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Jon O'Brien

Entry level jobs older people

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Are there job possibilities on film productions for older people (eg. middle aged), eg. assistant to somebody? For instance, for someone with an arts background, extensive amateur filmmaking experience, but no film degree or previous pro experience? Any observations or thoughts on age levels for entry level jobs on productions? You can be as brutally honest as you like. It's all good. As usual, just curious. I'm not making any comments or assessments on this issue. I've decided to go it alone in my filmmaking plans but am always keen to learn more about the industry as a whole.

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Quite possibly. But I would venture to say that you would not be making a living that most middle aged people need and require.

 

G

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I know people who have tried to break into the industry in middle age, it certainly doesn't pay the bills, and they need to keep a second job. It's the sort of thing that often takes years of gradual experience building and contact gathering, and the work can be gruelling. If you have some money to invest in cameras and lenses you can get work on student films for example, since your equipment will be of far more value than your skills. Without that, you'll be competing with all the other young hopefuls for a probably quite menial role, and doing a lot of freebies.

 

There are highly talented people with good reels and years of experience who struggle to get jobs, so it's not an easy path.

 

Maybe working for a production company or rental house would be a way of making contacts, but there are limited jobs going there too.

 

Having said that, people do succeed in the industry here, it's just a very small industry in our country, and almost exclusively centred in the big cities.

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A friend has a son who has just gotten a job working on a big feature in set design and construction in NZ, so has gone over there for the duration. He would be in 40's I would guess. I was surprised to hear it as I'd often assumed that jobs on productions were somewhat 'pie in the sky', but some as you say do get jobs. Married with kids and he's never worked in the industry before.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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Set design and construction is a different kettle of fish from camera department, lots of people can be employed to work on the sets for big feature films, and they don't need to know anything about filmmaking per se.

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Yep, I realise that. Good point to raise though. I thought it worth throwing in there because he's the sort of guy who has always had dreams of what he wants to do, and this is the second time now he's gotten his dream fulfilled. First one was getting a job in Germany and going to live there for a while. I think his dad was thinking his son might not get a job in the film industry, but sure enough he did. Sure, it wasn't the filmmaking side of it, it was construction.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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I will find out more about this. The son might be into more of the creative development side of things, rather than just construction. Anyway, really cool and good on him.

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Older people with cross over skills do get employed, films are more than using the camera.

 

Also, a name, older (say fashion) photographer is more likely to be employed in the camera dept as DP on advertisements etc than a complete unknown starting out at the same age.

Edited by Brian Drysdale

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Anyone remember the story of the guy who moved to LA at 90 to be an actor? He started working right away, there's always a need for a grandpa in a TV show or movie. Not every role can be filled by a hot young twenty-something, of which there are a bazzillion in LA.

 

R,

  • Upvote 1

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As a younger guy I worked in some very menial but also at times really high pressure jobs, not in the film industry. I soon 'got' the idea of how to survive. You've got to be extremely observant at all times, not fall asleep even though it can be very boring (but not always!) work, and above all learn fast. Figure out at all times how you can help someone. Some older people could of course quickly learn the camera crew side of things - if that's what they want to do. How tough can it be? The biggest problem might be lifting heavy crates and things, and walking up mountainsides with a huge tripod on your shoulder - that sort of thing. But speaking generally I think older people, of the right temperament, could have the right alertness and rapidity of gaining 'talent' and ability.

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I don't see a problem with it. I'd rather have someone with a bit of life experience. People say that; I find it's actually true.

 

P

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I suspect that something that might potentially cause concern to some would be 'ego' getting in the way of the job. Younger people are perceived as being more malleable if I can call it that, and willing to put up with subservience. Depends on the individual character, as plenty of people young and old are mature enough to never have a problem with 'being told what to do.' I would imagine a pro film shoot could sometimes be a lot like going to a remote area job on a difficult survey trip eg. for scientific research (which I've done).

 

You'd want to know who you're going to be working with. But the old principle applies. If you blow it, you won't ever be doing that job again. By the way, I speak as one who has had to suffer such fools, in sometimes very trying circumstances. I remember on one job I was on, a guy with an ego problem actually got flown out by chopper when the 'boss' came to visit. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when that guy was 'taken off the set.' Of course, it wasn't a set. I'm using a figure of speech.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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I think a key ability of management is to avoid the junior party feeling like it's subservience. That's harder to achieve with some things than others, but I think it should always be a goal. It should feel like cooperation.

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There's nothing better than good management. Instantly noticeable on a job. It filters out to every level on the job. If you can call it level.

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Someone needs to write a script about old people getting together and rejuvenating 35mm film production in a place where it's died, and making a movie. With Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in it. What talent!!

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I thought when I was young and in lower budgets that it was a young people's industry. Now that I'm in the big budget feature world do you find all of the older veterans.

 

G

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There is a slightly wider issue here.

 

If we're all going to live to be in, with any luck, at least our 70s or 80s, that's literally twice as long as humans generally do without significant technical intervention. This means we're all going to have to work longer, and that creates a much greater likelihood that people will be interested in pursuing new things when they're no longer in their twenties. I see no reason to stigmatise that.

 

P

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