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Old November 6th, 2012, 02:04 PM   #1
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Best way to get involved in film?

So I've wanted to get involved with the film industry for years, initially for film editing and ultimately as a director. Unfortunately life is not always simple and my initial plans for film school ended up being cut short. Years later, now that my bachelors is almost in hand (broadcast communications, closest thing to video/film I could get at my local college) and my wedding videography business is losing its allure, the desire to be involved with major motion picture is stronger than ever.

I've learned that there is no real best way, or easy way (unless u know someone, which i do not) to get into the business. I live about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh, PA where the film industry has been growing the last few years, and I'm curious as to what others would suggest as a starting point? There is a local grip union I believe, which could be a start? I help run my family business (industrial machine shop manufacturing) and I've hoped that I could possibly build some bridges using that experience/capabilities? I've made several documentary style short videos for my college, as well as done many weddings, but most of that falls quite short on a resume for a feature film. At this point I'd do just about any job on set I was offered if it meant being paid, as unpaid internships are not really possible for me (hey, I'm 25 and have some bills). I would assume having experience in all the areas of the set would be huge for ones career. I'm okay with the idea of having to move, but once again, money becomes a factor. If I could afford it I'd help in any location anywhere on the planet at any time!

If your reading this and involved in some way, what would you recommend? How did you get your start?
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Old November 6th, 2012, 02:22 PM   #2
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Help out - everywhere you possibly can. I didn't get involved in the film-making aspect of things, but I went the live TV route. I have no degree, no formal training other than what I taught myself, but after a year and a half of running a POS replay box at AA baseball, and being grip for fancam, I was A1, replay, and camera for multiple big ten productions, got the chance to run switcher and set up live web streams, see how everything works, and got so much experience it was unreal. Eventually learning how to run engineering/color on sony triax systems and working in the media end of sports marketing.

Just because I showed up, and let myself be taught from other people who knew better than I did how things are supposed to go, I finally developed a resume and experience that allowed me to get jobs in the video/marketing industry. I listened as much as I could and learned a ton, plus taught myself everything I possibly could via After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut, Color, etc and now finally venturing into 3D modeling and compositing. 100s of hours sunk into Lynda, youtube tutorials, countless toying, and treating the applications like a video game... Try to break stuff, see what works, see how everything responds, do risky stuff, find out what ways you can make what you see in your head happen.

Make yourself available - no job is beneath you if you haven't had a job in the field before. If I would have came into the job with that kind of attitude, I wouldn't have had a chance at all if that was the case.

I know this isn't directly applicable to you, but same thing for film production. Be a grip, befriend a gaffer, listen to everything they tell you, find somebody working on a film and just offer a hand. Before you know it, they'll be asking you to adjust lighting for them, set up camera if somebody is running late, and you'll get opportunities just by being there. Make yourself available, it opens doors, it did for me while I was trying to get my foot in the door.
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Old November 6th, 2012, 03:51 PM   #3
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Entertainmentcareers.net, Mandy.com, and even Craig's List. Get on any job you can, do good work, be friendly, eager to learn, and make connections. If you're good, they'll remember your name.
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Old November 6th, 2012, 04:11 PM   #4
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Thanks for taking the time to reply! Yeah I figured that is the jist of it, but its interesting to hear stories of others and how they found their way. Will take both of your advice to the bank!
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Old November 8th, 2012, 09:02 PM   #5
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

This might be only somewhat relevant to what you are talking about, but I started putting videos on youtube about a year ago. This connected me with a radio station that I did commercial work for, I ended up working as a staff videographer for a media company and have gotten the chance to travel all over the world with them, and I've also gotten a lot of freelance work from people in my area. Youtube in itself is now a way to get income.

I'm not saying start making youtube videos, but there are a lot of ways you can get started. just go out and try a few.

edit: I'm still a full time student studying video production, my freelance work and work I do for my company hardly pay for any of my tuition. I've got a long way to go.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 10:17 PM   #6
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

1. Get a camera and join film makers here at DVInfo and shoot for the contests at The DVChallenge, and at UWOL Challenge.

2. There seem to be local film maker groups everywhere. Hook up with them, and start getting involved in projects.

3. Almost everywhere in the country, there are local film festivals. Those festivals will usually have local groups that do 48 hour contests, or 10 x 10's (Ten days to make a 10 minute film with certain perameters set by the festival.) Often, these festivals have a meet an greet to get unattached film makers hooked up with others.
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Old November 14th, 2012, 03:22 AM   #7
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Welcome aboard! :)
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Old January 14th, 2013, 04:08 PM   #8
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

The day I graduated from college I got a job as a PA (office) on a TV movie filming in my town. After that, I swore off movies for years. Then I dated a girl who's father was a teamster captain and he got me into the union and onto a (very very big) feature film as a driver. Contacts and connections were numerous after that.

I know this helps you not at all, really, but PA is 99% likely where you'll start. Check the local film office and get yourself onto one of those productions, begging. It's the most likely route if you don't have connections. Forget about making much dough at first - PA's generally make about exactly minimum wage, and the days are usually 16 hours or so. If you want to go the production route, you have to get something like 400 days before you can even become a DGA trainee (I can't remember the exact number, so somebody here probably knows better). The good news is that it really does take an army to make a film, so each department has at least 1 or 2 PA's on a bigger film, and they are almost always locals, because it doesn't make sense to fly somebody from LA for a $100 a day job.
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Old January 16th, 2013, 12:39 PM   #9
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Palanza View Post
So I've wanted to get involved with the film industry for years, initially for film editing and ultimately as a director.

----

At this point I'd do just about any job on set I was offered if it meant being paid, as unpaid internships are not really possible for me (hey, I'm 25 and have some bills).
If you are talking about what is colloquially referred to as The Big Industry (major or indie full length motion pictures and episodic television), your goals AS STATED are impossible. Before someone objects, let me put this in perspective by analogy:

"Hi, I've just finished a college degree in political studies and I'd like to get involved in government. Initially as State Governor and eventually as Lord Emperor of the Universe"

Perhaps more meagre and realistic starting points for someone with no industry connections would be to run for civic office, work as an aide to a mayor or other government official and learn the ropes and build your group of allies and a body of work that people can judge you on.

No one would elect an unknown commodity to state or higher office without a track record. The Big Industry of film works the same way. Budgets are TIGHT and someone who doesn't know the ropes is a liability on set or off. You need someone to vouch for you to get your start.

Now...

if you want to be a filmmaker, start as other suggest by making films, helping with films and living the life of a filmmaker, which is less about sitting in Starbucks with your MacBook sipping your soy chai latte on the twentieth revision of your script that requires an SFX budget of a million dollars and a full time armourer on set and more about actually working alongside others. Some of the projects you work on will be utter crap. Some may have moments of brilliance. Get involved with the ones that actually have a marketing plan (this indicates that the folks involved have business acumen as well as vision) that ISN'T just "we're going to put it up on YouTube and link to it on our Facebook page and shop it to a couple of festivals". Festivals cost money to enter. How is it getting there? Is there funding in place? Does the project have financiers ("angel investors", meaning they have no REAL expectations of seeing their money ever again) or an existing crowdfunding campaign with more than $500 of mommy and daddy's money in it?

If Craigslist is active in your area, there are ALWAYS filmmakers looking for project partners (or frankly just folks willing to work for free, also known in the industry as: "for credit", "IMDB credit", "will supply food", "participants will get a DVD (don't count on it)", "deferred"... you get the idea).

NOTHING trumps sweat equity and positive attitude on and off set, except perhaps a rich daddy.

If any of your friends tell you this info is BS, ask them how many of their friends are actors, camera operators, set dec, DoPs, story or film editors, electricians, grips and carpenters on Big Industry projects.

I have one or two...

CAVEAT: I'm not a filmmaker. 90% of my friends are. I'm a verit้ broadcast, doco and corporate videographer. I pay well but people I hire have experience, knowledge AND a solid recommendation from someone I trust. They burn me, they never work for me again. Work hard, both on your skills AND on your network. Do more for others than they do for you, assuming they have met the criteria above as qualifiers.

And good luck.
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Old January 16th, 2013, 07:44 PM   #10
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Back in college, I won several awards for videos that I produced. One of the prizes was to go to Hollywood and apply as a DGA trainee. The first part of the process was a test...sort of like a college SAT where they test you on math and English comprehension with hundreds of other people! One section of the test consisted of puzzles and unfolded boxes, you must envision what the multi-sided boxes would look like if everything was folded, just by studying a flat layout. There were marking on the sides, and you would have to indicate if the markings would face up, left, or right. All the tests were timed. After the test was done, they gathered the top 4% highest scores and those people went through an interview process, and the final selection for DGA trainees (for that year) were made. Needless to say, I'm not very good at math so no way did I score at the top.

Another prize was for me to be on the set of 2 feature films. I found out that everyone on the set was unionized, and once you're in a specific role, you can't touch anything else. For example, the sound guy couldn't touch lights or cameras, because the sound guy is in a different union from the electrical workers and camera operators. After experiencing this firsthand, I decided that being my own boss was probably best for me, since I loved to dabble in all aspects of production. Trying to get into a union was another story....
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Old January 16th, 2013, 08:23 PM   #11
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Yep unions are what's driving many Hollywood films elsewhere. In the metal shops at Warners a few years ago there were 56! unions involved,
I couldn't believe it.

But Network, Network Network, steering clear of the crazies of course.

Cheers.
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Old January 16th, 2013, 10:53 PM   #12
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Warren Kawamoto View Post
For example, the sound guy couldn't touch lights or cameras, because the sound guy is in a different union from the electrical workers and camera operators.
Union or non-union, didn't your mama teach you not to touch it if it isn't yours?

How many sets have you been on where someone moved a hot light? I was shooting last spring (non-union set doing EPK) when an actor decided to move a light. Said "hey! Don't touch that...", he yelled back "this ain't a union set, bro"...

CRACK! Fresnel lens cracked as it was hot and he was rough with it. Rental house charged the production for the part and the lost rental revenue until the new lens came in, it came out of his cheque.

Just saying there ARE good reasons set segregation exists...
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Old January 17th, 2013, 10:49 PM   #13
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Palanza View Post
So I've wanted to get involved with the film industry for years, initially for film editing and ultimately as a director. ...I help run my family business (industrial machine shop manufacturing) and I've hoped that I could possibly build some bridges using that experience/capabilities? I've made several documentary style short videos for my college, as well as done many weddings, but most of that falls quite short on a resume for a feature film. ...
If your reading this and involved in some way, what would you recommend? How did you get your start?
Make a movie. Learn by yourself. Being a crew member does not teach you how to be a director. Sooner or later you have to make the jump, so why not do it now? With your business to back you up, and your contacts, you can easily find interesting locations and some money to have a proper go at it.

If it's any good, you'll even get noticed. Hope this helps.
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Old January 18th, 2013, 11:12 PM   #14
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Sareesh: that would make him a filmmaker, but wouldn't get him started in the industry. If you want to work on episodic television or features (excluding no-budget/microbudget), you need to build allies in the industry.

To suggest otherwise is to do someone a great disservice.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 09:16 AM   #15
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Re: Best way to get involved in film?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Sareesh: that would make him a filmmaker, but wouldn't get him started in the industry. If you want to work on episodic television or features (excluding no-budget/microbudget), you need to build allies in the industry.

To suggest otherwise is to do someone a great disservice.
He wants to be a director ultimately. Everything else is a stop-gap arrangement.

I understand he has a family to feed. Who doesn't, ultimately? But he has a business and enough support already - many people don't start with that kind of platform.

I say do it now, if that's what he wants. If I have misread his intentions, and he just wants to hang around and make a living doing 'something' in the industry, I have no advice to give.
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