Jump to content



Photo

Meeting with teachers to work on student shoots


  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 44 posts

Posted 10 November 2009 - 07:35 AM

Small bit of background: I am 24, I have a bachelor's in film (graduated 1 year ago), I've been working as a cam op/ AC since graduation, attended the lake arrowhead workshop in the spring to fuel my steadicam interest and it caught fire. I know a local DP who will rent their Steadicam SK and all supporting equipment to me when I need it.

Last week I made a bunch of cold calls to the local universities stating who I was and that I am interested in working on student films as a way for me to get my on-set steadicam experience up as well and benefiting the students because they get the steadicam look in their films and get to learn to work with day players and budget for their services. Most of the department heads were interested and I've booked times to meet with them next week.

I was wondering, what are some key points for me to hit while speaking with them about this deal? I do not wish to make any sort of money on this, I just want the practice and get to a reel going. The one thing I would like to try and get is the cost of the rig's rental covered covered. I can rent the rig for only a couple hundred dollars a day, but I would like to try and get this cost paid for through either the students' films' budget or from somewhere else.

What tips can you all provide me for these meetings?
  • 0

#2 Mark Schlicher

Mark Schlicher

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 776 posts
  • Nashville, TN

Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:22 AM

There are some good recommendations in the Holway/Hayball book, worth perusing ...
  • 0

#3 Charles Papert

Charles Papert

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 2224 posts
  • Los Angeles

Posted 10 November 2009 - 12:20 PM

Mike:

Working on student films is a good way to develop a reel and start getting a feel for working, true enough.

You suggest that it's good for students as a way to get a feel for day players and budget for their services,but then also suggest that you don't want to make any money and your expenses for the rig will be $200/day. Obviously there's a little issue there--if you start working for them for that amount, the word will get around and that will become the rate for Steadicam on their shoots. At some point you will have gained enough experience that you might like to make some more money, but it will be hard to up the ante as they will be continuing to budget at the initial rate.

You may want to consider calling your rate something more like $500 (making clear it is a student rate only, not what you work for commercial jobs) but you are willing to negotiate each job as it comes. In some instances this may mean that they can only afford you for a set number of hours for a limited rate, but that in itself will teach them a valuable lesson in time management as inevitably things will go wrong and they will "lose you". It may be that you regularly negotiate back to the $200, but the point is that down the road as you gain experience and want to charge more, it will not appear that you are raising your rate as much as adhering to it.

If there is one thing that we would probably all like to express to film students today, it is that skill in general (and good Steadicam operating in specific) is a commodity that has value. As exciting as the recent democratization of the tools of this industry is for newcomers, i.e. how inexpensive and "easy" it is to get your hands on a crane, a Steadicam, the 35mm shallow focus look, editing and CGI etc., there has come along with this a sense of entitlement and lack of focus. Everyone can now be a director, a DP, a colorist, editor and/or Steadicam operator because the tools are right there for them to play around with. For each truly talented person that is emerging from all of this, there are 100 others who think they know it all and are about to break down the walls of Hollywood with their latest epic (the credits for which contain 10 single title cards with their name on each).

So lay the groundwork with them early. Even though you are new to operating, you have six days of good instruction behind you which already puts you well ahead of most. Make sure the students get that the machine itself is not the result, you have to have the right person behind it, not just in terms of framing but shot design and understanding of what the machine is and isn't capable of. Ultimately it's about releasing a whole group of filmmakers into the wild with the right attitude about Steadicam--you are their professor in that regard!
  • 0

#4 Alan Lifton

Alan Lifton

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 27 posts

Posted 10 November 2009 - 02:22 PM

Mike, go to the bank, borrow enough money to purchase a new Flyer LE (or someone's used rig...), and then charge the students a "special" student rate of $200. You'll pay off your rig in no time, and you'll be able to practice every day. It's the practice every day that'll make this a worthwhile venture...



Small bit of background: I am 24, I have a bachelor's in film (graduated 1 year ago), I've been working as a cam op/ AC since graduation, attended the lake arrowhead workshop in the spring to fuel my steadicam interest and it caught fire. I know a local DP who will rent their Steadicam SK and all supporting equipment to me when I need it.

Last week I made a bunch of cold calls to the local universities stating who I was and that I am interested in working on student films as a way for me to get my on-set steadicam experience up as well and benefiting the students because they get the steadicam look in their films and get to learn to work with day players and budget for their services. Most of the department heads were interested and I've booked times to meet with them next week.

I was wondering, what are some key points for me to hit while speaking with them about this deal? I do not wish to make any sort of money on this, I just want the practice and get to a reel going. The one thing I would like to try and get is the cost of the rig's rental covered covered. I can rent the rig for only a couple hundred dollars a day, but I would like to try and get this cost paid for through either the students' films' budget or from somewhere else.

What tips can you all provide me for these meetings?


  • 0

#5 Ramon Engle

Ramon Engle

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 506 posts
  • Atlanta

Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:23 PM

Hi Mike.
Gaining practial operating experience is obviously the way to improve your skills. But there are some skills that can only be learned by observing a buttoned up camera department hard at work.
The protocol of giving your AC time to get his or her focus marks and running interference with a badgering AD if necessary, Knowing when to say "NO, thats not safe", and the list goes on and on.
The only way to get this experience is to be there.
That means working in the camera department. Can't tell you how important it is to understand set protocol and the process and work flow especially in the camera department.

Good luck

Ramon
  • 0

#6 Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 44 posts

Posted 11 November 2009 - 06:46 PM

There are some good recommendations in the Holway/Hayball book, worth perusing ...


I have that right on my shelf...I'll have to crack it open again. Are you referring to a specific page?

Mike:

Working on student films is a good way to develop a reel and start getting a feel for working, true enough.

You suggest that it's good for students as a way to get a feel for day players and budget for their services,but then also suggest that you don't want to make any money and your expenses for the rig will be $200/day. Obviously there's a little issue there--if you start working for them for that amount, the word will get around and that will become the rate for Steadicam on their shoots. At some point you will have gained enough experience that you might like to make some more money, but it will be hard to up the ante as they will be continuing to budget at the initial rate.

You may want to consider calling your rate something more like $500 (making clear it is a student rate only, not what you work for commercial jobs) but you are willing to negotiate each job as it comes. In some instances this may mean that they can only afford you for a set number of hours for a limited rate, but that in itself will teach them a valuable lesson in time management as inevitably things will go wrong and they will "lose you". It may be that you regularly negotiate back to the $200, but the point is that down the road as you gain experience and want to charge more, it will not appear that you are raising your rate as much as adhering to it.

If there is one thing that we would probably all like to express to film students today, it is that skill in general (and good Steadicam operating in specific) is a commodity that has value. As exciting as the recent democratization of the tools of this industry is for newcomers, i.e. how inexpensive and "easy" it is to get your hands on a crane, a Steadicam, the 35mm shallow focus look, editing and CGI etc., there has come along with this a sense of entitlement and lack of focus. Everyone can now be a director, a DP, a colorist, editor and/or Steadicam operator because the tools are right there for them to play around with. For each truly talented person that is emerging from all of this, there are 100 others who think they know it all and are about to break down the walls of Hollywood with their latest epic (the credits for which contain 10 single title cards with their name on each).

So lay the groundwork with them early. Even though you are new to operating, you have six days of good instruction behind you which already puts you well ahead of most. Make sure the students get that the machine itself is not the result, you have to have the right person behind it, not just in terms of framing but shot design and understanding of what the machine is and isn't capable of. Ultimately it's about releasing a whole group of filmmakers into the wild with the right attitude about Steadicam--you are their professor in that regard!


Thank you very much for this. The information is just the sort of thing I've been looking for.


Hi Mike.

The only way to get this experience is to be there.
That means working in the camera department. Can't tell you how important it is to understand set protocol and the process and work flow especially in the camera department.

Good luck

Ramon


This is also in my list of things to do. I have been working as a 1st AC for smaller production companies in the area and can only hope these lead to bigger things. I've also been trying my hardest to shadow a local DP while he's on bigger shoots to learn that way. Thanks!
  • 0

#7 Mark Schlicher

Mark Schlicher

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 776 posts
  • Nashville, TN

Posted 11 November 2009 - 08:32 PM

Yes,

Start on page 108 "Are Your Ready" with some good advise on working with and communicating with students. In fact, the balance of section 3 is useful.

Then, all of section 4. Not only will you be wanting to have a command of this stuff in order to get good footage for your reel, you will likely be "helping" directors design shots a lot. Unlike an experienced director who knows camera choreography well and can communicate, you will often be working with folks who have little concept of what a Steadicam shot can, and can't do, to advance a mood or story point. You will be their teacher as well as collaborator.

The first part of section 10 has some useful information on promotion and interfacing with low-budget producers.

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Offer a "one-time" free lecture/demonstration on Steadicam to advanced directing and advanced cinematography classes. This gets you in front of students may become your "custromers", and establishes you as an expert. Mention your offer during your presentation. Interested students will come to you.

2. Always require a reference from a professor before accepting a gig with a student. Develop relationships with the professors to insure you are getting a candid assessment of the student's reliability and talents.

3. You should read the script and see the shot breakdowns to understand what they want. You should ask for a shooting schedule so you can determine if they are realistic and thorough in their planning.

4. I agree that you should charge for your services, I would suggest AT LEAST $200 in addition to the rental of the rig. If they can rent lights and gennies and cameras or whatever, then they can rent your gear. If someone is so stretched that they can't rent afford to rent your gear and expertise, then you have to wonder whether you'll end up with something worthwhile to show on your reel. Do you want to risk wasting your time with nothing to show but a 14 hour day in the rig and a poorly-lit, poorly acted, poorly blocked scene?

5. The students should also have an insurance certificate, either on their own or through the school. If you are renting the rig from a DP friend instead of a rental house, you won't have a loss waiver, so you should make sure that the students have a properly-executed certificate.

6. You can buy a used Flyer (2nd gen) for around $5-6000 depending on condition and accessories. Well worth considering. Your break-even point on a used Flyer can be very attractive, if you are committed, and can find the up-front money.

I also agree with the other advice you've been given, and I think Charles is particularly on-target.

There are some good recommendations in the Holway/Hayball book, worth perusing ...


I have that right on my shelf...I'll have to crack it open again. Are you referring to a specific page?



  • 0

#8 Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 44 posts

Posted 16 November 2009 - 07:42 PM

Thanks for the tip for the operator handbook. I pulled mine out and have been reading through it again.

I got done with my first meeting today and the outcome was less than favorable. To start things off, I clearly outlined my experience in steadicam, my intentions with working on student films, and sited my website to give people a sense of where I'm coming from.

When I got to the meeting the first thing the professor did was eye me over, glance at my resume, look at me again, and say, "well, you're kinda young, dont-cha think?" From them on he explained how he usually hires owner operators that are fairly well seasoned to work on the student's films. He didn't like that I rent gear from an owner/ operator and that I have doing most of my bigger work as an AC and not a cam op.

He said he's keep my resume and contact info on file for smaller jobs.

Makes me want to buy something along the lines of a archer or a clipper!

Oh well I suppose, I've got a steadicam assist job tomorrow with the owner/ operator I rent from and then another meeting with a film professor on Wednesday.
  • 0

#9 William Santana

William Santana

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 20 posts
  • Miami

Posted 16 November 2009 - 08:14 PM

So he didn't even bother to see what you're capable of? You'd think a professor would be the first to realize that age is an antiquated way of judging ones wisdom, intelligence, skill...anything! Don't take it too hard, the important thing is that you've become confident enough to take you're training to the next level. Working with other people will undoubtedly jettison the rate in which you improve. I envy your enthusiasm.

Purchasing your own rig would benefit you; Clippers and Archers go from $24,000 to $35,000. If you could afford that then... whoa. On the other hand a Pilot is a great rig that can produce shots on par with bigger rigs and goes for only about $4,000; the weight limit on it is 10 lbs though which would alienate film cameras like the CP16, but I suppose you could always rent a bigger rig in that case.
  • 0

#10 Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 44 posts

Posted 16 November 2009 - 09:04 PM

I appreciate the kind words. I realize that there will be many "No's" before I get a "Yes" so I just have to work hard and wait until I meet that person.

I've been thinking about buying either the FlyerLE or my mentor's older and modified SK. Advise on which to get? I believe the most i'd be putting on any steadicam for a while is a smaller prosumer camera with the biggest being an hpx 500 with anton battery.
  • 0

#11 Emre Tufekci

Emre Tufekci

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 72 posts
  • Los Angeles

Posted 16 November 2009 - 09:22 PM

I appreciate the kind words. I realize that there will be many "No's" before I get a "Yes" so I just have to work hard and wait until I meet that person.

I've been thinking about buying either the FlyerLE or my mentor's older and modified SK. Advise on which to get? I believe the most i'd be putting on any steadicam for a while is a smaller prosumer camera with the biggest being an hpx 500 with anton battery.


I would go for the Flyer LE. I started on a SK then Provid, added a flyer and a Clipper 2. Having gone through those rigs I would definitely choose the Flyer LE over the SK.
  • 0

#12 Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 44 posts

Posted 16 November 2009 - 09:38 PM

Would getting a Flyer LE and having it for between 1 -3 years then upgrading to bigger as needed be better than initially investing in something along an archer? (perhaps I should reserve this question for a different topic)
  • 0

#13 Sydney Seeber

Sydney Seeber

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 376 posts
  • Hermosa Beach

Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:17 PM

Buy whatever you can afford to buy with money you don't need immediately. In other words, money you'd use to buy a jet ski or something. It's not something that will have an immediate payoff... You're not going to make much if anything off of it for a decent amount of time.
  • 0

#14 Emre Tufekci

Emre Tufekci

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 72 posts
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 November 2009 - 10:02 AM

Would getting a Flyer LE and having it for between 1 -3 years then upgrading to bigger as needed be better than initially investing in something along an archer? (perhaps I should reserve this question for a different topic)


The problem of getting an higher end rig is that you might not have a market or the customers to pay it off in a reasonable time. Upgrading is always an option but there is more of the lower end rigs available on the market so the re-sale is usually a little less.

In my opinion starting off with a small and simpler rig is better for learning how to operate. The first rig I owned did not even have a socket block so I really had to learn control the rig on a very simple set up. After that upgrading to a larger set up is very very easy.
  • 0

#15 Mark Schlicher

Mark Schlicher

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 776 posts
  • Nashville, TN

Posted 17 November 2009 - 10:22 AM

In a couple of years you could sell your well-maintained Flyer LE for 60-75% of your original investment.

This means that your break-even would be maybe in the range of $3000. Even offering deep discounts to film students, you could still break even within ten jobs or so.

Now, the Flyer is a niche rig. You can try to find/create a market for low end commercials, corporate, weddings/events, no-budget indies and music videos in order to keep it working. But eventually if you want to take on bigger jobs you'll need to buy, at minimum, a $25,000 Archer and a full complement of wireless video, follow focus, cables, etc. etc. etc.

The advantage of starting with a Flyer is that you can do real work and get real practice that will translate to the bigger rigs with a fraction of the upfront investment. When you're ready to upgrade, you'll have a huge headstart on the skillset, and presumably an established customer base and reputation.

And with a 20 pound payload you can fly a pretty wide variety of cameras on a Flyer, up to many fullsize HD camcorders like the HPX500. So you won't outgrow it nearly as fast as, say, a Pilot.

Would getting a Flyer LE and having it for between 1 -3 years then upgrading to bigger as needed be better than initially investing in something along an archer? (perhaps I should reserve this question for a different topic)


  • 0




IDX

GPI Pro Systems

Varizoom Follow Focus

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Wireless Video Systems

PLC Electronics Solutions

Teradek

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Betz Tools for Stabilizers

Omnishot Systems

Boland Communications

PLC - Bartech

BOXX

SkyDreams

Engineered Cinema Solutions

rebotnix Technologies