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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old January 19th, 2013, 09:43 AM   #1
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Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

The title pretty much says it all. Does anyone have experience with this. I have a couple of colleges in my town with pretty good communications/video production departments.

Do kids do this kind of stuff anymore? I worked several unpaid internships in college and it was a great learning experience.

I have keep costs down in my market so I'm trying to get creative with staffing. I want to deliver a high quality multicam wedding film, but it's nearly impossible to do as a one man band.

I've always hired help or had my very talented wife assist me, but that is no longer an option.

Thoughts?
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Old January 19th, 2013, 10:00 AM   #2
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

I've used students as 2nd cameras when I was doing weddings alot cheaper in the beginning and have thought about using them as 3rd cameras.

First I'd never give them nothing and call it an 'internship'. At least give them $100 if they are working for most of the day.

But you need to be careful. I've had so many kids screw up basic things like toasts, record something the opposite of how I told them, shaky camera, under/over exposed, etc. In the end its almost better to just raise your price so you can afford another professional. Saves you ALOT of headaches and time in post too.

If I ever was going to use unexperienced people again I would literally print out pictures of the compositions from other weddings and tape it on their tripod. And then while you are shooting just assume they forgot to hit the record button so you aren't soley relying on their camera at times.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 10:07 AM   #3
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

thanks for the reply travis...I can see the level of ability from students being all over the map. I certainly wouldnt rely on their camera for the important stuff, but moving angles and focal lengths while I am shooting the important stuff (vows, first dance, etc) seems doable by most people that want to shoot.

In your experience did these students do significant damage to your final product? I don't want a bumbling kid screwing up my wedding.

Also raising my prices is not really feasible right now. I'm having a hard time booking at the rates I currently offer and they are very reasonable.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 10:33 AM   #4
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

It's really hit and miss. You might go through 5 kids before finding one that can do a good job. It's tough because in perfect conditions most people are fine. Its when things are unexpected or conditions become tough (odd looking speaker stand behind toaster, wedding party shifts during ceremony ruining the angle, people start crowding dance floor during 1st dance, etc). Alot of times they just stick with a difficult shot rather than figuring out a different place to move.

In the beginning my prices justified having some rough footage in there. But I felt like I was constantly using smoothcam, changing things to black and white, getting creative with edits to cover up their mistakes. There's definitely been a number of times where I said check your batteries and the intros begin and they come running up to me saying batteries are dead or need another card. Alot of times its just odd compositions (heads cut off, 1st dance is wide shot and top half image the couple bottom half the floor, etc) Obviously people can learn and if you do this route you should have them come over after during editing and grill them on everything.

If you are used to doing it yourself you don't really have that much to loose. Just ease them into it. The biggest thing is find someone who can COMPOSE a shot. All the technical stuff can be taught. I usually find the ones that naturally feel how to compose someone speaking or broll are the better of the crop.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 11:18 AM   #5
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

If you hire kids this year, next year you'll discover that they will go out on their own and compete against you with their newly formed production company. Some will even use their school's free facilities to lower the overhead.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 05:54 PM   #6
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

I think it's a good idea. What I would look for are Seniors in college that have experience with DSLR's (if you shoot on them) and film making experience.

If you can find a student that understands the inner workings of the camera and they have a trained eye cause they know how to make films then you can teach them all the other stuff that goes into filming a wedding. I pay my guys hourly and pay for their parking and food/ coffee. They were all seniors in film school and want to be Filmmakers so I don't have to worry so much about them starting there own wedding business' and they stay cause I take care of them.

What I tell anyone I tryout or test out is that I will give them $15/ hr for the first 4 weddings. After that, if they have proven that they are quick learners / great on DSLR's and have a eye for great shots then there pay goes up. I pay them a hourly that is really good for me and decent for them. Then you haven't wasted $50/hr like I have on a guy who thought he was God's gift.

Things I make sure before I hire them.
1. Own a car
2. Have solid experience with DSLR's (not... I used them on a few projects before) NOT UH
3. Do NOT have a weekend job.

Things I like in potential candidates
1. Wants to be a filmmaker
2. Doesn't work a real job.
3. Does other film making or corporate projects on the side.
4. Great pesonality (Huge Plus)
5. Are taller than 5' 8"
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Old January 19th, 2013, 06:15 PM   #7
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

I agree with Kelly, helping younger kids and giving jobs is very satisfying, but sorting them out is time consuming, needs experience,
and can be a pain not to mention a catastrophic disaster.

Visit local film schools to ask teachers, instructors etc to help with a short list of potential applicants.

Hopefully they'll see this as a good incentive and you'll get the best of the best.

Cheers.
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Old January 20th, 2013, 03:57 AM   #8
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

Place a blind ad on Craigslist and see who turns up. Go ahead and place a wage in there and state it's on call/ad needed. When I did this I had a few applicants who were older and had experience running cameras at the local TV stations. These guys were looking for some extra cash and had no desire to gear up and go out on their own.

I also got a fair number of kids who were looking to "learn the biz" so they could become my next newest competition.

Going with a blind ad, there's no reason to divulge your name unless someone looks like they have potential. You can always go the route of the schools either after, or while you are collecting Craigslist resumes.
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Old January 20th, 2013, 04:22 AM   #9
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelly Langerak View Post
Things I like in potential candidates

5. Are taller than 5' 8"
You reason being?
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Old January 20th, 2013, 04:33 AM   #10
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

Hey cool Oliver, a 3 word first post, Guinness book of records stuff :)

Welcome and Cheers.
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Old January 20th, 2013, 05:33 AM   #11
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

As someone who is shorter than 5' 8" and just dipping my toes into wedding film making am I wasting my time?
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Old January 20th, 2013, 05:53 AM   #12
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

As an ex-college lecturer, I always employed my best students for real money. If they are good, and you are going to rely on them, then pay them the same as anyone else. If you want extra staff but don't wish to pay them - please don't dress it up as internship or work experience - because these two things require you to train them, as in they are extra to what you need, so they can learn. If you need a camera 2 or 3 person who can think for themselves and has initiative, then that is NOT a student. Some will be weak and have no experience of the job, or even life, and will (not may) mess up. If you relied on them, it reflects on your business. Older students, who have perhaps returned to education have more life skills to draw on and realise the importance of their work - plus they also understand the business/client professionalism and can actually talk to people. Young people may well have technical skills but have no interpersonal skills at all. The kind that can start the usual rows with the photographers, the venues and the guests just by being unaware.

Students in general get a bad deal, because they get used as cheap labour, then, as with most people of their age, they let you down.

If your job is on a Saturday, they will not think about going out Friday night, having too much to drink and then arriving hung over, or maybe not even arriving at all! There will be good ones of course, and some of my old people still work for me - I cherry pick the best, and dump the rest. From 17-22, I'd even suggest the girls are more mature and reliable - the boys having an over inflated impression of their ability. Girls can be more sensitive to people's feelings, and even though nowadays, they may get shoved to the back in the technology department, they're very fast learners.

Do not imagine they all can work cameras, even if they are on a media course. Nowadays there is so much in these courses, their knowledge of video can be consumer handicams with auto everything, and their DSLR experience a week tagged onto the stills picture modules. Don't forget that many may never even have been to a wedding - so will not even know how the sequence runs.


If you have people to work for you who have a critical role to play, pay them the going rate for a newcomer with no track record. If you don't wish to pay them, then they are extras to what you need.

If they do it for free, then they may not even turn up - what will they lose? The worst that can happen is you don't ask them again?
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Old January 20th, 2013, 06:17 AM   #13
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver Nuther View Post
You reason being?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelly Langerak View Post
5. Are taller than 5' 8"
LOL, I'm only 5'7"... damn, I has fail?!
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Old January 20th, 2013, 06:36 AM   #14
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

Thanks everybody for the insightful feedback. I think I'm going to think a little harder about this after hearing from some of you guys.
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Old January 20th, 2013, 08:36 AM   #15
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Re: Using students/interns as second/third camera ops

I wouldn't get paranoid about them being competition. A restaurant would never higher cooks if they thought people would then open up their own place across the street. It's tough to run a business and people are gonna do it with or without if they really want to.

One thing I would definitely do is never send them home with footage (use your cards). And don't let them use any of it for their reel. These are your weddings that you booked based on your experience and marketing. Plus you don't want two different versions of the same wedding out there.
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