All excellent questions! I hope you’ll get plenty of answers so we all get the chance of hearing other operators take on these.
*What made you want to be in the film industry?
Since very little I was facinated with photography. My 10 year birthday present was an old soviet Zenith SLR camera. Years past and i felt somewhat limited by static images that a photo camera produced and added an old 8mm camera to my toys. Also i was a huge film buff. İ started the first cinema club at my middle scool. İn high school it was very clear in my head that i wanted to be in this magical business.
*Was steadicam something you aimed for specifically, or did you discover it through work?
Since i starded my professional life in film industry as a camera assistant, i knew someday/somehow i’ll be operating with a steadicam. İmages created by moving the camera via steadicam was magic to me and i prepared myself professionnaly in order to smoothly do the transition from AC to steaciam operator.
*Is owning your own kit the primary entry to the industry for steadicam?
Not at all. Buying a rig is a big decision; financially as well as mentally. As i started i borrowed old model IIIa from my mentor or rented the appopriete rigs for the job at hand. Only after i felt safe about my career and capabilities i decided to buy my own rig. Also, as a starter, only by trying out different hardwares/configurations you’ll be able to know what do you need in order to work in your market.
*How do you find the experience of working with a new crew on each new production?
İt’s a blast! I love working with different people on every job. That is what separetes us from 9to5 people.
Questions about the industry:
* I saw a a few pages from an operators manual and it contained a lot of maths and equations, in terms of balance and similar. Is this something you'd say was vital to know beforehand? Or did you pick it up as you go along?
All that math is there to make you understand the logic behind the things we do. But on the set balancing(either static or dynamic) is done by the feel, not with a calculator. İn one point, you will find yourself banging your head agins the wall in order to understand the dynamic balance math. Then, somehow, you’ll get the logic behind and it wont seem so hard or complicated anymore.
* In terms of body types, ive seen all shapes and sizes operate Steadicam rigs. How large a part of operation do you feel upper body strength is? Some say its crucial, others say it's irrelevent.
Old arms like model III seeked the float point very strongly which made booming up or down a upper body workout. But now most of the high quality arms are very easy to boom up or down. After a long and hard day, my upper body is the only part of my body not tired. Legs and lower back however is another story.
* as a steadicam operator, you appear to be seperated from the other Cam Ops. how does this work in terms of a hierachy? Do you op without the steadicam for the scenes that dont require it?
All depends on the deal you made before hand. The production or the DP will tell you what they need you to do and you either accept or decline. İt’s that simple.
*What are the main differences between working on a short film, and a feature? How does
that change what you need to bring to the crew in terms of skill?
İ think the lenght of the movie you shoot isn’t that relevant. What is relevant is the nature of the job. İs it a professional job or an amateur one. The professional job is simple. Everybody knows what to do and expect everybody around them to do the same. The amateur jobs however are a little chaotic. You may find yourself helping the AD or the grips or the electricians. That is if you want to. Be careful not to step on anybody’s toes by doing their job but also avoid your “help” becoming your “duty”.
*Do you get to "switch off" after a day's shoot, prior to Day 2? Or are you constantly considering the following day and how you will approach it? IE: Do you take your work home with you?
I try to do all my preparations (either technical or artistic or logistic) beforehand. For me, being a little control freak means a goodnight sleep before the workday. But sometimes you just don’t have enough time between getting the call and working. In these instances you do whatever you can and rely on your experiences and back-up hardware to solve anything unforeseen. Panic never helps.