Hello all, I am a steadicam operator who is still somewhat fresh to Los Angeles with a steadicam flyer LE. So far things have been a little slow but I am getting there.
The one thing that seems to drag me down into the mud over and over again is follow focus issues. I have lost more jobs than I can count because I simply can't afford to just go out and buy one. I took a minimum wage job at a studio to subsidize my income until the steadicam can provide at least minimum wage earnings. I've tried setting up my rate so that I can rent one for each shoot out of pocket, but since I cannot consistently have one handy it shows in my reel, who in turn will turn me down.
Does anyone have any sort of advice on the matter? This literally eats at me every single day, sometimes makes me depressed about the whole issue. I'm not sure what else I can do at this point, but I love steadicamming way too much so I have no intention of ever giving up. I've considered taking out a loan, but I'm afraid if things go sour I wouldn't be able to pay off the loan without starving.
Firstly, if your reel has obviously problems that even you aren't happy with, I'd take it down. I think it's better to have no advertising than bad advertising. Secondly, if you truly are losing countless jobs because you don't have a follow focus, then can you really afford NOT to have one? It could've been paid off by now, or at least very close.
Very few of us were ever able to outright buy our first rigs. It's expensive gear. Loans are just the way to go. You might have to have a few combined sources. Banks. Family. Friends. Your local friendly Italian American sanitation company owner. Nobody likes to be in debt, but if it's truly what you want to do, unless you have an elderly relative that's about to leave you a bunch of cash, you might have to bite the bullet. I suppose you could do as you're doing and slowly save up. That might take a long time though. If you're truly in it for the long haul, a loan really isn't the worst thing. The gear will be its own collateral. If you buy a good used kit, it will hold its value pretty well in case everything does go tits up for you and you have to sell it all.
I'm not one to close myself off from options, and loans were never out of my mind. Just a scary thought considering the times and my current finances. Anyone have any ideas of best systems to start with? Also I might as well post my reel for thoughts or suggestions.
I did have this idea already, but once people find out that I rent things can get a little off. Perhaps I'll try being more adament and straightforward about it. Great minds think alike, assuming both of our minds are great. Thank you for the advice.
You call the operator who will rent it to you and tell him/her you have a hold for a job and you will solidify the hold to a "for sure rental" a few days before the job. If the operator gets a job and cannot rent it to you, they will call you right away hopefully, so you can reach out to your other resource for a FF unit... And know this... If you go do your job, and you don't get paid, that's not the fault of the operator who rented you his/her FF unit, you still have to pay them.( just to be clear).
Get to know a few operators near you who have more than one BFD, or other FF unit. Contact Jim at Bartech Engineering so he can show you the BFD system, better yet, Make absolutely sure you go to the Steadicam Expo at Film tools this coming weekend. There you'll meet dozens of Steadicam ops, there will be a swap meet, Most every manufacturer will be there, Look for other jobs out there on your days off, PA's, catering assistant, etc,, anything to scrape together the cash to get a single channel system and a motor, A single channel BFD and Analog motor sells for about 3500-4000 today in the used market.
Hussle!, and you'll get what you need. Hopefully..In a years time you'll read your own post in this topic and laugh at how worried you were, while you look at your full size rig next to you in it's case.!!
Now, I'm not making fun of Matthew. Exact opposite, actually. He is not worrying about it, so why should I (or his clients)? He is putting himself out there for the world to see and going for it. I suggest you do the same. Minimum wage and Steadicam have no business being in the same sentence. Seriously, never charge what you could afford to pay someone else. You should double your rates and tell people "no" some times. Charge enough to sub-rent a FF. Or, take a loan and buy one. If you are not willing to believe in yourself or take a gamble on yourself, why should anyone else?
A few years ago, I called a talented young operator in my market out for giving himself away for too little. A year later, he called me back and thanked me for the advice, explaining that he'd stuck to his guns on rate and how he had he never worked so much.
first, you own a Flyer, with this in mind I suspect you're on a budget, so buying a real serious FF like a Preston or C-motion is not likely. Buying a BFD is most likely your best choice. But it will set you back a few thousand.
If this is not a realistic option for you, rentals are the way to go. It will give you a disadvantage when it comes to jobs with a short time limit on them. If they call you on a Monday and want you for Wednesday, things can be a bit stressful.
I would not be afraid to say you have a rental FF. The focus puller and DP will see your rig, and know you don't have the most expensive rig in town anyways. So they'll know you're on a budget. Ask the production if they have a wireless FF themselves. If they don't, you say you need an hour to answer them. Just say you have to make sure you're available that day. In this hour call rental houses and other ops and see if you can get a FF for rent. Then charge the production company for the FF alongside your steadicam services.
I do this all the time. I used to own a Bartech, but the focus pullers in my market wanted a Preston or a C-motion or similar. So I sold it. I will not be buying a FF in the near future, as my market isn't big enough to justify investing $12k + in a FF. (About half my income is Steadicam, rest as operator or DP) So I use either a C-motion rental or a Preston rental. I know I show up on set with a kick ass system and the focus puller is happy.
If you do go for a rental, perhaps you should invest some money on power cables for powering the FF motor.
Hi, I own a Zephyr with wireless video but no FF. what I do with productions for now is that I mention the production with my needs including a FF (light matte box, ...) and letting them know that I can get one from some operator friends or try can choose to rent one. Last two jobs I did, they both decided to rent one for the whole shoot web the dais without Steadicam. Solved. Haven't lost a job because of a lack of ff. on another hand I am planning on getting one within the next few months as I just want to come and know all my personal gear. Owning a ff to me will be to facilitate my life more than making money on it.
Mant jobs also involve the ability to wirelessly adjust iris in addition to focus. On my last job the DP had me fly an LED obie light which I had to hook a lens motor to so he could wirelessly dim the light on the fly. Start selling your blood and accrue some $.