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#1 Christopher T. Paul- SOC

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 06:25 PM

Hey All,

Wondering if anyone would like to chime in with their experiences with Steadicam agents? Are there any who deal exclusively with Steadi Ops, or are they mostly DP agents who will also take us as clients? Are there any based in NY, or are they all in LA?

Does anyone have anyone they recommend? What is their cut? What is a typical deal with them involve?


Thanks in advance, and sorry if this is redundant inflammation, but I haven't seen this addressed recently.

Cheers.

CP
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#2 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 10:49 PM

Wondering if anyone would like to chime in with their experiences with Steadicam agents?  Are there any who deal exclusively with Steadi Ops, or are they mostly DP agents who will also take us as clients?  Are there any based in NY, or are they all in LA? 

Does anyone have anyone they recommend?  What is their cut?  What is a typical deal with them involve?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


First thing that any agent is going to ask is what is your experience and to see a reel.
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#3 Christopher T. Paul- SOC

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 09:54 AM

Ummm... yeah Eric, thanks.

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I was hoping that folks might chime in with agents whom they liked or had heard good things about.

My apologies, however, for posting this to the "Sleds" category- that was unfortunate, and I don't know how to fix it.
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#4 WillArnot

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 01:03 PM

Hey Chris,

Hope Greg sorted that plate out for you.

Agents. It's a good one. I think the first myth to dispell is that they will get you lots of work. Agents will not establish you all of a sudden with an illustrious career. They are only human, and you are probably not their only client. It they are good they will actively scan the work horizon for projects going into pre-production, and submit your resume.... probably along with several of their other clients.

For the most part 90% of my work comes from Directors, DP's, camera assistants, and other Operators who want me on their job.

When looking for an agent, ask for their list of clients. Whose resume are they going to be submitting along with yours? Sometimes this can work against you. Now the company is receiving 2 or 3 resumes instead of just yours.

Like I said they are human, and it is a business for them. It is in their interest to have any one of their clients on the job. So it is important to have a dialogue with your agent so you can say, "hey listen, this is my client, my job, I don't want you bombarding these people with other resumes."

On the flip side, if a company comes asking for someone and they are booked on something else, your agent says, "well he/she isn't available, but this guy is." And now you have a chance to establish a new client.

The long and the short of it is that your reputation and ultimately your political and operating skills will always be what do the talking.

Generally an Agent gets 10% of your GROSS earnings (ie. before taxes), minus meal penalties and per diem. This does not include any kit rental. Your gear is your investment and you pull in all the proceeds from that. Thus, an agent will fight hard to get you a higher operating rate and won't be quite as desperate to make sure you get your kit rental.

Having said that, the monetary gains that an agent usually brings usually more than pay for their 10%. I came to the sad realization that contrary to my expectations, the bigger the movie, and the bigger the budget, the more difficult and stingier the producers become. The smaller movies are usually more grateful for your services and thus willing to pay the rate, or at least more gracious when they really can't! Therefore it probably isn't worth looking for an agent until you are managing a certain volume of work. Then they can simplify your life by keeping track of your booking schedule, and getting your resume/reel to people when you are busy working.

The net effect of having an Agent therefore boils down to Political gains. You can now stay out of the negotiating process and remain "the artist" and show up on set with a smile on your face knowing that you probably did everything in your power to get the most possible out of the scum-sucking producer!

You can now pow-wow with your agent and create a game plan on how to approach every job negotiation. You now use THEIR political negotiating skills to work for you. Remember: you are a camera operator, the producers are Professional negotiators, they are highly skilled in getting you for as little as possible.

In this light also remember that an agent represents you. So you don't really want an Agent who always plays hardball and hangs up on the producer if they aren't willing to pay the stated rate. You also don't want a panzy-ass who is going to cave in and sell you out for a low rate. You can do that yourself and not lose 10% of your operating rate.

So you need to interview the agent. Find out what they are like, get a feel for who they are as a person. You will be talking with them often and need to be sure you can be open with them, and vice versa. It should not really matter where the agent is located as long as they are well connected and have their ear to the ground. ie one would expect they have a subscription to the Hollywood Reporter - the weekly magazine of what's going into production - for starters.

There are a couple of agents who are strictly Steadicam agents. Jill Friedman reps Larry and Jim McConkey, and Andy Casey. Russell Todd reps me and Stephen Consentino on the East coast and about 20 others on the West coast. Wendy Schneider I believe is also a good person and is not just steadicam operators. I think there are some new Agents sprouting up these days, but it probably is wise to look for someone with a track record since they will have relationships with many producers already. You can look in the NYPG or the 411 guides. Alot of the agents advertise in there.

Hope this helps.

Will
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#5 Christopher T. Paul- SOC

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 05:04 PM

Hey Will,

Yeah, you pretty much covered all of the bases there, thanks a lot for taking the time to get back to me. I'm just finishing up the reel, and hoping to shop it around in February.

Hope that you're busy and well, (how's the new vest? I think I'll splurge this year and get one!),

Thanks again,

Chris
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#6 Matt Burton

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 07:02 PM

Hey Will,

Yeah, you pretty much covered all of the bases there, thanks a lot for taking the time to get back to me.  I'm just finishing up the reel, and hoping to shop it around in February.

Hope that you're busy and well, (how's the new vest?  I think I'll splurge this year and get one!),

Thanks again,

Chris

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Just a quick idea for ya!

If you don't mind doing alot of work and have good blaggin skills. Dont be afriad of being your own agent. If you got a good reel then it will take you further than u might think.
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#7 bobgilles

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 10:03 PM

I have ended up working with the same two directors for the last 10 years. I have never even thought of getting an agent.
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#8 Christopher T. Paul- SOC

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Posted 02 February 2005 - 01:00 PM

Hey Bob,

How great for you that you found two directors who remain that loyal. Indeed, I have clients that go back 8 or 9 years as well, but I am a bit nervous keeping all of my eggs in one basket. I started out working as an AC in a table-top motion control company in NYC, and it was a great experience, but upon leaving 3 or so years later, I discovered that I only knew one or two staff producers, one or two directors, and only one or two DP's. After three plus years in the business I had to then start building up my client base all over again. (This was back in the 80's). My approach since then is to of course make your repeat clients as happy as possible, but also to get your name out there far and wide, and operate from the broadest client base as possible.

Getting my reel to folks who wouldn't otherwise see it is one of the goals behind getting an agent.

It may be naive, but that was my thinking.

Thanks for your response!

Chris
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#9 WillArnot

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Posted 02 February 2005 - 03:35 PM

I concur with your clientele base point Chris. True dat. Having been asked this question about agents before, I thought it important to dispell the myth of automatic employment.

Also w/ regard to Bob, good on ya mate, I hope those two never stop working, that is a sweet deal.

It reminded me however of a conversation I had with the producer Mac Brown (Conspiracy Theory, The Interpreter) in the early '90s when I was experiencing great success in the indie film boom in NYC. I was contemplating joining the Union and wasn't sure at the time if it was the right thing to do.

Mac had the 'Pond' analogy for me. Big fish in a little pond, or little fish in a big pond. I went for the latter with the advice that the little fish inevitably grows up to be a big fish!

A simplistic version to be sure and not always that easy. But in trying to make people aware of potentially misguided intentions or expectations in seeking an Agent I perhaps didn't make clear the fantastic benefits it has brought into my career.

Harking back to my "volume of work" comment it took an enormous load of footwork and networking off my back. This has given me unforseen peace of mind that things are always percolating on the work front even if I'm away on vacation, working nights and unable to do business in the day, or otherwise occupied. This enables me to take care of other personal business pursuits that I was never able to before. Producers appreciate that they can always get a quick answer if they can't reach me directly. And above all, having an agent certainly carries a professional weight. There is a reason it feels good to say "you can talk to my agent about that". It is quite hard getting one. As much as you must interview them, you are certainly under the microscope as well, as far as you being worthwhile as a client. Yet the benefits are undeniable. An experienced agent will have a client base that far exceeds any that just one individual may have. Producers, Directors and DP's often cold call my Agent Russell b/c they know he reps some of the best. They say 'we need someone good, who do you have?' So he sends them a couple of resumes based on their needs. (some guys just do commercials, others only want music vids, some want only features and commercials etc) I have forged a couple of fantastic repeat clients in this manner.

I should also mention that having an agent in no way makes you less approachable. I will often have all the regular conversations w/ a Producer, but then pass the buck when they ask me about rates.... "Oh Russell can tell you all about that stuff, let me know how you would like to proceed when you have spoken with him, and it was good talking to you. Have a nice day." I then promptly speed dial Russell and talk strategy with him. "Here is what I know, let me know what he says."

Anyway, to all their own. Good luck Chris.

Will
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#10 thomas-english

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 11:27 PM

the passing buck when discussing rates is the main reason i see for an agent. enabling you to play nice guy/bad guy, u remain the nice guy. and can keep a "friend" (producer)

In the states u say "This does not include any kit rental. Your gear is your investment and you pull in all the proceeds from that. Thus, an agent will fight hard to get you a higher operating rate and won't be quite as desperate to make sure you get your kit rental.
"

does this apply in europe? My present agent/diary service is charging me on kit as well. She is very good though and does offer a better subscription deal.

I liked her because she has loads of DP s but i am the only steadicam

Can anyone recomend any other UK/european agents? rather than all the diary services .
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#11 WillArnot

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 03:33 PM

Hey Thomas,

Why don't you ask your agent/diary service if it would be OK to invoice her at the end of each year for the cost of depreciation of the gear. Or if she is interested in sharing the cost of any new kit you buy. New kit means you can offer better service and thus makes you a more valuable client. If she is going to charge you 10% for your kit rental, she should shoulder 10% of what you personally have to invest to make that kit available. I'm assuming she also helps on the repair and maintenance costs of your gear, since she is collecting a % of the rental.

I would look into some contract changes if I were you. Nice that your agent didn't have to invest the value of a small house, yet still gets to collect on your investment. Watch she doesn't ask for a piece of your kid's college fund next!

OK, I'll stop.

Will
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#12 Mitch Gross

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 06:13 PM

If you get mileage allowance for driving your car to location does she get 10% of that as well? A kit is an expense related to goods, not a service. It is illegal (at least in the States) to attach a management/booking fee to an expense.
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#13 thomas-english

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 12:19 AM

agreed, i think i will be organising a new deal with her when i get back. My present advantages with her is that;

she only charges me on jobs she gets in.

Its 18%! but only on the first job, then i get a new client and she gets nothing from then on.

She s very new. So with that comes a mass of enthusiasm and she really has pushed me for loads of work which has kick started my fledgling career (owner/op of big rig for just under 2yrs, previous i had "toy" rig), she really does check every industry magazine and pushes really hard.

At present I am leaving it at that, because i like the way she makes so much money from every job she gets in, it spurres her on to get more! and i get loads of good new clients.

She also doesn t mind if i register with other people and do what i want with my own work.

Its an odd relationship, but thats the way i have them.... my relationships... odd,

for now i don t want to divulge who she is because like i say, im the only steadicam op. but ive already put a few top DP s i work with with her.... and thats paying me back too.

like Will says...... politics
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#14 Jeff Muhlstock SOC

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 09:47 AM

Interesting input guys. I just thought I would chime in as a 15 year operator who has never taken on an Agent. Grant it, I shoot a majority of TV/video/HD work, but I have my fair share of comercials and features. I supose my Feature work might increase with the help of an agent. This is something I have always thought about, but never resolved. I guess my point is, I am very happy with my work volume and personal negotiations. I should add, I havent sent out a reel in about 3 years. As Will points out, 90% or for me about 98% of my work is repeat, and word of mouth. Either way you go on this subject, time is on your side. Its all about building a carreer, good work, good relationships, reliability, and good fun.

good luck.

Jeff
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#15 Matias Mesa

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 08:13 PM

I'm trying to find out how many steadicam Operators in the US have agents. Anyone out there want to expose ther POV on this matter, is it worth it? is it convenient? Will producers want to deal with you personally?

Thanks to all for the info.

Matias Mesa
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