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College ending...heading to LA next spring...


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#1 Patrick Neese

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 12:51 PM

Hey guys, So I took the workshop last summer and since then have had two small video only gigs, my local rental house has a provid. But now school is almost done for me...and I dont have a rig or much hope of jobs here in Austin Texas. There are three operators here...and none of which responded when I tried emailing them.

So do people ever share/rent out there gear to new comers? Also...if I do rent through someone..how am I ever supposed to get my own gear? Just try to save the little thats left after rent car insurance..health insurance etc etc.. I dont have a credit history nor a steady income so a loan is laughable.

The paying gigs I have been able to get here are below what the other operators in the area get, manily do to the projects that approach me. I've tried to get on features here with no hope. My resume is packed since 2000 with TV, FILM/Digital doing PA, Grip, Camerawork, Steadiam, Directing and even co producing.... but until i can get my foot in the door for the hollywood meat grinder :-P None of this seems to matter. Is there anyone or anyway you guys know of to get in under someones wing as a AC or something. Its amazing how much I havn't been taught about the hollywood system by my university. I'm dying to get on a feature and if i have to pay my dues still.... do you like your coffee black?

Thanks guys. I hope this is in the right area... I'm pretty lost...and pretty poor right now..so any advice is welcome....except that one guy that always says... "GO HOME" :-D

Patrick N.
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#2 guillermo nespolo

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 02:23 PM

pacience ..that it is ...and do no t stop trying...
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#3 David Allen Grove

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 03:07 PM

If I were in your shoes, I would get a full time job, work and save as much as you can for at least a couple of years before moving out here.

This place can be a "little" expensive.

But that's just me.
Good luck!
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#4 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 03:21 PM

I'd have to agree.
People don't usually "share or rent" their gear. That's like asking someone if they'll share their Porsche 911 Turbo so you can go to the track and get experience!!!

You can rent gear, but if you have the money to do that ($750 to $1000 per day) you'd have the money to buy. At your level, you won't get jobs that pay anywhere close to that to make the rental payments.

Like many jobs, it's a catch 22 situation.

There's really only a couple ways around it.

1. Like a handful of people, they ask rich daddy and mommy and they buy them a full package. Doesn't seem like that's possible for you though.

2. Like the VAST majority...work your way up the ranks.


Like you pointed out, you are not even out of college yet. At least it seems like you are willing to pay your dues. And, that won't happen in a year or two.
You'll need to find work as a P.A. first, just to get on the set.
Then find yourself a few camera assistants who are willing to show you the ropes.
Then find work as a camera assistant and start saving.
And after a handful of years, you might have enough money to get started with a basic rig.

Keep in mind, there are THOUSANDS of people just like you who move to LA every year asking the same thing, wanting to get their "foot in the door" and are "willing to work for free to get started."

My advice...get to know the guys in your area first. Get experience their first. THEN if you still feel the need, come to LA.

Coming here, with NO contacts, virtually NO experience, and with little to NO knowledge of the Hollywood scene, you'll get lost faster than a toddler dropped off in the middle of the Mall of America.


When I came to LA in 1995, I had been working in the business for 2 years at that point. Had a handful of commercials under my belt, a feature or so, and some TV experience. Some of those crew members were from LA, I made friends with some of them when I was working with them in AZ, and looked them up BEFORE I came to LA, so when I did I was able to get work pretty quickly when I came.

Like said in another post, be PATIENT. Things don't happen overnight in any business, and especially the film business. If so, there'd be 10 times as many wannabe's in an already overcrowded business.

Look up David McGill. He's an operator in Texas, maybe he can give you the names of a person or two who can help you get experience in Texas first, this way you have at least an ice pick before you try to climb Mt. Everest.
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#5 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 04:42 PM

Id second what Michael and David have said. I'd also recommend working up through the ranks if possible, that way you get to play with various cameras and lens control systems. You'll get to watch other Steadicam operators at work and see how they solve certain problems to achieve various shots. You'll get to watch many Dp's at work and see how they interact with Steadicam and what they expect from the tool. If you're smart you'll be able to quietly observe the politics of a film set, especially the interaction between a camera department and a director, and how a steadicam dayplayer or a Camera/steadicam operator works in that enviroment.
Try calling the rental companies in your area and see if they need anybody. Im sure during the summer months when their full time staff are talking holidays they might appreciate a hand humping boxes around: that might be a foot in the door for you.
As Guillermo said, be patient.
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#6 KarloTomic

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:06 PM

Alot of good advice here for you to follow Patrick, you've got to keep in mind that having just finished your schooling it is now time for the real education to take place, it sounds like a cheesy cliche but the same could be said for alot of other great truths. Now, I think most people that are owner/ops now had the desire to own their own rigs from the very start of their careers but realized that the cost meant it would be awhile until it happened, so you do what we all did when we were newbie mofos, you learn your gear, know your cameras inside out, film and video, get your hands on anything and everything that you can, Stephen mentioned trying to get some summer work at your local rental house which is solid advice, if you don't get a paying gig with them but are on good terms with the folks in the camera dept. chances are pretty good that they'll let you practice/play with their toys. You have to go through this learning experience, that's going to entail some low paying cheesy ass gigs, but fom my own experience (and I think most of my colleagues would agree) it's definitely worth it.
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#7 Patrick Neese

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 03:36 AM

Thanks for all the responses. What really sucks about this is all I've touched so far in 4 years of school...is my own equipment...and my school wont let me take more hours in my deptarment without punishing me by dropping other classes..including those i need to graduate. Since I've gotten to college I've signed up for anything and everything I can get my hands on. I dont rent the steadicam, the production company that is hiring me does...and from my understanding most production companies rent the equipment even from owner/ops so that the movie/production companies insurance pays for damages. Thats what they said at the workshop and my producing class anyway.

If I have a fulltime job working in some local TV station operating the stupid VTR or a local production company...no one shoots film here... how do I have time to operate for 10hours on a shoot and money to pay the rent? The only way i know a little about the older panavisions is from a book i picked up and started reading. Even for PA positions for feateurs (sorry its late and I just got done with a shoot I'm dping on...3:15am here) it seems to hard to even get someone to call you back or notice the resume you faxed them.

I've tried reaching the more experienced steadicam ops in Texas before but no one responded. And I tried more than once. If I can get in anywhere, LA, Ontario, where ever, I'll go there. I'm just confussed as to how I'm supposed to get into the scene when I have to work a full time job somewhere else to pay rent...and try to figure out the Hollywood system at the sametime...while i'm trying to save to buy a very expensive rig..I'm a little bit of a cheap guy..and I'm not sure that the price is justified...but that is neither here nor there for a while.
The last film shot here brought there guys in from LA and hired the local yokals for the "other" stuff. I'm trying to be patient but while I'm paying my dues and trying to figure how i would make rent...Its just pretty frustrating..especially since any prior experience I have with any shoot dv or s16 seems to be laughed at and the resume goes in some trash can...arn't there any big wigs that see the system sucks and want to hire me? :-P
Right patients... Patients...
Im calling/stopping by my local production houses tommorow and seeing what type of work I can get and dropping my name and contact info off incase they want a steadicam op. maybe just maybe I'll get some luck and get some low end production work.
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#8 Brad Hruboska

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:57 AM

I have to second the rental house atmosphere. It is a great way to meet the people who you will eventually work for. Crane work, jib work etc etc. Film school does a very poor job of preparing new people for actually working in the film business. i went through my own frustrating growing pains to be sure, and budjets continue to get tighter as drama is scaled back more and more in the television arena. funding and distributing small films continues to be a chore so patieince is a virtue, and attitude it parqamount, you must put all the enthusiasm into the drudge jobs as well as the profile creative jobs to gain the trust of a very distrustful suspicious network of people. Money is always at a premium and the shots have to meet the satifaction of the director and the speed must meet the budjet that the producer can muster.....
Trainee program is a great way to start, I havre a friend who quit a very lucrative position at a rental company doing field work as a computer op for 24 frame playback, and did the starving trainee thing for a year ( at 34 years of age) to learn about how a camera department worked. he was already competent in digital video and high def, and got an opportunity to key a job in south africa for almost a d.P. rate, so it can hppen, but aleays be traininng and don't lock into one thing. steaicam is now a fairly common tool, and the rateds are falling for the manpower and gear in the non union sector, as a result ( supply and demand) so it behooves you to develpoe all your camera skills, cuz you may have to work in video or documentary, or whatever, just keep shootin! Shoot all you can!
I gotta go to work now.
B)
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#9 David Allen Grove

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 12:06 PM

If I have a fulltime job working in some local TV station operating the stupid VTR or a local production company...no one shoots film here... how do I have time to operate for 10hours on a shoot and money to pay the rent?

That's what I did! When I got out of college I worked at a PBS station from 92' to 98'. I did everything from operating camera, online editing, master control, videotape replay on sports events, you name it. I also did some freelance Videotape replay on sports events for sports networks. The pay wasn't bad, but you just sit there for hours and hours in a tv truck. ug... never again (unless things get really bad of course ;) )
I took the workshop in 94' (10 years ago.. guulp) I saved and saved.

In 95', with an excellent credit rating, I took out an SBA loan. I continued to work at the PBS station, shot some steadicam while I was there and shot steadi for other production companies on commercials and corporate videos, etc.. until 98' where I landed a long term steadicam gig. It was for a home improvement show for PBS. The presenting pbs station is based in Chicago (WTTW). The show was called "About your house w/ Bob Yapp" I quite the PBS station in Iowa to work on this show. 81 days of steadicam and camera on this one show. Not to bad for a farm boy. (Ok, I didn't really grow up on a farm but I had relatives that had a farm and visited once in a while. ha)

Just make sure you have enough money.

On a side note: NEVER work for Bob Yapp. He still owes everyone on the crew money including the rental house. I heard just a few weeks ago he claimed personal bankruptcy. One of the investors for the show went after not only his company but after him and the court said Bob was personally liable.
So you can't always hide behind your company!
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#10 guillermo nespolo

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 01:04 PM

editd by my self sorry
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#11 Howard J Smith

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 04:32 PM

Hi Patrick

I totally agree with the other coments made by my counterparts.
I started as a loader -then focus - then op - then steadicam - then Dp.
The one thing I would add is practice your framing, composition and coverage - you do not need a steadicam for this just a DVC camera. Working as a professional steadicam op your operating needs to be as good as the 'A' camera on a Pana/ARRI head whilst running backwards down stairs, last shot of the day in overtime with a rest day to follow!.
Once you are confident with 'normal' operating and shooting a sequence then this is where steadicam becomes fun and can be very rewarding (and sometimes so frustrating)
At the end of the day steadicam is a tool for telling the story and when used correctly it can add so much to a film - (also when used wrongly it is very distracting.) but how ever you shoot - the frame is all that matters.

Good luck with everything - it is tough out there, but don't give up! :D

All the best
Howard
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#12 MikePrevette

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 08:33 PM

"My resume is packed since 2000 with TV, FILM/Digital doing PA, Grip, Camerawork, Steadicam, Directing and even co producing"

So what are you complaining about? You must have made a fortune doing all this work. Your the f-ing renaissance man of film-making, and you must be worth millions.

My point here is that the reason why your resume is failing you, is no one uses a resume first off, and second you come off as a chump to a lot of people who could hire you, because if this work wasn't legit, paying (union or non), work than it's worth exactly that - nothing. It is very valluable stuff for any beginner to do, but think of it only for personal expierience, don't try and use it to get a job. Use it to show cooperation, and passion for your chosen field. No one wants a PA on set who can't shut up about the short he "DP'd" or "Directed" the night before. Keep all this expierience on the down low, becase it will offend all the old timers in the biz. The people who have earned the right to be respected on set.

Just keep trying, do your homework and work your way up, It takes a while unless your esspecialy gifted to move up the chain. I feel that i moved up quick, mainly because of the small market I'm in, but I never bring that up around LA folk, or oldtimers. People in this biz are very judgemental about people who haven't proven themselves. It is a very closenit scociety, for good reason a million chumps out there wan't to be in the biz.

-mike
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#13 Patrick Neese

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:41 PM

Mike thanks for the...sarcasim... <_<
I don't complain while I'm on set about the last shoot i was on I did this or that... When i come on to do a job I do my job no matter what, I'm not trying to act high and mighty.

I havn't be disrespectful to anyone in the industry that has worked hard to get where they were. In fact I'm asking for there advice. I just want to be able to start doing more of those "legit" jobs that I need and want. Unfortunatly I choose to spend 4 years of my life throwing away money into a college education that wont even help me get a job. I'm looking for advice from people in the field that have made it because no one here at college has given me a clue about that.

I'm not trying to do it to show off I just want to have a job that I will love because its a part of making movies. I have tried to get involved to develop my skills as a filmmaker/cameraman etc so I can be better at my art. I'm not asking for someone to hand me anything on a silver platter..and unless i read your comments wrong it seemed implied. I want to prove myself..thats what i want.. a chance to prove myself.

Thanks everyone.
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#14 RobVanGelder

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 07:42 AM

Patrick, the reason why some remarks are somewhat sarcastic is that you are one of those that come reguarly here on the forum with similar questions.

Please keep in mind that these are difficult times for almost everybody: budgets going down, more competition: the amount of work per person is decreasing.

Everybody feels this, me too, after about 18years in the filmbusiness, I still have to fight and lobby to get jobs.
So for any newbee, regardless of his/her background and education, it´s a tough and long way to get a reasonable income and living.

That´s why I have seen so many people come and go, they could not keep up with the irregular work and income and uncertain future.

Film is all about mony making and economics, so that´s probably why you will not find many eager producers that give a young guy a jumpstart. The same for operators: though we like to help each other when in need, we do not really look forward to more competition as the market is already saturated. But there are always some ways to get into the business.
Just because you did a workshop (very good thing to do of course) doesn´t make you an operator. as Howard and others also said, you need practice, in many fields, probably for some years, before you will be accepted as an key-person in the camera crew. Only after that you will have aquired the trust from certain DP´s and Directors that will allow you to frame THEIR frame!

If you want to move faster, try some video companies, I´ve seen some people that knew where to find the on/off switch and were transformed into CAMERAMAN instantly (sarcasm intended!)

Rob van Gelder
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#15 MikePrevette

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 09:00 AM

Patrick, Sorry for the sharp tone to some of those comments, I had just come off a rough shoot. My point was It's not going to be easy, it's going to require a lot of nose down, eyes forward, hard work to get anywhere. Sounds like you know this. You just have to put yourself in the right place at the right time ;) There is a lot to learn in this business and either you learn it quickly or the thousand guys behind you will climb right over you on the latter. I'd say do the rental house thing, or personaly i'd recomend being a PA as much as you can to learn the on set dynamics. Witch I feel is far more important than learning the in's and out's of each camera. Just buddy up to the camera dept. coil cables carry cases etc. (always ask if it's ok first) and you'll learn what you need to move up. Good luck!

-mike
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