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new operators and craigslist: good idea or disaster waiting to happen


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#1 Blair Phillips

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 10:22 AM

I got my flyer back in July, and I have been practicing when I can ever since. I have gone to a local university and offered my services to senior students who have expressed interest but do not start filming until late November at the earliest with most filming in January.

In the mean time I am thinking about making an ad on craigslist advertising my services pro bono so I can develop my skills and experience. Is this bound to end in disaster? Are there special precautions I should take?

Thanks
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#2 Sydney Seeber

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 10:40 AM

So let's say your first job is to chase some dude in a pirate costume down a ravine and during the first take, you roll your ankle and break everything. Was it worth it? Does anyone have any type of insurance... On a job you're doing for free? A PA who's job is to stand there looking as busy as possible can work for free. The guy tethered this camera contraption thingy has a lot more to lose. Free is fine from time to time when everyone knows what they're doing, all your bases are covered, (Like insurance) and there's a good reason for working without pay. Craigslist jobs do not qualify. At minimum you should make sure there's insurance involved as well as a basic kit rental fee. You can work for free all you want, but rent the kit.
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#3 Tom Daigon

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 10:41 AM

I'm in the same situation.I need more experience to develop skills beyond the standard exercises and drills before considering myself a professional (i.e. someone who is paid). I asked the person I took the two day course from (Robert Starling) and he suggested many things.Volunteering for advanced students at the local college seemed like a good start, until I bumped into some administrators that seemed eager and then were never heard from again (apparently others ops have had this same experience with these profs). Another suggestion was offer your services for a a definite time period (i.e., 3 hours). Otherwise you will run the risk of getting roped into all day affairs that may involve sitting around a lot. Secondarily getting info about what the scene is about to insure your safety and ability to do what is expected. And since it is Craig's List, I would do a little research to see who I was getting involved with...even in a gratis situation.

Edited by Tom Daigon, 08 October 2010 - 10:50 AM.

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#4 William Demeritt

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 11:59 AM

With Craigslist, you'll learn (the hard way) all the things you need to ask and double check with certain types of productions which you'd probably just assume anywhere else (in the professional world). These things include:

  • 12 hour day (or less)
  • Production insurance (not just gear insurance, but injury insurance)
  • Overtime agreements
  • Reasonable payment terms
  • Limitations of Steadicam or shots expected with Steadicam ("We need to jump from the fence...")
  • Meals and craft services
  • Expectations ("Can you help light when you're not shooting? We'd like to have an extra set of hands.")

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#5 Tom Daigon

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 01:01 PM

"In the mean time I am thinking about making an ad on craigslist advertising my services pro bono..."

William, Blair mentioned his Craig's List work was to be pro bono (i.e. no pay). In light of that, doesn't that negate some of the items on your very helpful list?

* 12 hour day (or less)
? * Production insurance (not just gear insurance, but injury insurance)
? * Overtime agreements
? * Reasonable payment terms
* Limitations of Steadicam or shots expected with Steadicam ("We need to jump from the fence...")
* Meals and craft services
* Expectations ("Can you help light when you're not shooting? We'd like to have an extra set of hands.")

I wanted to clarify this since some items didnt seem to apply to his situation.
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#6 Blair Phillips

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 01:31 PM

Thanks guys, this is helpful.

I am thinking about this and trying to make myself a guide. So far this is what I can gather I need to investigate, in order of importance:

1) refuse unsafe work*
2) insurance status
3) meals and craft
4) working hours
5) shot expectations
6) prep day
7) demo reel material availability


*this really applies in any job minus Soldiers, and even then it is a good idea where practical.

Anything else you think I need to add here?
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#7 richard bellon

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 01:31 PM

hi Blair
good to hear u got your rig!

ive done a couple of free/student films, and let me say i am shit scared of them. They have no idea what they are doing and have no idea of what you need.

Yes they are nice to learn on because you know more than them so u can do whatever you like and everyone will be non the wiser.
One big word of advice, if u have a good friend that is a working professional (pref a grip, fortunatly i do that i trust with my life as already saved it) take them with, have them watch your back and then buy them lots of beer afterwards.

one of my first shoots like this was, running through a wooded forest, now with amateurs its scary shit. i will never do that again unless my dear friend is with me

i also make them pay expenses so that they appreciate your value, ie petrol, food or whatever. If u totally free no-one will give a shit and u gonna be taken advantaged of big time. And u going to be sitiing around alot by yourself as them being students (1st AD who is high and outside smoking cigs and on phone during a sync shoot, and who has never heard of the term "check the gate") etc

Anyways just be very carefull when you agree to do these types of shoots

kindest
richard

Edited by richard bellon, 08 October 2010 - 01:32 PM.

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#8 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 02:24 PM

Don't do craigslist jobs for free. Even if you have zero steadicam experience any craigslist project that won't give you atleast a couple hundred bucks in rental for gear is not something you want to work on. Working conditions will most likely be horrible and chances of something bad happening will be high. Even at that level you still have to worry about all of those things but your chances will be a lot better and you will be respected a lot more.

If you are afraid that you don't have enough experience to charge money realize that craigslist jobs at that level are mostly full of other people with very little experience(even though they usually think they are gods gift to filmmaking)

~Jess
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#9 Brian Freesh

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 03:14 PM

Tom,

Will's list still applies in it's entirety. Blair is expecting compensation, just not monetarily.

However, Blair, if you're gonna go out for free despite Jess' warnings... as has been mentioned, do make sure they give you money for gas. And definitely don't put yourself out there for a full day or as swing. And make sure they are aware why you are doing it. "I'm new, I need experience and footage for a reel." In theory (not in practice) they'll pass you up and pay someone to do it if they want to ensure quality. I recommend requiring the footage by a certain date and requiring full rate/rental if not provided by that date. That way you get the footage no problem. Tell 'em you'll come out for __ hours for a few shots, you get the footage by ____, gas money on the day of shoot, etc... They'll treat you a lot better and you'll both learn a lot more.
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#10 Janice Arthur

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 11:03 AM

Hi guys;

Here is my take;

1) Look for them and see what makes sense to offer/take.

2) Ask the right questions like everyone says.

3) Get some form of payment, again like others have said.

4) Maybe a difference from others, ask yourself. "Am I going to learn something on this shoot?" If you know more than them and they are just idiots say no.

5) Other question to ask yourself. 'Is this toward my goal of a career? Is this shoot being done to promote show business or show 'fucking around'? I am here to learn (and that can be broadly interpreted by you)and it should have some challenge in this shoot for me. Figure out what that might be.

Sometimes the challenge may be to take the AC and and spotter and make them work for you and understand what you need. Maybe the shots are uncreative but you get them done well and efficiently with a minimally good situation but you learned something. Sometimes finding your voice on shoots is learning enough.

Also you may just learn that in real life set ups your cases are organized all wrong. It can be as simple as that.

6) Lastly, your best bets for jobs are the jobs the other ops in the area will give you. Let them know you want them and take them to coffee to talk about work. Your other best bet for jobs are your current clients.

Figure out how to get in on their jobs in some way. They are already professionals, get them to include you and you can not only provide a service but make a continued relationship stronger. Example; They're shooting a commercial, offer to show up and shoot a behind the scenes for either not much or some other deal. Offer to do a couple of shots on their next industrial, not a grand thing maybe a short couple of things. Maybe you'r a PA/something on that job already?

Good luck

JA
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#11 Tom Daigon

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 11:54 AM

Janice, thanks for expanding on the previous helpful comments. After a brief hiatus due to knee issues (resolved) I return to daily practice with renewed enthusiasm and motivation. My challenges seems to include: very slow production activity in the Vegas market for projects that suit my current abilities and limitations (no remote focus or puller or transmitter and very limited general experience), a local college market that is unresponsive to my contribution of steadicam for their advanced students and a certain hesitation to jump into anything that comes along due to the desire not to screw up on major productions or get hurt with minor (amateur) productions. My goal was always to augment my 30 years of editing (www.hdshotsandcuts.com) with occasional steadicam work for the facility I worked for 9 years (until I was layed off a year ago and they are close to shutting their door). I will take full responsibility for my failure or success with this new love of mine...Im just trying to get a toe hold and direction at this point. Your suggestions are appreciated.
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#12 Kevin Andrews SOC

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 12:09 PM

My two cents from my experience...


Stay away from Craigslist completely. Those people will find you if you are properly advertised and marketed. Better for them to come to you, mentally and negotiation wise.

Stay away from people in their 20's throwing around words like DP, Film, Feature, etc. They are dreamers living in their cars.

and finally...Run a Business first, Operate Steadicam second.
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#13 Nicholas Davidoff

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 10:00 PM

Are you guys RETARDED? Advertising "pro bono" work on craigslist, and you guys are actually seriously discussing this? Shame. Our industry is officially in the shitter thanks to this crap.

Blair, by advertising free (or super cheap) steadicam services you'd be screwing all of your fellow operators and making lots of enemies while you're at it. Do some proper research on this forum, read all the threads about rates and business practices. Craigslist is a for the most part, a big joke and it's no way to make a living. I once put a fake ad on craigslist for a cheap steadicam op and got like fifty replies, so keep in mind you've got alot of competition out there. Think twice about dumping your life savings into a rig. The industry right now is bursting at the seems with unemployed hacks and wannabes. My advice is to make sure you have something to fall back on because steadicam wont pay the rent for quite a while. Sorry to be the buzzkill, but it pisses me off to read this idiotic discussions. Happy flying!
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#14 Sydney Seeber

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 10:36 PM

Are you guys all RETARDED? Advertising "pro bono" work on craigslist, and you guys are actually seriously discussing this? Shame.

I believe more than one of us recommended against Craigslist. I don't know about the other guys, but when I said "Free", I'm referring to the fact that most people who work in the entertainment industry have a group of friends who they work with from time to time and like to make side projects. I believe that there are other limited specific instances where working pro bono is allowed as well... I do not primarily make a living off of Steadicam, I do however work in the industry. I've directed, edited, photographed, created GFX, done all sorts of things for free... All for a very good reason. Maybe it was a PSA for an organization I believed in but they had no budget, maybe I owed a friend a favor, there are limited circumstances where it's allowed... I have never, however, worked pro bono for random people or for anyone who had a chance of making a profit off of my abilities.
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#15 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 01:01 AM

Here is my 'reel' - no a lot of it is not steadicam its my operators reel - Im not there to have a steadi reel yet

Ive gone in a couple of years from nothing to that,

I started off filming my mates for practice,

I then moved to phoning a 'model' with a nice car who I had worked with in the past - the car sequence

I also filmed a couple of people (clients) I had with before doing stills

Then I did a no money indy flick (craiglist style) - the director had to meet me in person before I agreed which involved four hours in the car for him

(a good way of checking him out?)

There are a few seconds of corporate work that have come too as I have stepped on to the low end of 'paid'

I have conceived directed it all my self and generally not had a crew at all, just a driver on the car to car

Mainly I have used numbers in my book from my previous life (stills photographer) - can you not do the same ?

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 11 October 2010 - 01:06 AM.

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