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Old February 17th, 2013, 05:35 AM   #1
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Do you really need an assistant?

Hi Guys

I must admit that having someone to help is an asset IF they are competent and trust worthy as can shoot like you do but I seldom find that any of the occasional 2nd shooters are worth the time, effort and money!

You still are totally responsible for their footage..if they screw it up then it's virtually the same as if you have shot it and made an unholy mess of everything! All the shooters I have had have never produced anything like I asked for and sheesh, I don't ask for very much!! I shoot Realty on my own always and weddings too except if both prep shoots are at the same time but in different locations so 99% of weddings I shoot solo still .... I cannot believe that "experienced" camera people can do stupid things like shoot someone against an open window or do an interior shot with all the blinds closed and the lights off.

Even though I probably need them at one location for only an hour with the request to get me less than 10 minutes of footage and they get paid for 4 hours they still mess things up which has made me move heaven and earth to try to do everything solo rather than trust a simple shoot to someone you cannot supervise. These people are after 3rd year film students so surely they must have some basic camera skills. To me the real answer would be to train your wife/girlfriend/family member but quite often they are not interested

Does anyone else have this sort of issue with "casual" shooters ?

Chris
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Old February 17th, 2013, 06:45 AM   #2
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I am with you on this Chris. I have always shot solo, been doing it for 31 years now, to late to change my ways. I dont think I would trust anyone else to take shots for me. I dont think for one minute that they wouldn't be up to the job, its just me. I know the shots that I want, and I know how to get them. I would be worried senseless if I left anything to anybody else. I had one major screw up back in 85, I vowed then never to use anyone else on a wedding shoot.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 07:21 AM   #3
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Thanks Colin

I thought I was just being over fussy about what I want but when you carefully tell your shooter 'Open the blinds, turn all the lights on and stick your backside on the window sill" ..that would be enough to get a usuable shot but alas it never did work out. Nowdays at weddings if they want preparation video of both parties what I do is get the guys to get ready an hour early, then change back into their board shorts and t-shirts and I rush off to the bride to get her getting ready. The guys then do their normal "get dressed 5 minutes before they go" scenario and I can capture both preps. During the guys prep all I ask for is enough raw footage to cut to a 3 minute song so I can get by with 10 minutes easy...From previous shooters I either get 30 minutes worth of stuff I don't need or 2 minutes of stuff that I can no way stretch to 3 minutes!!

Yeah, viva the solo shooter ...at least with us the buck stops here!

Chris
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Old February 17th, 2013, 07:47 AM   #4
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Chris, it sounds like you pick people with at least some basic technical knowledge, but perhaps they don't have any real experience. Maybe you could find someone who would be willing to help you on a couple weddings as an "un-paid trainee" so you could actually show them what you want. After that, they should be well prepared to give you what you want and need without too much verbal instruction and you could pay them according to their skill level.

I only have about a dozen weddings in my portfolio but still look for opportunities to learn from others more experienced than I.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 08:02 AM   #5
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Hi Tom

I know it sounds cruel to say so, but these so called film-makers of the future just don't seem to have the enthusiasm for doing shoots and seem unwilling to make anything more than a minimal effort. I usually take them out to a park initially for some basic camera and shoot training and then they come on a wedding without being paid, yes, to see if it's "their thing" .... but the desire still seems to be lacking...they will do a poor shoot, never discuss it, never ask questions and never even want to see their results... Even if I get back from a wedding at 1am ..I upload footage and I watch bits and pieces of it before going to bed ...I like to see how the raw stuff turned out and if the audio was up to scratch and so on ... I would at least have expected shooters to ask for a copy of their bit in the wedding but alas it has never happened yet despite several shooters and once they have done their couple of hours they disappear into the night and the next contact would only be if I get hold of them.

Maybe I take my shoots too seriously but that's me and I would have thought that an eager to learn film student would have expressed a little more enthusiasm for his/her craft. Obviously to them it's just a quick $120 for a few hours on a Saturday and no more!

Chris
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Old February 17th, 2013, 08:02 AM   #6
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I always shoot with a 2nd shooter and don't really have too many problems - I use 3rd or 4th year film students (still have to teach them some things) The work with am a coupel of times before I let then shoot prep on their own and the rest of the time I'm with them watching closely.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 10:23 AM   #7
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Chris - Maybe the problem is you are asking "film students" to help you shoot a wedding. Perhaps they are not excited about it because it's not "making a movie" to them. You might be better off finding someone more into photography and train them instead. Just a suggestion.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 11:57 AM   #8
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Yeah, I have to jump in and say that WHO these second shooters are is important. Why not increase budget and hire someone with comparable experience to yourself? I understand if that's not feasible (like if it possibly adds 50% or something to your costs and the client one spring for it) but you have to be realistic. On those rare occasions when I'm asked to find another cameraperson to work with me on something there're only a few folks I call, and they're not cheap. If client said something like "can we get another person for $150?" or something, I would say "no one good, no one that I would trust."
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Old February 17th, 2013, 12:19 PM   #9
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

To hire someone that is comparable to my experience is very expensive AND frankly they have their own business and don't want to be "the 2nd" so when I DO hire someone to shoot 2nd I look for someone that has a little experience in weddings, not film students because most film students I've run into all want to be the next Spielberg or (fill in name here) and have little if any interest in shooting a wedding.
I want someone that has a few weddings under their belt but not someone that already has a thriving business because then they're set in their ways and won't take direction. I know I wouldn't.
Chris, find someone other than a student or find someone that has ZERO experience and you teach them from the ground up. I've done that and for me it ws very frustrating but maybe you have more compassion and patience that I do.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 12:21 PM   #10
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I guess it depends on the wages being offered in your market area. Here in Arizona I don't know anyone that would even pay an assistant $120 for a few hours work - unless they supplied their own equipment - maybe.

We are talking about an assistant here...right? If we're talking about a seasoned professional helping another seasoned professional in a pinch that's something completely different.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 12:45 PM   #11
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Perhaps the wedding industry is different than just being a "plain ol' freelancer" like me, but that seems like a bad way to work. Many folks do several jobs; I, for instance, shoot, grip, edit and teleprompt. I take direction for whatever job I'm hired for. If I'm in charge, I'm in charge. If I"m the 4th cam on a multicam shoot, I do whatever they tell me. If I'm a grip, I don't contradict the DP (usually) no matter how much, in my head, I might think I could do it better. Just seems weird to turn down work/money in the name some kind of weird ego trip.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 06:01 PM   #12
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Hi Guys

All good points I guess. I really don't think paying more would help (that also means the poor bride will also pay more!) $30 an hour (min 4 hours) is considered standard if they use your gear..the ones I have used rarely work more than 2 -3 hours and still make $120.00
Yeah all the Universities here offer courses with fancy titles like "motion picture screen arts" and they tend to be a 4 year course...obviously not an awful lot of practical and certainly no wedding experience..they tend to concentrate on fictional projects .... Exactly what industry they will finally be useful for is again another story!!

Maybe just doing a bit of time mangement/shifting is the real answer at least I know I can rely on myself all of the time...then again that's what this forum is all about is it not??

Chris
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Old February 18th, 2013, 09:15 AM   #13
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Hey Chris - Since my day job has resulted in more media type work and less wedding video work I decided to respond to some 2nd shooter (assistant) positions with local wedding videographers. Here in Arizona we have several colleges and lots of trade schools churning out people eager to film ANYTHING! A couple guys were willing to pay $150 for up to 10 hours work and expected me to use my own equipment and carry my own insurance. One guy expected me to be available with no notice or he'd never use me again.

With hundreds of hungry students needing work I guess Arizona is not a good market for helpers or 2nd shooters.
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Old February 18th, 2013, 10:25 AM   #14
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Has the biz gone so soft that $120 is a reasonable rate for a second shooter with gear?

I shoot second camera for a couple of the local guys and I charge $350 with gear for 4hrs and only that low because I am personal friends with them. I know what they want from me and for sure what they get back is in focus, not shaky, and exposed properly.

I can't fathom someone with any real experience or decent gear shooting for rates in that range.

Obviously you have to price yourself within the market. Can you find some local professional freelancers in your area and see if any of them are interested in helping? It will cost you more but the footage will be usable.

Its a dirty little secret that most pro freelancers shoot or have shot weddings to make ends meet. They just don't talk about it because commercial and network clients look down on wedding videographers. Its not at all fair but there is a stigma there.
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Old February 18th, 2013, 06:33 PM   #15
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Wow..obviously prices in the USA vary from state to state..!

Tom is expected to work, with gear and insurance for $15.00 an hour and Chris gets $87.50 an hour.

The recognised hourly rate here for both video and photography is $30.00 an hour for casual shooters with no gear at all up to $60.00 an hour if you bring along your own camera! My shooters so far haven't owned a camera and get $120.00 for maybe 2 hours attendance tops so they are getting a decent rate for very little work and not much talent it seems either!

I still stick to solo work not for financial reasons at all but purely for decent footage... We run business so it's quite easy to modify package costing to allow it to cover someone like Chris for an extra $350.00

Chris
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