I am new to this arena. I just want to establish that. I tend to ask a lot of questions, sometimes annoying questions about obvious things. These questions may seem obvious to a seasoned operator but this is how I learn, by asking dumb questions.
Like this: How does an unestablished operator become a better operator? I thought this meant purchasing a smaller, affordable rig like a Pilot or Scout to practice with? I don't mean to purchase such a rig and then go directly to work on big shows. But that is what it seems like. This is a professional's forum and I appreciate being welcome to interact with all of the seasoned pros in this wonderful community. But how am I supposed to learn from you without asking obvious questions?
To be taken seriously and not damage my fragile reputation, do I need to take out a loan from the bank and spend $30K - $50K on a real rig like the Ultra 2 or MK1?? Even though I have no experience whatsoever? That is the vibe I seem to be getting. When I mention the Pilot or Zephyr, if I sound like an amateur, it is because I am just that. I am just getting started on union shows as a grip trying to make a living and support my daughter. The Steadicam dream is very real for me but I am a little confused about how to approach these matters without seeming amateurish?
Yes, I plan on taking a workshop. Yes, I know this is professional gear and the gear is a tool in which we use to perform a craft, so it must be the right tool. But I have to start somewhere, right?
I have been reading a lot of posts for about a month now, and most of the what I am reading is buy a real rig, even though you have no experience operating. So I am supposed to invest $30K - $50K on a tool of which I have no experience to even be taken seriously on this forum?
I am just trying to get to know you all better. Please forgive me for asking dumb questions. This is how I learn from you.
Ask all the questions you can. Don't be intimidated by the more seasoned operators, they were once inexperienced too and asked just as many "dumb" questions. A workshop is a must, and I would consider that as a first step so you can get your hands on a variety of different types of rigs. As for the rig size, don't worry about it. Get a Zephyr or a Scout and get good at it. If you can nail down good operating and solid horizons on a small rig, you'll be amazed how "easy" it will be to get shots with a bigger, heavier rig. Basically, listen to Janice.
I cite no evidence for this, so if I am wrong I am wrong: I think you're maybe focusing on a minority of voices seen here on the forum, or even misinterpreting them. My experience on this forum over the last 8 years has shown me that the general overall feeling about starting out is as below.
Buy The Steadicam Operator's Handbook and read it cover to cover
Take a workshop
If you are still interested buy a rig
If you can only afford a small rig, get a small rig and start saving for a bigger rig
If you can afford a USED big rig (NOTE: often not much more than a new small rig) or are close to affording one, buy a USED big rig as it will be more valuable to you in the long run than a new small rig. You're likely to buy a used big rig eventually, it'll be useful now if you can swing it.
If you are looking at knock-offs, stop looking at knock-offs and save money for a better rig.
Once you have a rig, of any kind, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and then PRACTICE more. REPEAT.
Try out student shoots over time, you can get experience and reel footage without charging much, good deal for you and good deal for them.
MEET PEOPLE - Other operators, DPs, ACs, Producers. Being a Grip is a great way to do this, so is a workshop, this forum is a way... there are more ways.
And much agreed with Janice - Be the op everyone likes spending 15 hours a day with. That's how you get hired back.
If you really want to, go grab that big loan and buy the expensive shiny new gear, but I'm fairly positive the vast majority of ops here will support the idea that you do not need to do that until you are a working successful operator and feel that the upgrade is more valuable to you than any other way you can spend that money (I hear kids are expensive)
Thank you all for your advice and support! I appreciate all the feedback. I had considered getting a loan for a bigger rig, but I believe I could swing for a Scout or a Zephyr, to "get practice". The Tiffen workshop this fall is $3,500. That's the Premium workshop with all the big rigs and with Garrett, Chris, and Jerry. Sounds awesome and I know it would be a life changing experience. $3,500 is money I do not have. Well, it is possible to come up with that money, but that would make it that much harder to purchase a "starter rig".
I'm clearly not trying to be mean here and I'm trying to point out what you and many others keep trying to go around.
There is a price of admission to any job that has power, income and/or fame.
Working at minimum wage takes no effort which is why the pay is low.
You are lamenting the high cost of everything and we all did too.
The effort to work your way up is part of earning your way in. To give up because it's too hard or you don't have the money is what EVERY job has. You want to be a banker? Will you put up with the years of work to get there?
Over the decades a few ops had 80k dumped on them and almost without exception they fail in six months mostly because getting there was too easy. Now they tried to get work and it was "too hard" and zing they're gone from the business.
If you're serious figure out how to do it.
Did u get to be a grip on a show as your first job? No you worked at it.
Thank you for your advice. I realize that everyone must start somewhere and you have to invest time, hard work, and money to make something of yourself in this business. I realize there are options I cannot dismiss. I am thinking of asking my brother for a small loan. And I am 100% serious about this. I suppose that is a testament that can only be proven over the course of time.
I don't recall ever talking about giving up. I am a light hearted, easy going guy, but I take my job and Steadicam operating in this industry very seriously.
I got on this site to ask for help and advice on any topics involving Steadicam. The more I try to inquire the more I think I should just stop asking and just do something. Actions speak louder than words. I get mixed messages, or at least that's how I interpret them. Some say, start off small there's no point in buying a big rig if you don't have skill and clients yet. Others say you will look like a joke and will never be taken seriously unless you have a big rig. Others say, you aren't willing to buy a big rig then you have no business being on this forum. And some say, forget everything we have to say and just figure it out for yourself.
Thank you all for your advice and support. I suppose it will take time to prove to people how serious I am. I am serious and this is what I want to do.
I can probably swing for the Zephyr or Actioncam's RebelPro? I am talking about $10-$12K.
Sure, I wish I could afford an Ultra2 or Clipper or even Archer. But I don't think I am ready for that yet.
Right now, I want a substantial rig, but more importantly, I just want a rig period, so I can start flying.\
I am a practical learner. Yes, I already own the Operator's handbook and have read it about 50 times. Yeah, there is a workshop in Whitesburg, GA for about $3,500. And I know there are other alternative, more affordable workshops out there. But I want to own a decent rig and start flying as soon as possible.
$12,000 could get you a used big rig (eg. master series). If you are likely to work on student films/low budget promos that use heavier cameras its worth it. I've discovered that you need to learn to nurse an older big rig though, whereas a Zephyr would need less attention I imagine.