Breaking into the Biz
I'm looking for a little advice. I've been dabbling in video for a while, contemplated film school (c'mon, who has $80,000 just lying around to see if they're cut out for film? or a rich daddy?), shot some wedding videos (on super 8, no less), and am bored with my current job. So I'd like to explore other options, one being corporate video. And for those of you who have been doing this for years, I know it's hard to remember what it's like to be where I am, but you gotta start somewhere, right?
(aside: I've done a search on all the CC forums, but haven't found anything that addresses someone at the ~total~ newbie stage, but this one came closest: http://forums.creativecow.net/cgi-bin/new_read_post.cgi?univpostid=445351&f...
It's not quite the same since he already has a demo reel, but if I missed something, I'm sorry.)
For various reasons, quitting my current job and diving head first into unknown territory for very little money is not an option. So let's assume I'm going to work at least 1/2 time at my current job.
So I have a few questions:
--I don't mean to trivialize the work of full-time professionals by implying that anyone can do this on the side, but is it even possible to explore this option on the side?
--Is an apprenticeship worth it? If they're anything like senior-year-in-college work-for-nothing-getting-coffee type of internships, no thanks. I don't want to decieve anyone by taking a job with the intention of leaving after 6 months to become their competition, but maybe that's how it's done?
--I need to start on a demo reel. I can handle cameras up to a DVX-100A or a 16mm wind-up Bolex, can handle most NLEs, am a decent photographer and understand the basics of cinematography (mechanics, not necessarily the art of it all...). But why would anyone hire me to shoot a commercial for them, or a training video, or a PSA? For that matter, why would anyone let me do it for free? So the real question is, how do I get material for a demo reel? Maybe the answer is to just shoot these commercials/trainingvideos/PSAa as if I were hired, but carry the cost myself?
--I've seen the demo reels on the demo reel forum; how on Earth could a fella compete with that? I'm going to assume my eventual demo reel will be pretty basic. Assuming it's solid, clean, and effective, but nothing outstanding, will it even help me get future jobs?
I'm not worried about the technical side of production; I'll make mistakes and it won't be high-art, but I'm confident I can handle it.
In my (uninformed) gut, I think one way to break into the biz would be to make something for my demo reel, absorb the cost, then try to sell it as a cheap, but finished product. Then use the demo reel to switch the order around, where the clients pay me first....
Am I way off base?
I've lurked for several months without posting and though you all might not even realize it, you've helped immensely. For that I thank you all.
First get a job as an assistant or intern to learn who to network with first.
Obtain training and valuable real life in the field production experience from those you get to work with. Possible jobs might include working at a camera rental house to learn the gear from the ground up.
Learn the art of lighting as this is essential to anyone considering becoming a photographer, or cinematographer. Get a job working as a grip with a gaffer on low budget films.
Networking and actual in the trenches field experience will be the key to your success throughout your career.
Your part-time availability is a problem. Perhaps the easiest thing would be to offer yourself for night and weekend shifts at an editing house or production company. Use that time to learn and build contacts.
The easiest things for part-timers to do in corporate video, IMO, is freelance contractual work on things like writing scripts, building graphics and animations and editing, creating music tracks, recording narrations, audio sweetening, things you can do in a home office setup and via telecommuting/FTP transfers and e-mail, etc. because the schedule is what you want it to be. And big corporations don't want to waste office space hosting you doing those activities and pulling full benefits too. Shooting and producing are pretty much full-time day gigs, wedded to the client's schedule. Those would be harder for you to access.
Here's what I'm hearing:
2--learn the equipment (cameras, lighting, sound)
3--try to freelance
I like this direction. To learn equipment I prefer classes (like http://www.bavc.org/catalog/default.php?cPath=30). San Francisco is 5 hours from me, so it's almost do-able. I pay them and their only purpose is to teach me, rather than make money, so I can make sure my questions are answered.
Networking is going to take some time. Previous posts have mentioned Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations. Is the Chamber one big schmooze-fest? Is it necessary to work for someone to determine with whom to network?
Freelancing will be a little trial and error and will probably be related to the networking.
To get on-the-job experience will be tough--with the need to work half-time, my schedule isn't all that flexible. That's why I like the idea of freelancing.
Thank you both (Tony and Mark) for your insight. I'll be back with more questions once I figure out how much I don't know :)
drsanchez, son of a midwestern bureaucrat
Do. Learn. Do Better.
Shoot x hours a week around town. People will see you and ask what you are doing. Give them your business card. WHen you have given out 1000 business cards this way, you will have work form somewhere.
Go do some free work for your favorite charity. One thing leads to another, so do something. Non-profit work can get you tons of free publicity too. Don't worry too much about your experience, just offer a money-back guarantee of they are unhappy. It solves that experience issue almost every time.
But you shoudl also pick a spot to focus on first. If it is commercial, do you want to do 30 second spots, marketing videos, training videos, or 28 minute informercials? People like it better when you have a focus to your work, then they will ask "do you do....?".
I like it!
I've already written a short script (30-second commercial) for my local food bank but haven't shot anything yet. Training on higher-end equipment is next. But I like the idea of just getting out there, talent and experience be damned.
As far as focus (30 second spots, marketing videos, training videos, or 28 minute informercials), they all sound appealing but I haven't done any of them yet. In keeping with the do, learn, do better attitude, I guess there's nothing wrong with exploring all of those options to see which suits me?
(are you dvxgalt on the VU forums?)
drsanchez, son of a midwestern bureaucrat
Yep, thats me.
I think it is fine to do everything, but you don't want to look hungry or desperate for work either. So in my 15 second speech I tell people I do corporate videos, primarily training and some marketing. We distribute on DVD and the Internet. If they don't immediately respond with interest, then "but let me tell you about my personal biographies which is a lot more interesting..." and nearly everyone asks for a business card by the time I have done my 3 minute spiel on that. If people want to know about something else, I think they ask me. I have done commercials and NPO work and other events (no weddings) as well, but do not lead with that unless appropriate. I tell them about what I prefer doing, under the theory that you get what you focus on. If I go around telling people I do commercials, that is what they will remember. And I think commercials is a tough place to enter the market in my area. Oddly enough, a few times I have told people I do everything but weddings, and THAT they seem to remember. Maybe that should be my new business card slogan. :)
But don't get the idea that I talk a lot. I always start by learning about their business and looking for the opportunity before I even mention it. Most small businesses are not my prospects, so I don't waste their time and risk annoying them.