1 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:10 AM

Hello

 

I need advice on the difficult subject of « how to get to the next level ».I was gaffer in NY where i lived for 13,5 years  and became a DP when i moved back to France 13 years ago.

For the last 13 years i have been working  but i feel i am not where i should be.

For 3,5 years i shot  a very famous french TV serie that is viewed in France more like a tele novella and i think it did me more wrong for my career than good even if i was able to buy myself an apartment with the money i made on it.

Now , i don’t work on that anymore and i have been struggling quite a bit.

I just did a low budget feature where i don’t even want my name on the credit….

My question :  Should i buy myself a camera gear like a RED DRAGON where i will be able to sell myself with and find work in feature film ?

I feel like  if could sell myself better with my own gear .Calling production company would be much easier.

What do you think ? Is it worth it ? would it make a difference ?

Any thoughts on this is greatly appreciate.

Cheers everyone !


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#2 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:14 AM

RED Dragon is a nice (and expensive) body, but getting to the next level from what?

 

And what gear do you currently have already?


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#3 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:18 AM

i don't have any gear. The next level meaning shooting feature films and more commercials . I would sell myself with the camera , could be a win win situation for me and the production company.


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#4 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:55 AM

How much do you plan on investing in your gear load out altogether?


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#5 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 08:24 AM

THat's the thing....how much do i need really? 20,000?


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#6 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 09:08 AM

If I'm calculating off the top of my head: lights, lenses, cameras, tripods, rigs, and audio gear. 20k can without a doubt get you going. But if you're speaking in terms of top-of-the-line arsenals you would want to set the budget higher. Something like 40k-70k.

 

Is your thread a general "throw me some essential gear to cop" type of deal? Cause I'm sure myself and several other users could be able to throw stuff out for you.

 

If you had a skype I could call you to run by the essential things in one sitting with eBay links and such.


Edited by Macks Fiiod, 25 September 2016 - 09:08 AM.

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#7 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 09:56 AM

i just need a nice camera package, no lighting no sound.

The real question is : is it worth it? Do production company and director will have an bigger incentive in hiring me with the gear or not?


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#8 aapo lettinen

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 10:21 AM

I think the real issue may be that you dont have the right contacts to get to the feature game. I think you should focus on making more commercials and maybe higher budget short films to get more contacts which might get you feature work. Very high end reel material and try to work with persons who also do lots of feature work. I would avoid low budget indie genre, especially low budget indie features. Gear is also quite irrelevant if you want to do high end stuff,you may just end up wasting your own money so that the producer can save on rental costs...
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#9 aapo lettinen

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 10:40 AM

If you want to buy gear, buy the stuff which is very difficult to rent in your area (no one else has it or very rare gear) so that you can help the production to archieve special look when needed. For example a special rare lens set for art projects. If you need own camera try something more affordable and handy which can be used as a b or c camera, like red raven or similar lower cost body which is also handy for miniunit stuff

Edited by aapo lettinen, 25 September 2016 - 10:42 AM.

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#10 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 11:35 AM

thank you everyone for your input.You guys are right about low budget stuff, i won't get to where i want to be by being cheap.....


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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 12:28 PM

I think owning some sort of camera as a cinematographer is very nice. It allows you to book smaller gigs, where the production company wants a whole "package" and you can get a decent rental fee for your work. I use my little camera package all the time for personal projects when I'm not working. It's a heck of a lot better then renting for those occasions.

It's nice to dream about capturing those bigger, long-term gigs that last decades. A good agent who gets you work, a busy producer or director who can't work without you, a production company who loves your work and pushes you. Those three things are what I call a "gold mine" and are SUPER RARE to find. Getting there takes MUCH MORE then a great website, awesome demo reel and loads of credits. You could spend a decade building all of that stuff and without the appropriate connections, you may not get anywhere.

So most of the time, you'll be working on lower-end stuff, just to keep money flowing. In that case, having a decent package will absolutely be a door opener. The big question is... what package to own? Honestly, you'd have to spend upwards of $50 - $70k to get something "worthwhile" once you add lenses, support and accessories. Today, everyone wants 4k even if they don't understand what that means. Today everyone wants efficient/sensitive camera bodies, for that more natural underlit look. Everyone wants decent glass, because the image must be clean/crisp, it's digital after all. There really are only two choices... Alexa or Red. Those are the cameras you'd get jobs using, everything else would be a struggle unless you were interested in shooting ENG/Documentary in which case, there are many more cameras like the Sony F5/55 and Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6k.

You can get into a decent used Red Dragon package for around $60k with glass, accessories and support. Since the Alexa still isn't 4k native, it's becoming a harder sell for those producers who are 4k crazy. You can get the 3.2k software updated cameras for around $35k, but then your spending less money on glass and support, which is a problem. You could always find someone willing to let you borrow/rent glass for cheap, but that really depends on your connections.

There is some validity to owning some lighting solutions, but don't go crazy. I'd get two Arri combo kits and maybe some mid-grade HMI. You could also work out a deal with someone who owns a grip truck locally. I personally rather have the gaffer come with their own equipment, then have stuff sitting around in my garage for those rare occasions when the production has no lights. However, having lights for smaller projects to keep you busy between bigger projects, it's nice to have SOMETHING support wise.

In the end, getting equipment is a huge investment and if you don't have guaranteed work, it can backfire. It's almost better to get the job without the equipment and make friends who have equipment sitting around they're willing to let you borrow for cheap. This way, you don't have to deal with the upkeep AND you can use the stuff for a low rate anytime you want. Of course, that would be the best outcome and it's tricky to find someone willing to do that, but it's possible.
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#12 Bruce Greene

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 03:48 PM

Hello

 

I need advice on the difficult subject of « how to get to the next level ».I was gaffer in NY where i lived for 13,5 years  and became a DP when i moved back to France 13 years ago.

For the last 13 years i have been working  but i feel i am not where i should be.

For 3,5 years i shot  a very famous french TV serie that is viewed in France more like a tele novella and i think it did me more wrong for my career than good even if i was able to buy myself an apartment with the money i made on it.

Now , i don’t work on that anymore and i have been struggling quite a bit.

I just did a low budget feature where i don’t even want my name on the credit….

My question :  Should i buy myself a camera gear like a RED DRAGON where i will be able to sell myself with and find work in feature film ?

I feel like  if could sell myself better with my own gear .Calling production company would be much easier.

What do you think ? Is it worth it ? would it make a difference ?

Any thoughts on this is greatly appreciate.

Cheers everyone !

Raphaelle,

 

I took this approach about 10 years ago to move from Steadicam/operator to DP.  I invested a lot of money, so few others could match my camera package at the time.  I made back about 1/4 of the purchase price in rentals.  The rest of the investment I considered "marketing" expenses.  And it was a lot of money.  Now the equipment is worth 1/20 of the purchase price (tripods don't go out of style!), but I do have a career as a DP.  And if I think about it, one good job on a feature paid for the loss on the equipment (and this job didn't use my camera, but my camera introduced me to the director on a previous film.)

 

So, if you can see yourself never recouping your equipment investment, it may be worth a shot.  But, I must say, cameras are pretty cheap these days, and many of your competitors have them.  And that means owning the equipment might only get you work on jobs that don't pay any money. It's possible you know.  Will it take you to the next level?  I wouldn't even want to guess.

 

Good luck with your career though.  Never give up, never surrender!!!!


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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 05:03 PM

I don't know the French market, but I have always been very cautious about buying work with gear. You can't possibly keep up with a rental house in terms of quality and variety, and the risks of losing a lot of money are huge.

 

P


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#14 aapo lettinen

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 06:04 PM

that's why I advised focusing on more specialized gear which can't be easily found elsewhere (especially lenses which create special look) and a lower end camera body which can be used for miniunit work or as a b or c camera.  trying to get a full A camera grade set with lenses etc. costs way too much I think when one can get almost similar effect with lower cost but more specialized equipment and sell oneself more as a talented DoP which has "some cool gear available if needed" instead of a person "who is cheaper to hire because he can rent out his 200k gear for peanuts"  :mellow:

 

for example a Red Raven with a gimbal, basic remote focus and good quality lightweight lenses would be good for this with one miniunit worthy tripod kit, slider, couple of lower end zooms (like modified stills zooms) if possible.  should be something around 30k total I think.

 

If one wants to compete in the A camera field the lens set alone will easily be well over 100k , like a Cabrio zoom with 4 or 5 Ultra Primes or a 5 set of Master Primes with one or two zooms etc. 

Nowadays I would maybe invest on anamorphics like V-lites or Cooke anamorphics. You will need the best Red or Arri model. the Alexa Mini could be great for most of the stuff, it is more practical for most productions than Red cameras.

 

Something like a Compact Prime set or Xeens or similar low end stuff won't cut it in that game but for miniunit and B stuff they can be great if properly used. I think the 60-70k is hugely underestimated for A camera set unless you want to do indie and lower budget stuff which can't afford normal rental house prices. for cine use something like 250-300K would be more ideal. this is just for one camera body, tripods etc, follow focus (remote + normal) units, LENSES (the most expensive part), monitoring, mattebox, filters etc. No lights or much of grip equipment. some old used dolly maybe.

 

of course one possibility is to take the "art house" route: invest on great 35mm and 16mm film cameras and historic lenses and shoot real film at the era when everyone else has switched to digital. do some great imagery and you will certainly be noticed. assuring the producers and directors that film is the right way to go can be nightmare but they will probably appreciate your talent more in the end :lol:


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#15 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:20 PM

You could spend 1/4 of  a million on gear.. but Im not sure that would in any way open the doors to high end feature films.. where AFAIK the big multi camera packages are always rented.. (get a good bulk price,some accountancy trickery no doubt.. and anything breaks get a new one within hours).. I believe some top end guys have their own camera .. but they probably bought them after they started doing big features.. and I wouldn't think are the main reason they get hired.. probably just for their own comfort ..

 

But owning some gear cant be a bad thing.. esp lenses that arnt going to change too much.well in theory anyway !..  it would most likely open the door to more lower budget productions.. where gear cost is a big factor in the first place.. but as Bruce says.. that can work out.. all the big time DP,s started out of small budget films anyway.. Easy Rider/ Kes/Hurt Locker.. etc all small budget.. you just have to get lucky that one of them hits the jackpot.. dont think there is any short cut..


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#16 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:55 PM

I don't know the French market, but I have always been very cautious about buying work with gear. You can't possibly keep up with a rental house in terms of quality and variety, and the risks of losing a lot of money are huge.

 

P

Many rental houses rent out cameras that are owned by DP's.  It's a partnership situation.  So investing in good high end gear that a rental house wants and can rent out to big budget productions is a good source of "passive" income.  You can be assured that the gear will be handled by pros and you can have a revenue source while you hunt for gigs.   Go with packages that standard productions might rent on a long running show.  That's the only way I think you'd see an ROI.


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#17 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:31 AM

thank you so much everyone . What i am looking for right now is lower to mid budget feature film , so owning camera gear seems like a way to go, it would be a door opener it seems.I would go with a RED package.

would love to shoot film and own a 16mm package but it will be too hard to sell ...digital is the way


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#18 raphaelle gosse

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:34 AM

Bruce Green , what did you invest in? And for how much? thank you for your great input again everyone


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#19 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:21 AM

you will need the lenses anyway whether shooting film or digital and film camera bodies are very cheap nowadays (you can get a used Arricam set for less than 20k,  16mm cameras are couple of K:s ) . 

something like a Moviecam Compact and SR3 or Xtrprod and the rest goes to the lenses, support and digital gear. 

 

For lower budget use something like a Varicam LT could be great or used Sony F5 /55 (easily interchangeable mount so you can use almost any lens you want, and easier raw format than RED


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#20 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 12:32 PM

It's hard to sell yourself for narrative feature productions without a Red or Alexa. Those are the "key" words people are looking for today.

I have a few buddies with "alternative" cameras like the Sony F5, and they struggle to get the bigger jobs and always borrow RED's or Alexa's because that's what people want.

It helps to generate the least amount of friction possible with the people looking to hire you.
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