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Old September 13th, 2004, 09:49 AM   #466
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There's nothing wrong with the route you are taking, Robert.

It's refreshing to know that there are people out there who know their limitations and are willing to "pay their dues" in order to learn from more experienced people.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to volunteer with more seasoned people in order to learn the ropes of a business. When I was a kid, I "volunteered" on movie sets with my Dad. I was officially the "camera apprentice"...what I really was, was slave labor. I worked the 12-16 hour days just like everyone else, except that I humped and cleaned cases and filters, I got lunch for the camera crew while they played poker on the camera truck, this usually gave me about 15 minutes to wolf down my own lunch before returning to the set, I worked the slate and kept camera reports, got Owen Roizman's coffee (Taster's Choice, decaff, stirred counter clockwise, 12 times), etc., etc., etc.

The crappier the job...well, you can figure out who did it.

The second camera assistant was making over 2K per week...I got $100!

What I did get, and this was the real payoff...was EXPERIENCE!

Just because you own a camera doesn't make you a cameraman, just because I own a scalpel doesn't make me a surgeon!

Keep up the great attitude and remember, there is a line between being willing to slog through the mud and being taken advantage of, so be careful.

And by the way, there is nothing wrong with being able to laugh at yourself, as a matter of fact, it's pretty damned healthy!

Good luck, RB.
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Old September 13th, 2004, 02:05 PM   #467
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True, but it's like a DP (pro guy. . .35 years experience) said: "There's two ways to be a cameraman. You can work your way up for 10-15 years, or you can put it on your business card." Sounds like if this fellow's already bought all this (arguably) pro gear, he should try to learn to use it.

I say this honestly: most of the people who'll make you work for free aren't doing super high-end stuff, and might be using a camera just like yours to shoot! Seriously. If you're gonna do the PA/gopher thing, and not get paid, at least try to work on shoots where it'll be worth the time and effort.

If you're gonna try to get out there and use your camera, maybe don't just jump into it--take a class about camerawork, read a book about shooting digital, read your manual, do a few fake commercials/PSAs or something to practice with; make sure you can shoot well before you advertise your services to others. It's highly unlikely, HIGHLY unlikely, that you'll accidentally get in over your head working for free as a cameraman. The Producer/whatever of Spiderman 3 isn't going to say: "Hey man, I saw your ad on Craigslist/Mandy, and our cameraman's sick today, so why don't you bring your VX2000 and come shoot this scene where Mary Jane and Peter Parker have an orgy with Harry Osborn and the corpse of his dad? But don't screw up, or you'll never work in this town again!"

How do I know? I did a ton of freebies with my camera. I made some screwups, but they get fewer and fewer as time goes on (hopefully), and no one's gonna blacklist you. If they hire you, a guy with no experience, as a cameraman for no pay, they shouldn't have terribly high expectations in the first place.

Anyway, to close, Rick, above, says "Good that some people are willing to pay their dues and learn from more experienced people." Well, if you do the PA/Gopher thing, please try to make sure, before you accept the gig, that those are the people you end up working with. Just cause they have an ad seeking someone doesn't mean they're high end. Could be anybody. Investigate.
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Old September 13th, 2004, 03:05 PM   #468
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Huh?

Josh, I'm not exactly sure what point you're trying to get across with the "35 year experience DP" quote. If this un-named DP is advocating misrepresenting yourself, I say he's full of crap. Touting yourself to be something that you are not, is not only deceitful but dangerous, career wise. What are you going to do when you are called to task in a production and you don't know the difference between a can of Sprocket Holes and a can of Focus-All spray?

The quickest way to screw yourself over in this business is to bite off more than you can chew. Bad news travels very fast and as the old axiom goes, "You're only as good as your last job." The last thing you need is to start off a career with a reputation of being a bullsh*t artist.

Regardless of what it says on someone's business card, experience is experience is experience...there is no substitute.

Robert should absolutely learn to master his equipment but, with all due respect, a VX2000 is hardly PRO. Is it a wonderfully versatile camera that delivers a nice product, yes, but it remains pro-sumer at best.

Robert, again, great attitude. I wish you were here in FL. I would give you as much "hands-on" experience as you could handle.

RB
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Old September 13th, 2004, 03:21 PM   #469
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Sorry, I still don't agree. The friend, the DP, says basically, call yourself a cameraman, shoot everything you can, try not to screw up, and you ought to get yourself somewhere quicker than you would working your way up the ladder. Another DP, who's been at it for around 10 years, did just that, and is now quite successful. Different things for different people. Please don't insult him, though, as he's very good and knows his shizzle.

No, the VX2000 is not pro compared to, say, DVCAM, or a higher format camera, but its not a consumer camcorder either. All the basics can be learned on it (white balance, manual focus, exposure, etc.), and you can take that knowledge to the better cameras.

I think if you accurately explain your situation to whoever it is that contacts you for employment, and are still hired, then whatever happens happens. If someone cares about what they are doing and takes the time to learn how to use their gear well, they won't likely make many screw ups. As I said, I really don't think a beginner's going to get in over his head, or bite off more than he can chew, because he likely won't be hired for gigs he's not qualified for.

Seriously, what's the difference between offering your camera services for free, and, say starting your own one man band production company with no experience? Everyone has to start somewhere.

I wouldn't be arguing this stuff if the guy didn't already have the gear. Seems like a damn shame to waste it. I did basically the same thing he did. . .buy a bunch of expensive gear, without much of a plan. I started responding to ads and shooting, and made some early screwups. . .not so much anymore. I'm no genius, my work isn't gonna blow anyone away, but I'm a lot better than I was, and I didn't get there by PAing. I'm not trying to be an ass, but the guy has nice stuff, and unless he's going to sell it (and if he is, then my arguments are immediately null and void), why not get some use out of it?

There are even ads on the sites I mentioned that say "students okay," or even "no experience necessary." Seriously.

I can't think of anything else, so I'll leave it at that. Good day sir. I said good day, sir!
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Old September 13th, 2004, 04:03 PM   #470
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My last post on this thread.

I am not insulting the mystery DP, I am just questioning his work ethics. We are obviously of a different mind when it comes to representing oneself.

<<<Seriously, what's the difference between offering your camera services for free, and, say starting your own one man band production company with no experience?>>>

This question pretty much answers itself.

Anyway, to each his own.

RB
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Old September 13th, 2004, 04:36 PM   #471
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Exactly.
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Old September 13th, 2004, 08:11 PM   #472
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Oh, no...don't tell me I'm responsible for making OTHER people hate--well, maybe not quite "hate", but you get the idea--each other. I'm fairly familiar with getting into "intelligent discussions" (read: mindless, vitriolic name-calling sessions) with others, but others fighting over something I said makes me a sad panda. :(

I can't respond to ALL the comments made, and don't want to open up too large a can of worms, so I'll just address a few of each party's remarks. I can see some of both sides, and sorta understand where you guys are coming from.

Josh: If saying you're a cameraman, and shooting lots of stuff has gotten you where you are, and you're happy with your current status, then more power to ya. Whatever works. It's just that I tend to prefer a slower pace, and find that I work better in those situations. I've always been more comfortable climbing into a pool gradually than diving right into the deep end. I'm only basing this stuff on my own style, if you know what I mean. In the plumbing industry (have I driven that into everyone's skulls yet?), along with electrical contracting, carpentry, masonry, and all the other construction-related trades, that's how it works: you start at the bottom and work the way up. The people who jump straight to the top by getting degrees in management are, rightfully, looked down upon. Not that there's any less value in a college education, far from it, but not having a day's worth of hands-on experience actually WORKING in the field whose workers you manage, and proceeding to make unreasonable demands on them due to your lack of understanding, can be very insulting. I find more personal value in paying my dues like everyone else.

But what the hell do I know? Maybe the construction trades and the media trades simply aren't analogous in this regard.

As for letting my equipment go to waste, well, as I said, I'm used to that. And hey, supposing all these devices don't get me anywhere, if I'm having fun treading water, is it such a big waste?



Rick: I thank you for your compliments, they're on their way to my head right now.

No offense taken, I understand the VX2k is not exactly a pro quality camera. I understand this better after having read my copy of the second edition of Scott Billups' "Digital Moviemaking". It's quite a kick in the nards, to put it mildly, and I think that's good. I need that.

To be honest, after having gone over that book--among many others--I'm seriously reconsidering that whole "I'd like to start working toward a career in one of these industries" thing. While I'm certainly still interested in the same things I mentioned earlier, with just as much dedication and...um...gusto, I think I'm gonna end up doing this stuff more for fun than anything else. I need a hobby to get me out of the house, and I need to meet people to stop being the social island that I am.

Call me crazy (Lord Asgard W. Crazy, if you please), but the sizable investment is well worth it for someone like me, even if I NEVER get paid.

Whether plumbing is something I really want to do remains to be seen, but regardless, I'm STILL puttin' in my seven years, and I'm STILL gettin' my license. I will most definitely be able to support myself in the future, so barring any major disasters, I shouldn't have to live on the streets 'cause my film/television career didn't pan out.


I only hope I haven't added fuel to the fire...
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Old September 13th, 2004, 09:14 PM   #473
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Interesting. . .


Well, do what makes you happy. I still say, if you start at the bottom, and work for free, start at the bottom on worthwhile productions. For me.
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Old September 14th, 2004, 09:25 PM   #474
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Calling All Shooters! Hurry.....

Unbelievable folks!

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Old September 15th, 2004, 03:13 AM   #475
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Thanks James!
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Old September 15th, 2004, 08:37 AM   #476
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How About Those Mets!

I just posted a super long response to this thread AND LOST IT ALL so I am SUPER PISSED. I will try to re-write my response:

1) I've been a fan of Josh Bass ever since I pissed my suit pants laughing at his clay-motion short "The Ninjews". The writing and characters were hilarious and his stop motion work with the XL1s was great. I think I understand Josh's and Rick's points of view and agree with both. Yes, I agree with Josh (and that other great filmmaker Robert Rodriguez) that in order to get experience you must get your hands on the equipment and learn it. Master it. That means getting out and shooting everything you can, I don't believe Josh meant for you to misrepresent yourself as Lazlo Kovacs and take big jobs. When I first started out in wedding videography, I was so unsure of my abilities that I did my first two weddings for free out of fear that if I accepted money and the client hated the videos, my career would be ruined (Check, Mr. Bravo). Robert, you might want to volunteer to tape a few minor events and watch your clients reaction to your work before you charge. Also, your humility in wanting to volunteer for others reminds me of me at the tender age of 18 when I strolled into Production Manager Ken Golden's motel room/production office for the Burt Lancaster/Susan Sarrandon Film "Atlantic City" where, almost word for word, I said what you said in your post. Ken smiled and gave me an unpaid production assitant's job (gopher). Yes, I watched the equipment truck in the rain while the crew sat warm and dry at a nearby restaurant. I ran my ass off and got coffee. BUT, neat things happened to. While I sat there all alone in the middle of the wet street guarding the equipment, Burt Lancaster, in costume (trench coat and fedora) strolled out of the fog, came up to me and we talked all alone for fifteen minutes. How many 18 year old nothings can say that? I held the umbrella over his head between takes. I got to drive director Louis Malle to the set and I even rubbed shoulders with Susan Sarrandon in the food line (she asked me if the mashed potatoes were any good). So yes, Robert, volunteering to start at the bottom is a good thing. And if you behave and are polite and are willing to learn, you might just get breaks (My cousin, who's now with DEA, was also a production assitant. Not only did he get a small part as a casino dealer in the movie, but he had to teach Burt Lancaster how to play blackjack!).

But remember, that was a long time ago prior to our abilities to make our own movies on digital video. Now you have no excuses and all of the opportunities in the world to make your own movie. All you need is the drive and ambition.

And now, on to Senior Bravo:

2) Rick Bravo is my long lost brother and cinematic hero. Do you want to learn? Do you want humility? Pray Rick takes you under his wing. There's a guy who, when he tells you something about the film industry, take it to the bank. He's not a bullshitter but he is the most straight shootin' hombre I ever met. Thank God he's on our side. I thought I was hot shit until I saw his work. He is 110% correct when he says that if you misrepresent yourself and give poor quality work, you're done. Why? because the competition in this business is so fierce, your name is attached to that stigma of poor quality. Some ego driven dildox will sell you down the viver in a heartbeat if he thought he could get a job in your place.

Josh and Rick are both correct. Now, here's my two cents:

Why not do both? Volunteer on others' projects AND do your own? Piece of cake! Why not buy or borrow a few lights and make your own HOW TO video on pipe sweating? Or, how about "PLUMBER'S WISDOM: My Dad Fixes a Toilet". Make your dad the star and videotape a "how to" on your dad fixing a toilet while he interjects some of his New York City wisdom? He can pause, turn into the camera and say "Don't tell me your sh*t doesn't stink!" "Zen and the art of Sink Repair". If your dad is as funny as I imagine, you're gonna have one hulluva funny movie. See? Your family will love it and it memorializes your dad forever.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 08:42 AM   #477
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Yeah, see? We're all a happy family here. I wasn't telling you to misrepresent yourself, simply saying that if you tell people you're a cameraman, even one with no field experience, but who owns and operates a 3-chip camera that can do broadcast quality work, someone'll take you up on it.

I guess it depends on where you want to go. Conceivably, you could be making money after a while, once you get a reel together, and a resume, doing lower budgeted stuff with your gear, or someone else's similar gear. On the other hand, if you want to be super big time guy, then yes, you will probably have to PA and what not on the big HD/35mm shoots and work your way up the chain.

What continues to irk me is that you have the gear and say you know how to use it. So you MUST use it, for me. Make your own short films, or features, or whatever, or volunteer with it, but please use it. Or sell it, or give it to me, and I'll sell it. But stop making my brain ache. This is making your mother and me upset.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 08:48 AM   #478
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Hey Boychic!

OOOOooooohh That Josh Bass is such a NICE boy! (Squeezing his cheeks)
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Old September 15th, 2004, 09:54 AM   #479
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Well, Josh, I have to say, if it bothers you so much, I'm just gonna have to do something about it. To see that someone else cares enough for my lack of activity to "irk" them could be a great source of inspiration...I'll do my best to remember your comments.

Truth be told, I'd been considering some sort of plumbing-based project, sort of an "American Plumber" that deals with the crap we go through on a daily basis (there are just as many problems we face as the ones you'll find building motorcycles or hotrods). It's just that I'm there, on the job, I have two hands, and I'm supposed to be working on the plumbing end of things, so it becomes hard to justify (to myself, really; I don't think anyone else would care nearly as much) picking up a camera and merely WATCHING everyone do the work. But I'm sure if I think hard enough, I'll come up with some way around that before my ears begin to bleed.

I really appreciate all the feedback I'm getting, and the suggestions you guys are providing are most excellent. I'm very surprised to see so many (three is "many" to me, shut up) people care enough about my situation to offer their tips, and will most definitely take it all to heart.

Thanks!
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Old September 15th, 2004, 12:51 PM   #480
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Gain comfort in the fact that the control is completely in your hands. You may get as involved with videography as you wish. You have the tools at your disposal to work at the pace you wish.

It is the journey, not the destination. Have fun on the road to digital moviemaking.
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