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Qualities of your personality good for this business


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#1 Janice Arthur

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:46 PM

Hi all;

I've spent lots of time over the years looking at what makes a great AC or Operator or DP and while I don't profess to have any concrete answers I am always facinated by those who do well and those who disappear into another field.

We've all seen the bully; and the submissive; and the dominants; the egos. The big qualities are easy to spot its the subtler ones that will get you. Whether they're your qualities or they are the DP on the job you're on you now have to deal with them.

I know my shortcomings, on personality traits for this business, esp early on. (Now I'm smarter in a thousand ways but I still do some of them.) I'll start with me, I was too eager too help and I shouldn't have been. I was too nice, I was should have just waited til asked. I worried about things that I shouldn't have and on and on. Don't worry my self-esteem is just fine.

I'm not being hard on myself I'm just talking about stuff. This is seldom the area that anyone addresses in this busines and its as important as determination. This is the stuff that we learn being on the sets everyday and its the learning to be cool on the set.

This is part of what every workshop is, or should be, imparting to you. How to deal with the day to day, moment to moment stresses and not show it or be able to integrate into the job. First I'll tell you how I deal with this, its rituals; I do everything the same way every shoot, I unload the same way; I set up the same way; I introduce myself the same way. Heck I even dress in similar ways. It takes variables out and I get in a rhythm. Its comforting, you're not randomly running around looking and being flustered which sends all kinds of messages. People pick up on this. As they told me you want to look like you've done it a hundred times.

Charles Papert touched on the passive-aggressiveness of this business a week or so back and I'm not sure how to address that one but it is clearly a part of this.

I'll tell you my strengths; reading the situations throughout the day; most of the time knowing when to challenge an AC (but that took lots of learning); mimic, I'm good at mirroring their tone. They want understanding of the shot; maybe its a baby sleeping and you have to circle around him/her. They're quiet, so I'm quiet.

On-on.

It would be nice to hear others talk about their best qualities and also about how we've all had to learn to stifle a quality in us that doesn't work. I know I have to urge to help too much, I have to make sure I don't and I don't over step my position.

Janice
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#2 Jameson Johnson

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 08:36 AM

This is a great post topic. I'd be very interested to see what gets written about. I'm still trying to find my groove in this business, so I can't yet claim to know what I do that works and doesn't. I would very much like to learn from others.

Now to open that can - I'm very interested to hear what Eric would say here. Eric is very outspoken about, well, everything. Clearly he's had a very long-lasting career.
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#3 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 11:59 PM

I had a director tell a DP I was working with recently to hire me for their next shoot but that he didn't believe I was a Steadicam operator. Apparently I don't complain enough. Guess I need to work on that.
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#4 Martin Stacey

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 12:20 AM

I had a director tell a DP I was working with recently to hire me for their next shoot but that he didn't believe I was a Steadicam operator. Apparently I don't complain enough. Guess I need to work on that.


I ran into that one recently, was doing the human tripod act in a full AR setup while the DP and director discussed an issue and the AC asked why I wasnt getting pissed off. Apparently the last operator they had thrown his vest at the AD after being asked to do something similar. Guess that is why I was called :-)
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#5 Charles Papert

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 09:59 PM

Meh. You guys are being paid to operate the rig, not stand around in it. Any director or DP or especially AD that expects otherwise and makes a thing out of it is missing the point. Sure, it happens, but I always found that having a quiet conversation with the right parties can fix it most of the time. More than a few AD's insisted that the only way to get the set to settle in before a take was to call "camera up", but then I'd be left standing around while a mike was fixed or a last note was imparted. I used to explain that instead, I would be standing at the dock, post in gimbal, rig ready to be pulled out and when I heard "roll camera" I'd pull it off. My promise was that if we were ever held up by that procedure, we'd address it. But we weren't. There's a difference between complaining and working smart. Saving energy for the take is smart.
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#6 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 11:10 PM

What Charles says... Works like a charm.
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#7 Martin Stacey

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 11:50 PM

Couldn't agree with you more Charles. This was a difficult situation and very much a one off during the day. We were shooting inside a very confined space and getting to my stand would have taken more time than it was worth. My point is sometimes a positive attitude and knowing when to pick your battles on set can make a huge difference to tye opinions that the crew develop towards you. The rest of the day the crew couldn't do enough to help me out when I needed something. First impressions last in this industry.
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#8 James Davis

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 12:33 PM

Getting pissed off at anyone in any work situation is just a sign that you are losing control of the situation, I find it best to take control of things by coordinating with the AC or camera trainee etc at the beginning of the day and have them keep the stand/docking station on the magliner nearby, it's only going to make your work better by saving energy where you can and focusing it in on your operating rather than on your "waiting around" skills.
If I can't get to the stand/cart for whatever reason I find it's best just to put the rig in the rest position, pop the chest buckles and suck it up, that's enough of a rest for me a lot of the time unless it's been a particularly taxing day.

Also most professional AD's understand the nature of steadicam, want to make the most of the money they have spent on you and quite a few have actually told me rather forcefully to dock the rig while the DP and Director discuss things as they want to preserve my energy for the shot.
As Charles said if you are dealing with an AD who doesn't understand this I find a very friendly "i'm just going to dock up whilst we iron this out" or "just need to do a quick walk through to check the shot path" or something along those lines shows that although you want to dock the rig for a moment, you want to do it for a productive reason, which puts the situation in a positive context.
Nobody likes a whinger on set and the more focused you are on your job, the better your work will be, the more people will like you, the more professional you appear and the more likely it is you will get a call on the next one.
Martin summed it up perfectly, a positive attitude and respect towards everyone will ensure that you receive the same back from others the majority of the time.
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#9 Janice Arthur

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 06:45 PM

Hi all;

Love to see all this info which gets me excited to hear all the ideas and hard won learning you've all figured out.

Here is one more tangent I want to add to this "good attitude, positive vibe" that we all know makes sense.

I never took food into the mix.

I would routinely "snap" at an AC or kind of get goofy or forget people's names or just kind or react in a funny way.

I never put a solution to my reactions for decades.

Finally, after wanting to punch out a van window because my cell phone wouldn't work I said, Wait this is not me.

I ate something and I was better in 20 steps!!

I, of course, googled it and figured out Hypogycemia. I never felt hungry I never felt it coming on.

Now, I get up in time to eat PROTEIN. I take a PB & J and eat it at 10 am. I get up and eat a real breakfast even if I'm not hungry. I eat protein in the afternoon too!

Bananas, etc. they are not protein. When you are young you power through all these things and lived just fine til lunch but as the jobs got more important and the politics got more intense IT did matter.

So even when you are not hungry have a small amount of protein and then guess what you won't want the sweets and your brain will kick back in.

(As they say, this is a $10. tip; even if you don't use it now file it away for the future.)

Janice

I
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#10 Stefano Ben

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 01:20 PM

Guys, first of all, Great Topic!

I was called for a "3 days short-movie" this summer. Great DP, Great AC, there was only one problem... the Director was a "Crazy" Steadicam Lover. Shooting with Alexa...
Starting in the first morning, finishing in dusk light. I think the Alexa have seen the tripod or handheld setup for about 30minutes in those 3 days. So... 9-10hours per day of Steadicam Shooting. Thanks to my beloved WK and stamina I was able to get every single shot the Director asked! But, at the end of those days... I felt myself tired and tapped, and I said some things to him that maybe, if I had been more quiet I would never said.
In this kind of situations, what would you guys have done???

Best, Steve.
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#11 Twojay Dhillon

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 06:25 PM

Hi all;

Love to see all this info which gets me excited to hear all the ideas and hard won learning you've all figured out.

Here is one more tangent I want to add to this "good attitude, positive vibe" that we all know makes sense.

I never took food into the mix.

I would routinely "snap" at an AC or kind of get goofy or forget people's names or just kind or react in a funny way.

I never put a solution to my reactions for decades.

Finally, after wanting to punch out a van window because my cell phone wouldn't work I said, Wait this is not me.

I ate something and I was better in 20 steps!!

I, of course, googled it and figured out Hypogycemia. I never felt hungry I never felt it coming on.

Now, I get up in time to eat PROTEIN. I take a PB & J and eat it at 10 am. I get up and eat a real breakfast even if I'm not hungry. I eat protein in the afternoon too!

Bananas, etc. they are not protein. When you are young you power through all these things and lived just fine til lunch but as the jobs got more important and the politics got more intense IT did matter.

So even when you are not hungry have a small amount of protein and then guess what you won't want the sweets and your brain will kick back in.

(As they say, this is a $10. tip; even if you don't use it now file it away for the future.)

Janice

I


This is gospel.I noticed that when I would operate and I was in an "Intermittent Fasting" phase, I was more edgy than normal. Then I went back to eating a small protein-rich breakfast (at home, none of that set food) and I was as cool as an Icelandic cucumber.
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#12 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 09:21 PM

Good topic. It took me quite a while to figure out I wasn't god's gift to the set. I was never a dick but I did have WAY more ego than any 3 or 4 good steadicam operators should. A lot of that was learned and fixed just with time in the saddle so to speak. Though I still have to catch myself and 'ratchet it down a notch' from time to time.

I'd site being humble, quiet (so when you do speak it has some weight), easy going, happy, professional (but a bit of humor at the right time sure does help), having a strong work ethic (in 20 years in the business I've been late 2 times, once was because I was in a minor fender bender and once was because of a major accident that stopped traffic in front of me for like an hour). Also, it helps a lot (and this may be obvious) to be frickin awesome and able to compose great shots and technically nail them consistently. It's also a useful trick to be able to read people (actors, directors, dp's) and know how to politic your way around the set.

We also touched on the issue of holding vs docking. I may have a different spin on that one. First I'd say that how much you hold and how much you dock depends greatly on the job. Feature (high budget, low budget), TV, commercial, music video, reality TV, documentary, etc. As a general rule however, I like my stand far away from the set. I pick up the rig when I'm ready and shoulder it until it's time to point it. I understand docking between takes for example but I generally prefer to keep the rig on and stay 'in the shot'. I keep my cart far off set because when I dock, I want to really dock, stretch, eat, drink, pee, switch shoes and get away from the 'heavy breathers', they have a way of harshing my mellow. I'd also say that a decent part of my client base hires me because I just wear the rig, all day, no complaints. I've always been in good shape, I run, climb, fight MMA and I work out at the gym about 5 days a week. With a standard, non 3d, alexa type rig, I can wear it for hours and it doesn't effect my operating one bit. Obviously if I'm running with the rig, doing stairs or something like that, I'll dock more often but I just prefer to keep the rig on. I'd actually argue that unless I have the rig off for more than 5 minutes, it's more work to dock and lift than it is to shoulder and stand. But that's my personal way of looking at it. I wouldn't say it's necessarily right, it's just right for me.
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#13 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 11:30 PM

I felt myself tired and tapped, and I said some things to him that maybe, if I had been more quiet I would never said.
In this kind of situations, what would you guys have done???


Not enough information. If you were doing real Steadicam shots the whole time then you have nothing to complain about. I have done features where I was working on virtually every setup 6 day weeks, 14 hour days for over a month straight. I am sure others have done worse. Now if you were doing steadisticks for no reason(sometimes it actually is the right tool), had talked to them about it repeatedly and they were being dicks about it then you might have had a reason to tell them off. That doesn't mean doing it is a good business decision.

I find setting the rig down when I need to far more productive than complaining about standing around with the rig, etc... Usually no one says anything about it even when I am contradicting the ADs orders(usually when they say things about camera its meant to get other peoples ass in gear, not mine) when the AD does have a problem with me not standing around with the rig this results in a conversation that normally ends in a good solution. That said I find that often when people are dicking around I will pick up the rig before I really need to because it does a good job at getting everyone elses asses in gear and I want to get the shoot day done not stand around and socialize.

~Jess
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#14 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 11:51 AM

I'll way in,
I cannot tell you how many times, more often than not, especially on a new set, I get someone saying to me, "you sure your the Steadicam guy your........
• way too happy
• way too nice
• have no ego
• too willing to help
• having way to much fun
• etc......

Honestly, I don't get it? For all y'all that have that ego and attitude on set , why?, it just takes too much effort! You may be the best operator and possibly the only one on set that can do what you do but there's always someone else that can do it better, so check the ego!

25 years ago I said, if It's not fun, im not doing it! If I ever do something or work with people that aren't fun I just say thank you and move on! Literally I am laughing joking and having fun every single day and never taking anything too serious, come on, we are creating fake reality every day and getting paid to play. Ask anyone who has worked with me will tell you that it's all smiles and fun. Life is too short not to be happy especially 8-15 hours a day with co-workers.

I travel around the world to 24 countries a year and believe me, we have no reason to have an ego , be unpleasant or generally be unhappy on set.

Your living the dream and doing what you love and getting paid to do it, and usually getting paid well to do it. Even if you think it's crap money , we are jaded and still should be thankful.

My words of wisdom to newbies, always have fun and never take others for granted, that way you never have to go to work you get to go play everyday!

=}
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#15 Charles Papert

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 01:05 PM

The complication of what you describe, Rob, is that there are a lot of people out there who don't know how they come off, who probably fancy themselves to be quite the great guy on set and political and all that good stuff when in reality they are viewed by others quite differently. I don't think there are many here who consider themselves to be egotistical assholes, but ask for a show of hands on set and they may be in for a surprise. The problem is that sometimes we need to assert ourselves for reasons that may or may not be understood by others, because they are bringing their own personality quirks to bear on how they view you. One can act exactly the same on two jobs, and being assessed entirely differently by that crew.

I'll be the first to say that I don't expect everyone to love me and think I'm the greatest guy. I can be direct and sarcastic and sometimes abrasive (hello Boston), but I try to do it with humor and if someone doesn't get it, f**k 'em if they don't get the joke. I actually like the peeps I hire to have a little bit of edge, quite honestly I'm a little apprehensive of people who are all folksy and pleasant and never stop smiling because I don't quite trust it, and sometimes it doesn't get the job done quick enough. That may sound surprising but I've seen operators talk to grips like "hey old buddy old pal, I was just wondering if you could possibly rustle me up a lil ol' something so I can get this here actress just a bit higher in my shot--what do you think might do it? Hate to bother you.." blah blah blah. "Can I get a quarter apple please?" works just as well and it might actually arrive before we start rolling.

You never know what a particular DP or director is looking for in the personality of a Steadicam operator. It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You can ultimately only be who and what you are. If you can and want to wear the rig all day long, go right ahead, but all I really care about is what you do with it when it's on your body (but god help you if your last take is floatier than the first even as you've been refusing the dock for appearances sake). One of the things you can regulate is how much you participate to make the shot work better. Some people like to hire operators that are basically walking remote heads/tanks; keep your mouth shut, execute the shots and yes, wear the rig all day. In some cases those are DP's that like to operate the conventional and handheld themselves and would probably do Steadicam if they could. I personally much prefer operators (Steadicam and otherwise) that are have my back while I'm focusing on the big picture, i.e. fixing things in the frame, working with all the other departments, solving problems as they come up etc. This all works as long as our aesthetics happen to dovetail--if not, it's a lot of noise and fuss and I'll probably have to switch the guy into "walking remote head" mode just to get through the day.

I have played a game with myself on the odd occasion, which is that if the me of today hired the me of yesterday as a Steadicam operator, would I be happy with mini-me? Generally the answer would be yes, although there were certain periods where I was something of an arrogant douchebag (so not then), and by the end I was much less proactive (so not then either). Then it's helpful to play the same game but now picturing myself as a producer or director working with me as a DP. You can't please everyone all the time, and it's important to be able to read the personality of whoever you are working for and mold yourself as much as reasonable to satisfy their quirks, but if you can be the person that you would want to hire, you are probably doing pretty well.
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