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Old August 13th, 2011, 10:38 PM   #1
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How Did You Learn And Get Into This Industry?

A little background about me: I have always liked the arts even though my brain is geared towards math and science, which has always been extremely easy to me (I almost went to IMSA, Illinois Math & Science Academy for high school), but math & science are boring to me. I found that I liked marketing and designing ads; so, I got a BS in marketing. However, I never was exposed to photography or videography; so, I never knew how much I would like it. After a few career changes from construction management & remodeling to retail management, I finally found my calling.

From what I have seen, most cinematographers/DPs/Directors/Producers working on mid to high end projects have a video related college degree. I am not very young anymore (lets just say I am near 30); so, going back to school is not possible.

I have heard some people say that film school is not needed anymore to be successful; so, I would like to know what other paths people have taken.

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Old August 14th, 2011, 02:16 AM   #2
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Re: How Did You Learn And Get Into This Industry?

I don't know about not being young at near 30. I was working on a BBC drama and the trainee camera assistant was about that age and he had an MBA. Quite a few of the students at the UK's National Film and Television school are about that age as well.

For the higher end work you do need to specialize more, so it would be a matter of deciding which sector you wish to specialise in and learning about that area. There are one week workshops that give you some training, although best ones are a steep learning curve if you don't have some knowledge already. You also really need to have contacts to get into the high end work regardless of film school and start working your way up.
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Old August 14th, 2011, 01:07 PM   #3
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Re: How Did You Learn And Get Into This Industry?

I went to media college at 28.
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Old August 15th, 2011, 05:00 PM   #4
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Re: How Did You Learn And Get Into This Industry?

I got a film degree many years ago (think linear editing) but never used it; also got a degree in veterinary science and worked as a research tech for a few years before I got tired of that. Found a company that documents scientific and medical procedures ( and began freelancing for them, and am slooooowlyyyyy picking up additional clients.

Still trying to figure out how exactly to learn more and get further into the industry as a one-man-band, actually, so take that all for whatever it's worth.
Freelance pudgy bearded lighting camera operator
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Old August 15th, 2011, 09:46 PM   #5
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Re: How Did You Learn And Get Into This Industry?

I'm not sure I want to let too much "out of the bag", as I'm concerned about privacy. (Maybe I should include this in that new "private" Wedding/Event forum)?

For me, this is a 2nd career. I spent nearly 30 yrs at a Fortune 100 company doing mainframe systems work. While I was there, the company brought in its' first ever CEO from outside the company, who, in turn, brought in his friends, who in turn brought in their friends, eventually elbowing-out many of the original employees. Shortly after the new CEO came in, the company decided to go public, and the ax fell for many who were hired under the former executives. The new guys got rich while many others got the boot. (I think I may still have some "scars" from those hobnails).

After that, I got some taste of the then-emerging digitization of video while going back to college to complete a degree, a BA (cum laud) in Communication Studies at a state school nearby, at the ripe, old age of 48. (Take note, Steve and Shaun: I was 50 when I completed; you're never too old; in fact, college was a cake walk compared to my prior career, i.e. my age got me more respect from the professors, and certainly much more than many of the new bosses I had). The course of study required lots of presentation preparation, delivery, public speaking, and types of writing such as persuasive, informative, etc., including lots of PowerPoint and some video. (I even won 1st place in an on-campus public speaking competition). The PowerPoint was really easy, as was the public speaking and presentation, as I had used those in my corporate career developing training sessions, but the video really enticed me. I bought an early consumer-level digital camera and used it and learned from that. I watched movies more to figure out how shots were taken or other things were done than for the story line. I even took some voice-over/voice-acting classes, as I've always been told I have a good voice.

I originally intended to do legal video, because the investment seemed relatively minimal, I expected I'd be working only weekdays, and I never thought I'd be able to learn enough to do a decent job with a camera, particularly at my "advanced age". I trained for legal video, but with little success. I actually started out doing on-call work as a PA for a local indie, watching and learning every chance I got. I eventually bought my first pro-sumer camera (an HVX which I still own and use frequently), working my way up from PA to 3rd, 2nd, then 1st cam. (I even ""rode sound" on a couple of shoots, but age and, I suspect, side-effects of some of today's "wonder drugs" have diminished my hearing a little). I remember the nervous excitement when that local indie asked me to do my first shoot alone - an all-day conference with the main speaker being someone who is now a nationally-recognized politician. While I was nervous throughout the day, my "boss" was happy with the footage. I eventually took-on editing and authoring, but I certainly don't consider myself "accomplished" there. Am much better author than editor.

I've since learned that legal video, at least in my neck of the woods, is pretty much sewn-up by a handful of companies who seem to think it's an elite business. I certainly don't mean to belittle legal videogs; I still take that type of work when it comes my way, but I have learned that lengthy depositions can become boring (kinda like this lengthy post, I presume).Given my druthers, as far as legal video goes, I prefer construction video. I rarely work on weddings/mitzvahs, and don't do adult. I've really come to enjoy the variety of people I meet; so many are interesting, not to mention happy with my work.

Luckily, paying attention to everything that happened while working for that indie has begun to pay off. I've grown, though slowly, and have found a bit of a niche, but am still always on the lookout for "that next job". By and large, too much of the work I get are those low-paying jobs that most folks at this site wouldn't take. I get a LOT of recalls from those small jobs, and occasionally better-paying jobs. (There's a different thread about doing work for the likes of companies such as Bizclip, etc. I've done more than 80 for a collection of similar companies, with lots of call-backs for additional jobs. However, they don't pay much. I also take occasional work from some of the freelance sites, but if it weren't for my wife, I never would have lasted this long.

So, if anyone out there needs some help in the NJ, NYC, or eastern Pennsylvania areas, keep me in mind. Realizing I'll never feel like I "know enough", I strive for perfection, but also suspect it's never really achieved.

(Now, someone count to 3 and snap your fingers so we can all wake up).
Our actions are based on our own experience and knowledge. Thus, no one is ever totally right, nor totally wrong. We simply act from what we "know" to be true, based on that experience and knowledge. Beyond that, we pose questions to others.
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