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Ugh

 

Ok, so, I have a photography degree and want to pursue in filmmaking as a cinematographer. I took an Intro to Cinematography class last semester and left early because I was not learning a thing. (and due to personal reasons, unfortunately; I probably could've gained a lot from it had I stuck around.) Nevertheless, I have no friends/ally filmmakers, a decent DSLR but only 720P at 16fps, so not ideal by any means, no money for better gear and no money to finance a film. Plenty of ideas, plenty of scripts, plenty of storyboards... but not a frame shot.

 

In short, I dont know how to get started.

 

The things I wanna shoot, I just dont have the budget, experience, or skills to make happen. I do some toy photography every now and then to at least try and get some of those nerdier impulses out but I really wanna shoot this stuff for real and I just dont know how.

 

I'm moving to New York soon and hopefully there'll be more opportunities for me to learn there. But yeah, what to do .

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I will say that there are primarily two paths to getting to be a DoP, the path of incredible luck, and the path of incredible patience. You have to have one of the two-- both is best, but one of the two to get anywhere.

Skills, gear, connections, they tend to get built-- though often an opportunity can be thrust upon you.

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Unless you're an animator, film is very difficult to do on your own. You need a cast and a crew for live action storytelling. So, basically, you need people. Join some meetup.com's in your area for filmmaking. Find some colleagues in film programs, place ads on mandy.com to try to find professionals in your area to network with.

 

In spite of how insurmountable it may seem, It's way easier now than it used to be. Just think about how difficult this was for Richard Linklater way back in the late 80's in Austin. When the idea of making a film was something so totally foreign to everyone around you people thought you were crazy. "It's Impossible to Learn To Plow by Reading Books" was an 8mm feature film where he did everything including starring in the film. Eventually "Slacker" was born and his career was launched. But before that, it was a really awkward and bumpy ride getting started.

 

Still the spirit of Slacker is in all of his work. I'm looking forward to seeing the new one Boyhood shot over a 12 year period. To be fair, Linklater himself said in a recent interview that he has trouble finding distribution for his own work to this day and that it's definitely a different climate for "indie" film. There's no way Slacker would be picked up today much less have a criterion collection edition. I mention Linklater because the spirit of his efforts in Slacker come through in all his work. That freshness and I think it's something to do with starting from a place where it feels impossible.

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I'm surprised your DSLR can only shoot 16 fps, but it's still possible to shoot films at that frame rate, it's more or less the frame rate that 8mm cameras mostly use. There are NLE's available for free, so you can practice editing or edit your own films. You could try Lightworks, which is limited to 720p to YouTube in the free version or check out one of the open source NLE's.

 

Basically it's a matter of making the contacts you need and getting the basic skills in place. I'm sure there are a few filmmakers in your area..Working as a 2nd camera assistant on some no budget films can be a good starting point. although you should make sure that you've got the skills for the level of production being made because you do need to know the correct procedures etc.

 

There are lots of books around, so you can start reading and building up knowledge.

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Hopefully whrn I get to New York itll get better. Simply looking at meetup.com gives me hope, just so many more of "my" people. I'd like to get something done to show before I head over there, but Im not sure how to go about doing that in my little town. I tend to "dream big" and so the things I want to shoot are "what if John Carpenter did Dead Space" and "what if Batman had a fight like in Oldboy?" etc. Crazy poop that would take monumental effort and years of work. This is why Ive alwayas been a writer, I can at least express that on the page in a few weeks time.

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I know a number of people who came from a rural area, one is an A list cinematographer and another is a BAFTA award winning producer. By making something that's particular about where you live, some that's a bit left field, you can do a small movie that's universal, then you can break out.

 

Think "Dark Star" and "Following", but shorts are a good stating point,

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I tend to "dream big" and so the things I want to shoot are...

I have this problem when I write. I get overly ambitious. You have to reign it in and write within some constraints if you want to be able to actually shoot the thing. Locations, costumes, fx, all that good stuff costs mega money. Sometimes you can actually write most of the story and "cut the fat out" that can cost a lot without compromising as much of the story as you think. And no one knows if you make changes to your script except you so they wont look at it as a compromise even though you probably will see it that way. Sometimes we are our own worst critiques.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Given the scenario you've described, my best suggestion would be to look for work as a PA, grip, electric, AC, or even an intern. Filmmaking is all about networking. Try to get on a set and then prove yourself invaluable. If you have no resume or experience, it may have to be volunteer work at first.

 

My first feature gig as a DP was produced by someone I met on the first film I worked on in LA. On that first gig, I was the Gaffer, and the soon-to-be-producer was only a PA. My first PAID gig as a DP came about because I was Gaffing, the DP messed up pretty badly, and they hired me to DP the reshoots. In both cases, I was able to prove myself reliable, skilled, and likeable. My reel was only a film school reel, at that point. It was my experience working side by side with them in a different position that convinced them to take a chance on me.

If your interest leans more toward Directing or Producing, the path still lies in networking. Get on set, learn, and make yourself indispensible.

Additionally, the Cinematographer must lead a crew, and those who skip over the experience of actually being on a crew miss out on a lot of knowledge, both, in regards to technical skills as well as diplomacy.

Best of luck!

 

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On that first gig, I was the Gaffer, and the soon-to-be-producer was only a PA.

 

"only the PA?" Wow, in my experience, the PA is the hardest worker on the set. While the DP wants coffee and BSing with the camera department, the PA is actually working. Imagine that!

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It's generally an "only" thing inasmuch as it's pretty much the entry level job and considered miles away from producer ect.

That said, personally, while I do ask PAs to grab me a coffee on occasion when I'm with the camera, I am also generally still the one to bring them coffee when they are stuck doing something.

 

Also actually, since the LA move I've had 2 Pas bring me work, which was very nice of them, especially since they weren't on the project. I sent them both a bottle of whiskey.

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Producing can be an entry level job, if they are capable of putting together a viable project package, together with the funding. Although, they usually need to have some sort of business background, rather than working their way up in the film or TV industry. However, most do a few work in various production roles first. It's an area where you can be proactive creating projects, so move up quickly.

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Yes, I've met lots of people who described themselves as producers, with business card and a PO box in W1 to suit, who were 25, and had neither experience, funding nor personnel.

 

P

LOL. I have seen those too around here. Especially the "rap hip/hop" variety. Being a producer requires, at very minimum, the ability to produce something other than words and a cheap business card made on your inkjet.

 

But, like Brian said, some people are great at raising capital and do not need to know anything about film to be a good producer. I imagine Steve Jobs would have been a fantastic producer even if he knew jack about the industry.

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"only the PA?" Wow, in my experience, the PA is the hardest worker on the set. While the DP wants coffee and BSing with the camera department, the PA is actually working. Imagine that!

Exactly my point. Entry level positions are seen as "miles away" from managerial, or more importantly: "Miles away from being able to hire 'me' or help 'my' career" and yet, with the way the film business has changed in the past 15 years, that simpy isn't necessarily the case anymore.

 

When an aspiring filmmaker takes that first gig on an indie set, he or she needs to be concerned with impressing everyone, not just the Producer and Director. Every position on set is a potentionally valuable addition to your career network. Today's PA is another aspiring (fill in the blank).

 

side note about PAs...

My first jobs in the business were as a PA. I can attest that I slept a lot less as a PA, and the physical labor may often have been more, but on the whole I work a hell of a lot harder as a DP and the stakes infinitely higher. Fire any DP who "works less than a PA"; they clearly don't understand their job.

 

And, fire any PAs that just want to pass around business cards all day. They have missed the point.

Edited by Laura Beth Love
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but on the whole I work a hell of a lot harder as a DP and the stakes infinitely higher. Fire any DP who "works less than a PA"; they clearly don't understand their job.

 

Maybe I should hire you to DP my feature then!

But what I have seen, being the sound guy, is that every crew member I have seen on set works harder than the DP except the Director perhaps.

 

Edit: I carry my own boom. I don't have or require a "boom op" to do things for me. Good luck having a DP hold a camera out at a bizarre, no leverage point until the lactic acid builds up in their arms and they wish those arms would fall off. With some DPs, good luck even getting them to operate a camera.

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You have a camera that shoots 720p at 16 fps, what are you complaining about? Peter Fonda stared in a movie shot on a camera that recorded video on anolog audio cassettes and was made for 5 year olds to play with by Fisher-Price. There's ALWAYS gonna be someone who's coming out with a better camera than what you've got. You want to make a movie, here's how you do it. First, you are NOT gonna be making Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia nor Close Encounters of the Third Kind, , BUT you might be making Nepolean Dynamite, Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill or Eraserhead. Second, ya got no money so ya got to get everything you can for free and that includes people. You're gonna inlist everyone you can whether they know what they're doing or not. As long as YOU know what you're doing it'll work out fine. When I shot footage for The Black Sky, my second AC was my 6 year old niece. I taught her how to slate, mark the board and call out the shot, after about a week, I'd have stacked her up against some pros. I also started out with actors who couldn't act but by the end of the shoot they sure as Hell could. You also need to feed your people. Cassevettes use to make spaghetti and eat with his cast and crew in his home which also happened to be his set. Hotdogs,spaghetti, tuna sandwhiches, koolaid, chips, whatever, just so they feel appreciated. Make the shoot no more than 2weeks, if you're not paying people, its hard to get them to stick around much longer than that and the last thing you need is a half finished movie where your star has walked out because the novelty wore off and they had something better to do. BTW, be sure to have an alternative to shoot vecause even your best friends will flake on you. Keep your main cast to 2 to 3 people with day players that you can shoot around because something wil always come up. Sound is half your movie so be very aware of it. I've seen online videos of people using cell phones to reccord sound. Maybe not your first choice but a viable option if you're flat-ass broke. You may also want to shoot in daylight so you can use reflectors made from styrofoam and foil instead of lights that cost you money to buy and run. There's a TON of low budget tutorials, how to videos, resouces and options on line you can find which includes, software, music, sound FXs many of which are OK for commercial use. AND online distribution is still a viable option should all other options fail. If you want to make a movie, all it takes is the will to do so.

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Maybe I should hire you to DP my feature then!

But what I have seen, being the sound guy, is that every crew member I have seen on set works harder than the DP except the Director perhaps.

 

Edit: I carry my own boom. I don't have or require a "boom op" to do things for me. Good luck having a DP hold a camera out at a bizarre, no leverage point until the lactic acid builds up in their arms and they wish those arms would fall off. With some DPs, good luck even getting them to operate a camera.

 

Thread seems to have gotten off kilter a bit, but, just on that point... she also said stakes are higher. And also, the work is different. It's less grunt work maybe, but the pre-planning, experience, etc etc that goes into it.... c'mon. You know that. Just because someone carries more stuff than someone else doesn't mean they're necessarily working "harder".

 

 

But, to the original post...

Keep shooting. If the camera only does 16fps, find out how to make that work for you. Shoot stuff on a smart phone (I just learned you can lock exposure on the iPhone!). Do what you can with what you have. Meet people who want to write and direct or people who need video work. Shoot for a lesser amount just to build a portfolio. Build connections.

 

When I first moved to Boston, I knew no one, but a few years later, I've kept pretty busy. And it really all stemmed from meeting a few key people, and not necessarily looking for work, but building good relationships. Oh, you're also in a band? Need any video work? Perfect. Oh, you also know other people in bands (which they usually do)? Do they need video work? Oh, your wife is doing non-profit work with someone else and they need a promotional video done? Oh, that other woman in that video is an actress and is part of a 48 Hour Film project team? Oh, the other team members want to do other film work?

 

You can meet a lot of people, and maybe nothing will pan out, but if you get that ooonnnne right person, everything can fall into place.

And funny thing is, that first person I met who I talked about doing a music video with...? We still haven't shot it.

 

 

And I actually started out in the sound recording side of things, but in college fell in with the TV/film people, since I knew they needed audio people, and then started doing more camera work. Then a friend was starting a wedding video business and knew I knew what I was doing with cameras, asked if I could help. And then when I moved to Boston, I did some weddings because I knew the business and knew I could make at least some money doing that. And then made connections that way.

It's a little of a long process, but you keep at it and things will come. Shoot stuff on your own in the mean time. Play with lighting. Learn the camera. Learn how to edit well. In the beginning it helps to be a jack of all trades.

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If you really don't want to shoot on your own camera at 16fps, I bet you are only one or two degrees of separation away from someone who'll let you borrow their DSLR. Team up with other aspiring writers and directors and be their DP. They may have some ideas that aren't "Batman meets Oldboy" that you could work on. Intern, PA, do whatever to get on a set, even if it's a low-budget/no-budget project.

 

There's no dearth of options and opportunities. I'm in Dallas too, so PM me and I'll see if I can point you in the right direction. There are as many paths to a career as there are people in the industry, and you just have to find/create the opportunities when you can.

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  • 2 months later...

What DSLR only just shoots 720P 16fps???? I can't think of any!

Anyway, the easiest way to save money when you're on a super tiny micro budget is during the script writing phase!

Write a script to match what you have, then shoot it!

Use Facebook (check out the local groups in your state/city/country), Forums, and Meetup.com to locate like minded folks. Then make films!

And if you work hard and do it well, you'll build up a body of work that demonstrates that, and even more people will want to work with you.

Eventually this will lead to paid work and a career.

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