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Adam Frisch FSF

Bumpy road for features and new DP's ahead.

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I understand your point perfectly, excitement is something that you need to have, and getting bigger things is something that everybody wants.

 

I see that a big amount of people don't get that excitement when shooting tho and it's kind of sad under my point of view, however let's disagree on something, just to continue the conversation.

 

Is it not your job what you make out of it? I mean, if somebody is not happy because he / she thinks that is not getting a lot of jobs, maybe it's time for him / her to explore new markets, I don't know, what about India, Africa, etc?... It can be stressful, it can be quite challenging but I reckon it could be interesting too.

 

For example, if I were a cinematographer who is trying to break into features, I'd go to mandy.com every day to check out if something new came up, ye are in the States and there are loads of interesting things to do all the time, I'm sure that there are people who can let you express yourself as a visual artist too, even in installations or so.

 

The world is so small now.

 

Kindest regards.

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Expanding on what David hinted at:

 

To have enthusiasm is commendable and necessary. But Miguel, you're talking from the perspective of someone probably just starting out; when everything is exciting, your building a reel and you can live cheap and don't have a family. This will change with time and you'll one day get a little more battle scarred. It's inevitable.

 

As for taking any job that comes along to get experience, that's great when you're starting out. I did everything then, too. But in the long run that actually hurts you. There is nothing harder in this industry than to build your reel and steer your career towards the projects that interest you and eventually forward you as an artist/craftsman. I could write a book on the subject. Saying no to certain things is much more important than saying yes. If you become a slush pit that will do anything, paid or not, they will end up regarding you as such. I've seen it happen a million times. You're only as good as your last job - and you're name is on that thing too, after all. Human psychology is at play and like with everything else, they regard things offered to them for free, or with too much eagerness as suspicious and as lower quality. You can easily be tainted by that brush if you're undiscerning. BTW, this is one of the reasons I don't own gear. I don't want to be the DP that they call when they want a cheap deal or all-inclusive on a Red or some lenses. I want them to call me because they like my work.

 

Chivo is not where he is today because he said yes to everything, he is there because he said no to all the poop.

 

But don't lose the enthusiasm! Enthusiasm is great and it will get you work. :)

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I don't find enthusiasm is very popular here. A sort of world-weary cynicism is apparently the done thing. It's awful. And I speak as a genuine, actual world-weary cynic.

 

P

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Oh Adam, thanks for the answer!

 

Actually, I've been 2nd AC since 2007, my first movie was Che: Guerrilla and my last one Vikings, a lot of big movies and commercials in between (with Chivo and Rodrigo also :D), so I cannot tell anything from a cinematographer perspective as I'm none and probably it's quite different from one of a 2nd AC who just dreams about film and is like a kid when he sees a cable cam or even a Russian arm in the call sheet!

 

I can tell something from a person who gets less money than a cinematographer in a job tho!

I could do 2 or 3 commercials in a month and still save money, however, why would I work less if I absolutely love what I do and it's such great fun! and I'm learning things every single day!

 

I started out in this business twice, once when I was 25, in Spain, and another one (the super hard one) when I decided to move to Ireland to study English in 2011 with my own savings and you know what, it was absolutely hard to start again, I even considered to give up because I couldn't understand anything (in fairness.. when a Dubliner is talking on the walkie.. OMG! if a Spaniard is difficult to understand, try a Dubliner ha!)

Oh, and my family is thousand miles away, I came on my own and I didn't speak any English at all, and you know how hard is that! and I started, again, as camera intern!

 

So, my point is: if anybody wants to break into features, put a bit of money of the things that you shoot in a couple of short - films, find a director (there are loads trying to get a chance too) and shoot them :), send them to some festivals and shoot more things meanwhile.

 

Or start a website like the one owned by Mr. Hurlbut, or find new connections in Linkedin, ask a couple of friends to shoot a new spec commercial to try new things, go for 3 or 4 months to a new country and try to find local filmmakers..

 

One of the things that I would do is connect with directors on here and see if they're up to have some film fun, in fact, I thing that I'll do that when I get my masters some day haha.

 

I know that freelancing is basically poop because you don't know who is gonna call you but hey, it's part of the challenge too :)

 

If you come to either Ireland or Spain, I'll be super happy to 2nd assist you and give you a ride over here ;)

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And as soon as I speak French, German, Italian and Czech, I'm sure they'll all be pleased to have me.

 

The universal work permit part of the european union is a catastrophic disaster for workers in the more attractive parts of the union in which to work (of which the UK is, unaccountably, one). This is so obvious it hardly bears repeating. It is particularly problematic for English-speaking people because the only countries which widely speak English (principally Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada) are not part of the EU and have immigration policies that effectively forbid British people from working there, but where the opposite is not true. The number of people in London on ancestry visas from these places is vast, but the history of the countries concerned makes it unlikely that any given brit will have an Australian aunt.

 

The amount of this taking places has shelved off during the economic collapse, but it's still a factor and presumably will pick up again later. Native Brits are being utterly screwed by this situation.

 

And please, let's not have any criticism of English-speaking people as being unwilling to learn languages. This is the oldest plaint in the book and it's hard to agree with: I have heard it - in my recent memory - from an Austrian, several French people, Spaniards, Dutch, people from Japan, China, Thailand and the Czech Republic. They say "Oh well, you English, you never learn languages," by which they actually mean "you didn't learn my native language". To make all those people happy I'd have to have learned eight languages, in a couple of instances very complicated languages, whereas they all learned a single moderately simple one.

 

What's more, if you grow up in a non-English-speaking country and recognised that English is very widely used in the developed world, it is a fairly obvious choice to learn English. If you grew up already knowing English, it is very much not obvious what the best thing to learn is. One would be required to accurately predict which languages will be of use later - which is impossible, as a five-year-old child whose interests are not yet formed - and then learn a language in complete isolation from the country where it is spoken, which is almost impossible. Dutch people learn English because their popular culture is saturated with it. I was forced to attend French and Spanish lessons at school with the suspicion that as a teenager I would never need them, that I would never use them, and therefore never learn them to a useful degree, and I was absolutely right. Determination to learn a language is not enough; daily exposure and reason to use it is necessary, and in an English-speaking country, that exposure is not going to exist because it is not necessary.

 

So more power to right-brain people who have the ability to learn languages in adulthood, but they are, sadly, the only people in the UK really assisted by the EU. It's certainly of no use whatsoever to me. Working on a very big show where there's enough money being saved that it's worth having flocks of translators hanging around is one thing; the low end crap most people round here do will not be able to do this.

 

Anyway, this is a huge digression. Back to the topic, eh, folks?

 

P

 

 

The core of that is something I realised while ago but haven't seen so clearly expressed by anyone else. Learning English for a non-native speaker is VERY different to learning a non-English language for an English speaker, not necessarily in terms of difficulty but because of motivations and opportunities should you learn that second language.

 

I still only speak English, I've tried to learn a few others but it's hard and difficult to find motivation to get through the difficulty. People say move to another country and become immersed in it, but what do I do in that other country before I can speak the language well enough to get a job? And then as Phil points out, I now know one more language, which doesn;t given me anything like the foot up learning English would had I not known it.

 

What's the best non-English language to learn? I think maybe Spanish.

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Chinese these days. But it's an absolute bear, probably the most complicated one out there, and that's just the spoken. The written is, of course, absolutely 可怕*.

 

Pleased to find someone who understands what I mean, though.

 

P

 

* Kěpà; terrible, awful, frightful, horrible, dreadful, fearful, formidable, hideous.

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2. When a young director you came up with gets a shot at a feature, he will never be able to take you along with him. At those heightened entry budget levels, they will demand a veteran DP. They never pair rookie director with rookie DP. They'll gladly take a chance on a new director, but never on a new DP.

 

I see this happening far too often to make that statement true:

 

Badlands - first time director, first time DP

Blood Simple - first time directors, first time DP

Slacker - first time director, second time DP

Boyz N the Hood - first time director, second time DP

Mallrats - first time director, first time DP (not counting Clerks)

Reservoir Dogs - first time director, first time DP

Eve’s Bayou - first time director, second time DP

Buffalo ’66 - first time director, first time DP

American History X, first time director and DP

Girlfight - first time director, first time DP

Being John Malkovich - first time director, second time DP

Wolf Creek - first time director, first time DP

Layer Cake - first time director, second time DP

Spun - first time director first time DP

Napoleon Dynamite - first time director, first time DP

Half Nelson - first time director, second time DP

Frozen River - first time director, second time DP

Moon - first time director, first time DP

Quid Pro QUo - first time director, second time DP

District 9 - first time director, first time DP

Sound of my Voice - first time director, second time DP

Attack the Block - first time director, first time DP

Beasts of the Southern Wild - first time director, first time DP

Palo Alto - first time director, second time DP

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Hiya James,

 

I think you have misunderstood the posting but you have made me wonder now because it definitely isn't clear but personally I was assuming that what was meant was that after the cinematographer and director got their break doing their first indie funded feature or whatever, and have some success, then when the opportunity arises from that to make a properly funded feature, it's not easy for the director to bring their DP along.

 

Personally I suspect that part of the reason that might be the case is that the director might not be motivated to do so or to make the effort to push for their old DP. There are significant factors in that to consider too such as the relationship between the DP and director and what kind of person the director is anyway.

 

The impression I get is that after a Director/Cinematographer have a "break out hit" then it's important for the cinematographer to find more such work to build on that, which can be difficult if you are not in with the right people.

 

Freya

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Also I suspect - though I haven't checked - that all of those people were really "first time DPs." Obviously, they'll have shot endless highly accomplished shorts and commercials before getting to that point. There's first time DPs, and first time DPs, and I suspect the global definition of the term is highly variable.

 

P

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"were not really first time DP's", was what you were meaning of course, just to be super clear...

 

...and yeah anyone shooting even an indie feature is going to want to see other stuff you shot! :)

 

Freya

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Let's face it Freya, these "tiny indie movies" are the sort of thing that you and I would probably be wise to view as beyond even the peak of a career round here...

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Let's face it Freya, these "tiny indie movies" are the sort of thing that you and I would probably be wise to view as beyond even the peak of a career round here...

 

Well yes, things are a bit more structured here and aside from the Hollywood movies it's generally just TV movies like "attack the block". Of course "Attack the block" was very well funded compared to most UK movies because Joe Cornish is a well known TV and radio personality with a track record in comedy entertainment. (BTW while we are being really pedantic, this was not Tom Townend's first outing as cinematographer. He was DP on an entire TV series and on a movie directed by Samantha Morton!!)

 

Moon is an interesting one in that list as it wasn't funded through this usual model but through private finance connected to the commercials and post production industry. Duncan Jones was of course a well known commercials director before he made Moon. Here is an advert he made for Carling. Please don't ask me to explain it:

 

 

Robots! :)

 

Anyway I don't think I've come across anything privately financed on this scale in the UK before. The general model here is that you are in with the film funding gang or you are a famous rapper or other celebrity. So even if there was a lot of films being made here, it's a closed shop for a lot of people anyway. Personally I don't know any BBC radio DJ's. YMMV! ;)

 

Freya

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time for you two to move. I have couches.

 

You should be careful saying stuff like that!

 

The only reason that getting my passport isn't top of my list right now is that I intend to clear out every other possible issue before I do battle! Hopefully it will be a lot easier this time around anyway (It has been about 20 years!) and quite frankly I'm feeling lucky! :)

 

Soon I will have it though, and then I may be looking for couches and other stuff!

 

Freya

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Ehh why not? Might as well be nice to people when I get the chance to on the off chance they'd do the same for me later on. Most won't, but that's on them.

 

Aside, I never said they were particularly comfortable couches.

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Ehh why not?

 

Heh heh! I was just kidding around, not being critical or anything!

 

 

Aside, I never said they were particularly comfortable couches.

 

 

Ah the bed of nails thing! :)

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black
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I know you were Freya ;)

As for Dps and directors and the like-- I don't know. I don't think there is such a thing as a "first time" Dp, in as much as there are very few who their first time picking up a camera make something noteworthy, though I am sure someone could cite examples.

 

That all said, I do believe there is still some goodness, some loyalty left. Sure, it's probably exceedingly rare, and difficult to fight for-- but when it exists, it's wonderful. That said, when it doesn't, or can't, I would never fault any director I have ever worked with for doing whatever is necessary or they deem appropriate to get their film done. Sure, I'd be, and have felt, very hurt and confused and worried when a director I have worked with goes on to another DoP. Who wouldn't? But then again who wouldn't do what is best, what is necessary to get their next film made? To expand themselves? To work with people whom they really respect and whose work they have cherished or been moved by?

 

Is the road bumpy? No. Because there is no road, no path. we are all lost in the night, fumbling with our hands outstretched during an earthquake; grasping for whatever seems solid when we can find it. The thing is though-- as time goes, eyes adjust and the earth settles.

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This has been a very interesting read. My personal experience is similar to many of you, though I still have my youthful enthusiasm even after 30+ years as a cameraman. I love what I do and feel lucky that I've been able to do so many cool things and get paid for it. I started in the news business. I covered wars for NBC. That was the first pigeon hole. As I moved into docs many said you're a news cameraman, you can't do docs. Then I started doing corporate. Again the same deal... you don't know how to do that. The same with TV shows etc., etc. Persistence, good attitude and a love for what you are doing is helpful.

 

I don't do news anymore but still get on docs, which can be great, and corporate gigs and TV shows (non narrative but not reality). I do the occasional low budget commercial and have been doing very low budget indies as well. It's a chance to be creative. And that prior news and doc experience has been good training in how to get things done fast, if necessary. BTW, Sean Bobbit, who I worked along side in Beirut in 1982 was a news cameraman. 12 Years a Slave shows that the pigeon holes are bullshit! Talent is talent.

 

But I still have to find work that pays, as the creative stuff doesn't, for the most part. I'm not in IA so I don't do the union jobs, and I've yet to came across a job that would make it worthwhile to join (ie in making the giant join fee for a DP). I've been an owner/operator for 20 years, though I'll take work without my gear if I like the job. Of course I make more if I can use my own.

 

We are seeing a lot of changes in this business but I don't look at it as dire. I think a lot of opportunities are going to open up. Though I agree it is a difficult time to be getting into the industry. I wouldn't recommend it, but my daughter is currently in college and is doing the media route. If she really wants it and loves it and is willing to do what's necessary, she'll do fine.

 

Sure, I'd love to have the opportunity to do a real budget feature, though I'm usually the oldest guy on the indie sets, so may have missed that boat. But I'm still making a living, paying the mortgage (my better half works too), making new friends and connections and having fun. I'm constantly trying to learn more and really value input from guys like David Mullen. I try to keep up on new camera tech and lights and still go to NAB every year (it's a business expense) to see what's coming and network with friends around the world.

 

This is still a great business we are in.

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I know you were Freya ;)

 

As for Dps and directors and the like-- I don't know. I don't think there is such a thing as a "first time" Dp, in as much as there are very few who their first time picking up a camera make something noteworthy, though I am sure someone could cite examples.

 

That all said, I do believe there is still some goodness, some loyalty left. Sure, it's probably exceedingly rare, and difficult to fight for-- but when it exists, it's wonderful. That said, when it doesn't, or can't, I would never fault any director I have ever worked with for doing whatever is necessary or they deem appropriate to get their film done. Sure, I'd be, and have felt, very hurt and confused and worried when a director I have worked with goes on to another DoP. Who wouldn't? But then again who wouldn't do what is best, what is necessary to get their next film made? To expand themselves? To work with people whom they really respect and whose work they have cherished or been moved by?

 

Is the road bumpy? No. Because there is no road, no path. we are all lost in the night, fumbling with our hands outstretched during an earthquake; grasping for whatever seems solid when we can find it. The thing is though-- as time goes, eyes adjust and the earth settles.

This post made me cry.

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James .. my dad Brian Probyn BSC was the first DP on Badlands .. and not a first time one at all.. and was chosen due to the inexperience of first time director T.Malik .. as the original poster point states.. very few times will you get a first time dir and DP.. unless its a very low budget flick..

 

 

I see this happening far too often to make that statement true:

 

Badlands - first time director, first time DP

Blood Simple - first time directors, first time DP

Slacker - first time director, second time DP

Boyz N the Hood - first time director, second time DP

Mallrats - first time director, first time DP (not counting Clerks)

Reservoir Dogs - first time director, first time DP

Eve’s Bayou - first time director, second time DP

Buffalo ’66 - first time director, first time DP

American History X, first time director and DP

Girlfight - first time director, first time DP

Being John Malkovich - first time director, second time DP

Wolf Creek - first time director, first time DP

Layer Cake - first time director, second time DP

Spun - first time director first time DP

Napoleon Dynamite - first time director, first time DP

Half Nelson - first time director, second time DP

Frozen River - first time director, second time DP

Moon - first time director, first time DP

Quid Pro QUo - first time director, second time DP

District 9 - first time director, first time DP

Sound of my Voice - first time director, second time DP

Attack the Block - first time director, first time DP

Beasts of the Southern Wild - first time director, first time DP

Palo Alto - first time director, second time DP

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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I see a lot of indie movies in the list. I doubt a tent pole picture would be likely to pair a first time director with a first time DP. I think that was the point. The higher budgeted studio films.

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