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Working as a Steadicam op in London

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#1 Peter Ford

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:36 AM

Hi all,

I've been a cameraman for as long as I can remember now, and have been lucky enough to work for one production company where I did a lot of steadicam work for them over a 5 year period. It was with a flyer, but I got exceptionally good, and I practiced almost daily, and got to steadicam on a variety of projects.

I'm now in an employed position doing news style camerawork, which is quite low payed and not really challenging enough.

I was thinking back to when I've enjoyed work the most, and it's been the days I've worked as a steadicam op- they've also been the most challenging, the most hard work, and the most physically demaning, but overall increbilby rewarding.

The last shoot I worked on as a steadicam op, was about 6 months ago.- a 1 day music video shoot. I think we shot in 6 locations across london, very short on time, but it was an increbily rewarding day, working with the director and choregraphing, in some places some quite techincally difficult shots.

So i've started wondering if steadicaming is where my career should go. But I obviously don't want to spend a huge wadge on gear, and not get much work.

After a bit of advice really, from London based Ops - whats the market like? Is there room for another op?

My thoughts were to try and find a 2nd hand flyer LE or similar small to mid sized rig, and start and start with the corporate end of things, then over a few years build up some money, experience and contacts, and eventually get a larger rig and work into the broadcast market?

Is there a better way I can go about being an Op? I'd love to work as an assistant for a talented op for a few years, to 'learn from a master', but i fear I wouldnt earn enough.

How did you guys get started? Any advice would be great- many thanks!
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#2 John E Fry

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:25 AM

Hi Peter,

(I went to school with an excellet violinist once called Peter Ford, I guess that's not you though!)

I posted this elsewhere but I think it's just as relevant to you, with this addendum: There are many cameramen in the UK where there once were few, as you know, and they all manage to just about scratch a living together.
Steadicam Operators are much rarer but with the introduction of the smaller rigs costs for using Steadicam are coming down and more & more productions on all levels are using them. As such I think there will always be room for new operators and we all wish you well in your new career! But before you invest in any kit, you must invest in yourself first...

I always look a the 'what to buy' posts with a little scepticism due to my own experience, because basically, Steadicam Operating is the same skill whatever size rig you fly. Ergo, I would reccommend work on yourself rather than spending time contemplating all the various hardware out there. Buying a rig yes, is a big descision but it can only be made once you have really invested the time in yourself, (by hiring or borrowing a rig as you very sensibly are doing) and explored all the possibilities of where you can or are likely to go with your operating. You may find you simply don't operate often enough to make it really worth buying your own rig at all, or you might find that once you get known as an operator all your clients want to shoot with heavier cameras that need a different Steadicam anyway.

Either way I would suggest assisting an established operator, then borrowing a friends rig or hiring one of the little ones for practice, and concentrate on building up your experience and reputation with that until you are really sure what you are capable of, what you want to be doing with your Steadicam career, and particularly what cameras most of your potential hirers are or will be using if & when they hire you. Only then is it worth, I think, buying your own rig, otherwise you could be stuck in the position that many others have been in which is having bought a rig they're getting no work for it, either because you are not getting enough Steadicam jobs or because those you are getting need a different rig.

Anyone think I'm way off the mark here? (who AREN'T selling a rig!)
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