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Jolly Jackson
Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 2, 2010 at 6:09:55 am

Do any of you fine professionals have a suggestion on how to get more professional experience in the grip / electricity department on film/commercial/tv productions?

I find that I am struggling to figure out how to "break-in." It seems that teams tend to keep hiring the same people they've worked with in the past because of the trust and reliability of the people. I know I can do a great job if given the chance, but I'm not quite sure the best way to go about getting that chance online classifieds. But even then, online classifieds seem to be more lo/no/deferred paidd things.

Thoughts??


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john sharaf
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 2, 2010 at 5:02:17 pm

Jolly,

The age old problem of "breaking in" compounded by a general decline in available jobs! What to do you ask.

The best advice of course is to be persistent, don't give up your dream quickly or easily. Pursue every opportunity, freebie and lo pay. Eventually you too will "team up" with a cameraman, gaffer or crew, to whom you'll become an asset.

Keep going to the movies and observe the lighting, watch how the sun travels across the sky and through windows, how it plays on walls when broken up by leafy trees blowing in the wind (as it is today in my house in Los Angeles).

Keep reading lighting books (there are many) and thinking "how did they light that?" when you watch TV or go the movies. Go to trade shows whenever possible, observe tv/movie crews in action, ask questions, read catalogs of lighting/grip equipment manufacturers, visit their office showrooms and dealers.

An especially good suggestion would be to go to your local grip/lighting rental vendors and offer to work at low pay while you learn. These are great places to "network" and meet their clients and other local technicians who will need "extra hands".

Maybe you've thought of all these things, if so that's good, now do them, religiously, again and again (in fact, never stop doing them. as lighting is a never ending educational project). If you hadn't considered these things, now you might have a slightly more directed strategy to pursue. It's a new year, make a new start and remember, "don't give up"!

JS





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Jolly Jackson
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 3, 2010 at 6:42:06 am

Hey John,

Thanks so much for the response :) Every note was super valuable. I appreciate the help!

I think the "never give up" cheerleading, while I've heard before, seemed to really strike a chord with me, so thank you! I think I'm very impatient to get where I want to go, so the fact that it's stalling a bit has made me antsy. Hearing you say those never give up words helped put me at ease a bit. Now I just gotta do that...

A follow up question is this. How do people get on crews for well-established tv-shows or features? For instance, entry level positions, such as camera P.A.s or other jobs of that nature never seem to be posted online. It's almost like you need to know the DP or the AC previously, no? I mean is that it? Try to make contact with people who are doing big things, and try to get them to let you work for free until they pay you???

I am willing to do that, but I guess it's just meeting the people who are doing the big things! Hmmm... sorry for the stream of consciousness there.

Anyhoo, thanks so much help and more suggestions are much appreciated.

Thanks!



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Todd Terry
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 3, 2010 at 3:25:39 pm

[Jolly Jackson] "How do people get on crews for well-established tv-shows or features?"

Well, in addition to being knowledgeable, proficient, and great at your job... and doing all the things that John suggested.... there's another thing to keep in mind. All those jobs you mentioned are union gigs.

It's yet another of the chicken-and-the-egg things... you generally can't get those jobs unless you are a union member... and it's much easier to join the union if you have one of those jobs.

Unfortunately, it's tough to join IATSE out of the blue in an attempt to get a film job. However, it may be a little bit easier to get a theatrical job that requires or allows union membership. Just a suggestion, but you might explore seeking employment at a theatre (I'm not talking about a movie theatre, but one that does stage productions... local productions, touring broadway shows, etc.). Many people I know have found it a bit easier to get hired in those venues without pre-existing union membership. Once you get that job there as an electrician, or rigger, or grip, or whatever... then you are eligible to join IATSE.

IATSE, like most all unions, is a very close family and very "clique-ish." On the inside, everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows who is hiring, where the jobs are, etc.

I'm not trying to come across as a union cheerleader... in fact even though I was a card-carrying teamster of sorts (AFTRA/SAG member) for years, frankly the union never did bupkus for me... but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

But first and foremost, you have to be great at what you do, of course.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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john sharaf
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:40:04 pm

Jolly,

I'd just say that you're not going to be able to "start at the top", but you are absolutely correct in your understanding that most jobs come from the network of who you know, who trusts you and believes you won't embarrass them when they recommend or hire you for an assignment. So it is perfectly obvious that you'll need to "network" in order to get ahead, and believe my it will not be fast track unless you're related to someone in a position of power.

The folks doing"big things" are bombarded with people seeking their help, so you're best off going about your business with that thought way in the back of your head. A more likely scenario is hooking up with a camera person, gaffer or crew doing "average" type productions, becoming an integral part and move up as they naturally will do.

Again, don't get too discouraged, as in most parts of the country the economic recession has hit hard the TV and film production community, but this is s cyclical thing and eventually the need for more product will drive a job revival, you just be ready with your skills when it does!

JS






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Dennis Size
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 4, 2010 at 4:07:49 am

JOLLY: Where are you currently working?

DS



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Alan Lloyd
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 3, 2010 at 7:46:59 pm


Keep going to the movies and observe the lighting, watch how the sun travels across the sky and through windows, how it plays on walls when broken up by leafy trees blowing in the wind (as it is today in my house in Los Angeles).

Keep reading lighting books (there are many) and thinking "how did they light that?" when you watch TV or go the movies. Go to trade shows whenever possible, observe tv/movie crews in action, ask questions, read catalogs of lighting/grip equipment manufacturers, visit their office showrooms and dealers.


And go to art museums and stare - literally stare - at Flemish and Dutch painting. Vermeer and Rembrandt, just to name the two best known, were incredible observers of the behavior of light.


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Jolly Jackson
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 4, 2010 at 10:07:47 pm

@Dennis Size
I am currently in N.Y.C. Do you think that is an issue?

@Tod Terry
Great! Thanks so much for all of the union knowledge. I guess I never put two and two together that those big productions would all be union gigs. Hmm.

So how does one get into the union normally. Work enough non-union gigs until you show a certain level of competency/experience? Or are you supposed to get on union gigs somehow to get INTO the union? (Is getting on a union gig like that even possible as non-union-er??)

@john sharaf
Thank you. Very good advice. I'm trying to get as much experience as possible, paid or un-paid, to be ready when that revival comes :)

@Alan Lloyd
Funny you mention Vermeer and Rembrandt! I was just reading this book Cinematography for Directors, and it had a lot of the same advice. Thanks for re-enforcing it as I wasn't sure how practical it was coming from a book!


Thank you all for your helpful feedback. I'm really glad a place like this exists with people who are so willing to share their experience and knowledge with people who are eager to learn!


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Dennis Size
Re: Grip / Electrician?
on Jan 5, 2010 at 4:23:30 am

Re: Grip / Electrician?
by Jolly Jackson on Jan 4, 2010 at 5:07:47 pm

@Dennis Size
I am currently in N.Y.C. Do you think that is an issue?


It's less of an issue because there's more work available (unfortunately just not as much during this current economic climate).

At THE LIGHTING DESIGN GROUP we currently have a free-lance base of over 100 gaffers, electricians, grips, programmers, etc. who we routinely job in on our projects -- but there's always room for one more.
Send a letter of interest and your resume to me at: Size@ldg.com.
I'll set up some sort of interview with our crewing co-ordinator, and we'll see what develops.
As we're currently very busy marshalling our forces to do all the studio and venue lighting for the OLYMPICS (along with a dozen or so other projects) it might take a little time to set up an interview -- so be patient.

DS






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