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Taking Care of Business
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Old October 6th, 2009, 07:22 AM   #16
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It seems that we are mostly in violent agreement. It's how we define and describe the situation that differs. Because of my long background in business, I use those terms. I also maintain that quality and value will and should be compensated for in the marketplace. What can upset that balance are people willing to work below their dollar value in exchange for fame or the cool factor of the job. The same goes for employers.

This is all business, if done correctly and one cannot go far wrong if proper business principles are adhered to regardless of which side of the boss' desk one sits.

BTW: My first paying "TV" job was to create a video tour of radio station KFRC for the program director to take to the NAB in 1974. I did it with a rented camera and cut it in a rented bay somewhere down in Mountain View. I think I made US$300 gross which was pretty big for a few hours work for a kid still in college.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 08:39 AM   #17
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We all want to make money, but what I get from Grinner's post is that if you start out in this business, which is essentially an artistic one, focusing only on money, you won't get far.

Rely on your passion for what you do, get good at it, and the money will come.

If, like Tripp, you also have good career planning skills, the money may come faster.

As for accepting lower than 'standard' wages, that's a tough one. This industry has a long tradition of internship. And sometimes non-paid, not just badly paid. I don't see that going away any time soon.

I also think it's a bit unrealistic to expect some 18 year old kid with stars in his eyes to go out there with a spreadsheet of standard wages as a reference and only accept work within these standards. If he or she is dying to make movies, they'll probably dive in there and do it for nothing if they have to.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 09:39 AM   #18
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The problem with accepting work at $3 an hour, or $5 or $10 or anything less than the correct hourly-wage equivalent, is that it devalues the industry in general. Every client who pays a young shooter or editor a mediocre rate is a client who is not paying industry rate anymore - and once they receive acceptable work for cheap, they're not likely to go back to outstanding work for big bucks. It's hard to raise prices in an industry that relies on referrals and repeat customers. "Why are you charging me $2,300? Billy Bob got the same package for $1,700 last year!"
This happens a lot in hard economic times. I bid $500 for a job last spring, and that was my absolute lowest price, because I could really use the money. Someone else underbid me $250, and frankly I don't know how they could make money. Problem is, this is union work but solidarity goes out the window when scrounging for crumbs. No one knows who the lowball bidder was (the person is wisely keeping as low profile) but everyone is pissed that s/he is ruining it for everyone who'll ever try to get a similar contract with this producer - or any other producer who'll hear of this cheap-as-dirt freelancer.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 09:44 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Grinner Hester View Post
Just pointing out that you'll start for little to nothing in this industry. Many students get out of school with a degree and a thought or feeling that a career is then owed to them. They then realize they have to get in line behind the guys that started 2 or 4 years before them instead of going to school.
That's what I tell anyone who asks me about film school. Buy a few books, read this forum, and take the time and money you'd spend on school and make 2-3 short films instead.


J.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 09:35 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
That's what I tell anyone who asks me about film school. Buy a few books, read this forum, and take the time and money you'd spend on school and make 2-3 short films instead.


J.
If just one of those books is on business, I'm right behind you. Regardless of whether you're in this business or any other one, or if you're indie or working for someone, we all need to watch out for our own best interests. Then you'll be ready to start making your films.

I remember years ago there was a guy working at a radio station that had only enough money for Mac and Cheese for food. He was a nice guy and good on the air, to my ears anyway. He ended up dumping out of the business and working for his dad so that he could afford to live, and eat a more varied and healthy diet. His lack of business acumen conspired against him, plus other things. He was my friend and it hurt me to see him in that place.

Arm yourself for battle, because it's tough out there.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 08:59 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
make 2-3 short films instead.
Yes but COLLABORATE with others on those films or else you risk doing nothing more than reinforcing bad habits and not actually learning anything USEFUL. As long as one works alone, it doesn't matter how inept or clueless one is - put that same person in a high price, high productivity environment and they will sink (or just offend EVERYONE around them that has taken the time to learn their craft PROPERLY).

Yes, you are right - the ONLY way to get better is to DO DO DO. Just make sure you aren't reinforcing BAD habits (like I do every time I head out for a round of golf...)
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Old October 7th, 2009, 09:46 AM   #22
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I have to totally agree with Shaun on this subject. 90% of what I know about this business I learned after college. I have been fortunate to work for or with some of the finest shooters, editors, producers, gaffers, etc. on this planet and I have absorbed most of what I know from them. All the books and online tutorials in the world are no substitute for training, experience and working with others with more skills than yourself. And like Shaun said don't shortchange the business education either.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 12:02 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Rick L. Allen View Post
I have been fortunate to work for or with some of the finest shooters, editors, producers, gaffers, etc. on this planet and I have absorbed most of what I know from them.
This reminds me of an interesting anecdote from MY earliest days working in broadcast (as a camera assist on a travel destination show).

The DOP/Operator was (and still IS) an incredible NATURAL LIGHT videographer. He is absolutely the LAST guy to pull a light out of his kit. He'd rather bounce, reposition, move blinds etc. rather than throw up a single light.

After working with him in the field for 5 days and proving my work ethic, we were set to do "in studio" host segments - here the studio was a luxury condo on the 17th floor of one of the most prestigious buildings in Winnipeg (our "hi-rises" only go up to 32 floors...)

So, I ASKED him if he'd allow me to light the set IN THE LOCATION THAT HE CHOSE to see if we could make it look better. And if he didn't like the lighting, ALL we had to do was turn it off. DONE. And I agreed to light it over crew lunch so there would be NO disruption of shooting.

Comes back from lunch and looks at his monitor critically (we were shooting BetaSP on a BVW600, the most expensive analog Betacam) first with his setup then with my lighting. He turns to the producer and says "Shaun lights all the interviews from now on. Nobody else gets to make suggestions or get in his way or we go back to natural."

I lit my butt off for the next three days but that day I earned my stripes and got hired on for the next two installments of the show as DOP/Operator - the original DOP chose to take other gigs so I didn't displace him at all and there are NO hard feelings.

BTW, this show aired internationally and was my very first Lighting Director credit and the follow ups were my first international DOP credits.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 08:55 PM   #24
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I got fed up with low wages and working for someone else in unsecured positions that I decided to just go get a full time job in a warehouse untill I can afford my own gear... though I don't know if I'm better off spending the money on making a showreel with hired equipment...or spending more money and getting into debt buying my own gear.
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Old October 8th, 2009, 08:03 AM   #25
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No simple challenge there. What I do know is that you will never further your video career working in a warehouse. There have been many people over the course of my career that have been personally frustrating and some have simply made me seriously angry, but it's been the price of admission.

Pillocks are part of the price of admission in any career. If you quit because of them you will never make any headway. You understand your choices. Find the one you dislike the least and make it work.
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Old October 12th, 2009, 12:15 PM   #26
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ditto.
Understand that if you try to skip the proper experience to run your own video company, you'll just be undemployed with an overhead when ya purchase gear. You are learning much more than technical techniques when interning and much more than business when running a department later on. Skip these things and you are greatly handicapping yourself when your competition has been there and done that. Warehouse work is simply not the proper training for the job.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 02:19 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Grinner Hester View Post
How much did your first TV gig pay?

That's what I'm sayin'.
$12.50 an hour right after I got my degree......would I have worked for less? Not much.
But that's just me......Course now I run my little company, and charge much more
than what any TV station would be willing to pay me. After 8 years or so, I figured out
that me and those in charge at the TV stations had a very fundamental disagreement
over how much I was worth......so I left and let them hire some guys off
the street with no experience or even schooling in TV and I started my own company
and started charging what I thought I was worth. And wonder of wonders, I even
found a few clients that have agreed with me.....
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Old October 13th, 2009, 08:30 AM   #28
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They all do if they are clients. None of them want a 12 buck an hour product, even when they have no budget.
Thank you for validating my point. So many get a chip on their shoulder thinking they'll leave with their degree to make big bucks. They can... after a decade or so of experience.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 12:57 PM   #29
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Well, SOME clients (not ones I would want anyways) DO actually want the $12/hr TV
employees making their spot.....cause you know the TV station throws in free production
with an airtime buy lots of times. So price can be a big factor especially in this
day and age. But I would HIGHLY agree with some of the above comments. Get
a business background somehow, read books, research, or get experience managing
a business. It will help you in many ways.....the problem with many in this field is that
they DON'T have a good business background. Unless you want to continue to work for
very little......(and trust me, as you get older, you won't want to).

But this is a good subject, and although there seems to be disagreement, I think
there is more agreement than it might appear. I worked for low pay (in my
market, $12.50 isn't much, guys working at the local grocery store make more)
because I got to learn. And learn I did, I got to be producer/director of 12 weekly
newscasts, plus be the chief photographer and editor, and give shooting and editing
workshops......I learned a TON!

However, I had no loyalty to the company, if they wanted to pay low wages,
they have to understand that people are constantly going to have to be replaced
as they will be looking to move on. It was funny, cause in the newsroom, reporters
and photogs would always take a quick peek online at the job openings around
the country when they had a minute of spare time.....but they were very discrete
about it. I basically didn't care, and when my news director
asked me what I was doing, I told her I was looking at other jobs. She told me
'You better be careful, we can monitor the sites you visit and see if you are trying to
get another job'. I told her 'You don't have to monitor the sites, I just TOLD YOU I am
looking for another job!' I mean they are trying to get their product on the air for
as little as possible, I understand that. They must also understand that I am going
to look to get paid as much as possible.....no hard feelings, but they certainly weren't
looking out for me, so I had better look out for myself.

So yeah, many times in this business we start out working for relatively little. We
learn, and subsist on ramen and mac and cheese.
Then as we know more, we start to want more compensation. So we ask for a raise.
We are either given a raise, or (much more often times in my experience) told that
we will not be getting a raise as the company does not have the money. So we
move on to another job where we CAN make more money, or we start our own
business doing the same type of thing. It's not that much different from a LOT of
other jobs out there, very rarely do you get to start out on top. You start out near
the bottom and work your way up......even the state government jobs here work
that way. Expecting that you should start out on top, making a ton is not realistic.
And it is also not realistic for the companies paying low wages to expect us to
reward them with some kind of 'loyalty' for 'taking a chance' on us when we get
a chance to make more money.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 01:09 PM   #30
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I don't think we disagree at all.
We start for little to nothin'. We don't mind because we love it and will get paid well for it later.
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